Israelis Distrust Their Institutions, but Not Their Society

April 16 2018

A recent poll asked participants in 23 countries if they believe that their own society is “broken,” and then if they felt like “strangers in their own countries.” In particular, respondents were also asked about their trust in various institutions and their attitudes toward immigration. Evelyn Gordon comments on Israelis’ paradoxical answers:

[The pollsters’] theory was that low trust in institutions would correlate with high levels of belief that society was broken, while negative attitudes toward immigrants would correlate with high levels of feeling like a stranger in one’s own country. And there was, in fact, some correlation, albeit not perfect. . . . And then there was the one glaring exception: Israel. . . . Israel was among the top-ten most distrustful countries in all but one category; in most, it was in the top six. Yet when it came to the summary question of whether their society was broken, Israel suddenly plummeted to the bottom of the negativity rankings, with only 32 percent of Israelis agreeing. . . .

Two factors help explain Israel’s exceptional [answers to] this poll. One is simply that complaining is Israel’s national sport; Israelis routinely gripe about every aspect of their country. . . . But there’s also a deeper reason. Israelis understand that there is only one Jewish state, and for all its flaws, its very existence is something precious and worth preserving. That’s why 90 percent of Israelis define themselves as Zionist. For Zionism, at bottom, is simply the belief that the Jewish people has a right to its own state, and that a Jewish state therefore ought to exist.

This has enabled Israel to escape one of the ills besetting the modern West. In a world where elite opinion scorns both religion and the nation-state as anachronistic but has failed to provide any compelling source of identity to replace them, many Westerners have grown increasingly unsure of their identities. Hence, it’s no surprise that they feel like strangers in their own land—or as if their societies were broken.

Israelis, in contrast, are very confident of their identity: they are Jews living in the world’s only Jewish state. Thus, it’s impossible for most Israeli Jews to feel like strangers in their own country; this is the state created precisely so that all Jews, anywhere, will always have a home.

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More about: Immigration, Israel & Zionism, Israeli society

The U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy