Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Regarding "Gaza withdrawal delayed by 3 weeks", IHT, May 10, 2005: Tomorrow Israel celebrates its 57th birthday. Never in the ten years since I immigrated here have I been as pessimistic about a truly successful and happy 'ending' to this country's national story as I am these days. Several things have become clear lately. First of all, Ariel Sharon is not really serious about his plan to get Israel out of the Gaza Strip. The fact that only after an initial date for the beginning of the settlers' evacuation was announced did the government notice that that date is too close to Tisha Be'Av shows that no serious planning has been carried out. Also, Mr Sharon has made it clear more than once that the disengagement from Gaza will not herald an end to the occupation as a whole. As Amir Oren wrote in Ha'Aretz: Sharon and his government are "maneuvring to turn the evacuation into a horizon - always there, approached but never quite reached ". Second, Israel's education system is collapsing as a result of constant budget cuts and ego-wars between Education Ministry officials and leaders of the country's teachers' unions. Calls by people such as Aaron Ciechanover and Avram Hershko, the two Israeli scientists who received this year's Nobel prize for chemistry, to make longterm investments in Israel's main national asset remain unheeded. Third, there is no real sign of true improvement on the other sides of the conflict. The Palestinian Authority persists in its ambiguity when it comes to fighting terror - which also threatens the PA itself -, the very existence of a Jewish State within the Green Line is far from being a fact with which representatives of nascent democracy in the Middle East appear ready to reconcile themselves, while countries such as Syria and Iran continue to sponsor terrorism. In the meantime the Bush administration appears to be satisifed with letting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict simmer, while the European Union is struggling to find some sort of consensus even on foreign policy issues that are not half as complicated as 'the' conflict. True, I do not see an immediate existential threat to the Jewish state, or it must be government corruption, which this week was named by the State Comptroller as "the greatest threat to the State of Israel, greater than any other". Among all that has been achieved during the last 57 years there is much to be proud of and a lot of things to be celebrated. Still, more than anything else the history of the Jewish state is one of missed opportunities and of wasted resources. Only with the proper priorities, sound government and a constructive political opposition and honest and resolute outside help, will we be able to (re)turn Zionism into an unquestionable and inspiring success story.

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