Israel entered 2019 feeling very good about itself and the world in general. The economy was great, it was making historical diplomatic advances, its relations with the US couldn't have been better, and complacency reigned supreme.
Then Israel was hit with a perfect storm of negative developments:
It has gone through four elections without being able to form a stable government and political discourse has become almost entirely political discoarse centered around the sanctification or demonization of a single man--the eternal, provisional, prime minister.
Coronavirus struck, and although the Israeli response was pretty good compared to most of the rest of the world, still great damage was done not just to the economy but also to social cohesion and the national psyche.
Just as things were looking up again in early 2021, dozens were killed and injured in a perfectly predictable and preventable stampede at the grave of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai at Mt. Meron, followed by the collapse of the crowded balcony of a Haredi synagogue in Jerusalem.
Using various manufactured pretexts, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad unleashed yet another rocket and missile barrage, the fifith in a long dismal series beginning shortly after the ill-conceived evacuation of Gaza in 2005. This time not just a few hundred rockets fired at random towards southern Israel, but thousands relatively well-targeted at both southern and central Israel.
Finally, and most significant of all, for the first time since the Akko riots of 2008, Israeli cities with mixed populations of Jews and Arabs erupted in communal violence, with deaths, injuries and property destruction, including synagogues.
What is going on? Is there any good news? Well, the Biden administration, which took office in January of 2021, has proven not to be anti-Israel after all, although not nearly as Israel-friendly as the Trump administration. The IDF and the Mossad performed splendidly in the latest Gaza flareup, with outstanding tactical successes. Does that also mean strategic success? Well, no, nor does it signify strategic failure, since there is no strategy. Elaborating a strategy requires having a functioning government.
However it was at least a tactical triumph, whereas Shin Bet either performed dismally in detecting incitement to riot in the mixed cities, or, alternatively, its warnings were ignored by the authorities.
All of which tells us that forming a government is priority one, two, three and four. Tragically, the poker-players in Jerusalem were just about to form an historically significant government, including for the very first time Arab parties, when the rockets began to soar, and everything fell apart.
Latest chapter of the perfect storm: in the first quarter of 2021 the GDP fell by an annualized 6. 5%, after the economy was supposed to be recovering and all the pundits predicted three to four percent growth. The events of May will have made things worse.
All of which means that Israel MUST FORM A GOVERNMENT, AND NOW, not after yet another election. This is not an option, it is a necessity. If this challenge is not successfully faced, the fragmentation of Israeli society, socially, culturally, economically, and politically, will continue and worsen, until..... Stay tuned.
Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 23, 2021
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021