Seventy years after its victory in the 1948 war Israel can rightly take pride in its many achievements. Mere survival in such a hostile neighbourhood is cause for celebration, but the country has accomplished so much more. It has become an economic powerhouse, renowned for scientific and technical innovations. Israel’s military prowess is respected by friends and foes alike. It’s writers, artists and filmmakers win coveted international prizes. In so many spheres the country punches above its weight.
However, amidst all this giddy-making good news, we must not lose sight of the failures, the disturbing trends, the considerable challenges. Israel has failed to find a solution to its core existential problem – the territorial claims of the Palestinians. Granted Israel alone cannot solve the conflict. The Palestinians bear a large share of responsibility. Yet it would seem many Israelis and their government have given up even trying or caring. The status quo is one in which the Palestinians of the West Bank remain a disenfranchised people living under military occupation. In some places the occupation is less intrusive than others, but it is an overwhelming reality nonetheless. Meanwhile, Jewish settlements continue to grow over land that would be needed to create a viable Palestinian state. Such settlement expansion, aided and abetted by the Israeli government, makes the two-state solution ever more elusive. Gaza, under a choking blockade and under the control of Hamas, is an even more intractable problem. The status quo is not viable. It can only lead to endless strife, the erosion of Israel’s democracy and moral rot from within.