The Two Other Miracles of Israel

On the occasion of Israel’s 70th anniversary—April 19 on the Hebrew calendar, May 14 on the Gregorian—many have remarked on the miraculous nature of the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland. Rick Richman points to an additional two, equally miraculous, aspects of the country’s history:

David Ben-Gurion described [the second miracle] in an essay he wrote in 1954 . . . : the extraordinary Jewish unity on May 14, 1948. Zionism had never been a single ideology. The movement included very disparate factions—Labor Zionists, Religious Zionists, Socialist Zionists, Revisionist Zionists, General Zionists, Cultural Zionists—and the conflicts among them had been fierce. But every group signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence, . . . including the non-Zionist Jews, from (in Ben-Gurion’s words) “the Communists, who had forever fought against the Zionist enterprise as reactionary, bourgeois, chauvinistic, and counterrevolutionary, to the Agudat Israel [party], which had perceived as apostasy any attempt to bring about the redemption of Israel through natural means.” From left to right, every Jewish group joined. . . .

As Israel turns 70, unity is not a notable feature of Israeli democracy. The current Knesset includes seventeen political parties. The government is a shaky coalition comprising five of them, holding a bare majority of seats. The prime minister is surrounded by politicians who believe they could do a better job than he can. Josephus, the 1st-century-CE historian, described Jewish politics of his own time as consisting of disputes between religious and secular parties, with numerous Jewish leaders who “competed for supremacy because no prominent person could bear to be subject to his equals.” Two millennia later, not much has changed. . . .

And that is the third Israel miracle. Along with its fractured politics, . . . Israel has produced one of the world’s most vibrant democracies and most dynamic economies. . . .

The third Israeli miracle demonstrates that, in fact, a fractious democracy may well be a necessary condition for generating the variety of ideas and leaders that can move a society forward—just as the multiple approaches to Zionism produced remarkable leaders across Zionism’s left (Ben-Gurion), right (Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Menachem Begin), and center (Chaim Weizmann), creating a national movement spanning the Jewish political spectrum.

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Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli democracy, Israeli history, Josephus

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy