Monday, 7 July 2008

Israel in 2040?

In April of this year, the Economist published a special report on Israel. You can read the online edition here. I enjoyed all the contributions and found them to be informative and fair. I particularly found a citation in the opening article helpful, in which Yehezkel Dror, an Israeli political scientist, sets out two contrasting visions of how his country might look in 32 years time. It is taken from his book "Epistle to an Israeli Jewish-Zionist Leader" and represents a secular Zionist point of view. I found the scenarios helpful for getting an overview on the current options facing Israelis and Palestinians, especially as I struggle to see how a strictly Zionist solution can offer any long term justice (the Arab-Israeli arguments for "multiculturalism" in the article just seem more reasonable. But I'm happy to be persuaded otherwise!).

So, how realistic are the following scenarios? And is the first the best solution for all?

In the first [scenario], [Israel] has some 50% more people, is home to two-thirds of the world's Jewry and, as today, is four-fifths Jewish itself. The other fifth, its Arab citizens, have accepted the state's Jewish identity, thanks to efforts to end discrimination against them and to the creation of a viable Palestinian state next door. The country enjoys a flourishing knowledge-based economy, a thriving cultural life and a just society, and has good relations and strong trade links with most of the Middle East. A serene balance of Zionist and humanist values infuses both state affairs and everyday life. Reforms have stabilised the political system. Fast public transport has minimised the country's already small distances, encouraging mobility, and many of its citizens happily divide their lives between Israel and other countries.
In the second scenario, Israel has only half the world's Jews, their majority in Israel itself is down to two-thirds and shrinking, and “Zionism” has become a term of ridicule among the young. Jews abroad see Israel as increasingly backward and irrelevant to them, and Jews of different streams within Israel are at loggerheads. Pressure is rising, both at home and abroad, for Israel to become a fully democratic, non-Zionist state and grant some form of autonomy to Arab-Israelis. The best and brightest have emigrated, leaving a waning economy. Government coalitions are fractious and short-lived. The different population groups are ghettoised; wealth gaps yawn. Israel is in conflict with a hostile Palestinian state that was declared unilaterally; Islamic fundamentalism in the region is on the rise; and any peace deals between Israel and its neighbours—some of which now have weapons of mass destruction—are looking shaky.

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