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Israelis know status quo is untenable, but there’s no alternative vision

With three-quarters of Israelis saying they worry about international isolation and only 10 percent supporting the status quo, logic would hold that they might seek change. But don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

The success of the Zionist project — from the pre-state era to Startup Nation — is often attributed to some combination of stubbornness and improvisation in the face of adversity. Those characteristics form the nexus of how Israelis see themselves. Another way of describing those same traits, however, is a lucky combination of recklessness and desperation.

Israelis know how much they stand to lose by not ending the occupation. Despite the best efforts by many members of the current government, the world’s message is starting to resonate: there will be a heavy price. And Israelis are worried.

According to a recent poll commissioned by +972, more than 75 percent of Jewish Israelis are worried about international isolation.

Such isolation could manifest diplomatically, leading to international financial, economic and travel sanctions, it could mean increased cultural and academic boycotts or it could lead to significant divestment from Israeli companies and cause international corporations to pulling out of the Israeli market.

But Israelis are stubborn, and nobody has offered them a viable alternative vision. The only strategy that has proven itself in the amazingly adverse history of Israel is hanging on for dear life. And it’s worked so far.

That was the appeal of Benjamin Netanyahu, as my colleague Noam Sheizaf has written time and again. Netanyahu’s vision is the preservation of the status quo. He has improvised along the way in order to ensure political survival, but the prime minister has not offered the country any vision beyond the reality it knows all too well.

And then, rather suddenly and without too many people noticing, that all changed. Europe has threatened sanctions, there is increasingly frequent and severe violence, there’s a sense of diplomatic isolation, unprecedentedly bad relations with the United States, boycott and divestment moves and responsive radicalization of the anti-two-state camp. Something feels different this year. We may just find ourselves looking back at 2014 as the year that Israelis, and the world, were finally convinced that the status quo is untenable.

The Europeans have been shouting it from the rooftops all year long, making clear that there will be no more business as usual. The Americans, after giving the peace process one last shot, have warned that they won’t be able to hold off international pressure much longer. The Palestinians have all but abandoned bilateral negotiations for a staged, multi-lateral diplomatic strategy.

Israelis get it.

Support for the status quo is falling steadily, the +972 public opinion survey found. Among Jewish Israelis, a preference for maintaining the status quo has dropped to less than 9 percent, down from over 20 percent two years ago.

And yet, nobody has offered an alternative vision.

The Israeli public narrowly got behind Rabin’s Oslo peace process. They supported Sharon’s vision for the Gaza disengagement and at least in theory, its partial continuation in the West Bank. The country gave Olmert the mandate for a last-chance attempt at reaching a two-state peace solution. Even when Netanyahu’s hand was forced into half-heartedly picking up where Olmert left off, he enjoyed the support of the country — because it presented a sliver of hope, but also because the peace process itself has proven quite effective at keeping international isolation at bay.

All of those plans and processes offered something resembling a vision.

Today there is no vision. And so the country will do what it knows how to — hunker down and hope for the best, improvising here and there along the way in order to survive.

That might mean ousting the Netanyahu government, which has no vision. It might mean electing a centrist party that has a vision they no longer believe to be viable or realistic. It very well might mean moving further to the right toward a vision of annexation and constitutionalized inequality, but which at least hasn’t failed time and again for 20 years.

Israelis are smart enough to know that if the current path is untenable and the consequences are too great that change is inevitable. But because Israelis also know how much they have to lose, they will fight change tooth and nail until somebody presents them with a viable and believable alternative vision.

Read also:
+972 poll: Israelis reject the status quo, fear int’l isolation
+972 poll: Joint Arab list would raise voter participation

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    1. Victor Arajs

      I have an alternate vision. Move en masse to Chernoble

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mikesailor

      According to the poll, the only “vision” increasing in popularity among the Jewish population is apartheid, plain and simple. The idea of an unequal state which was always the black heart of the Zionist project. The so-called two-state solution, so beloved of late by so-called “liberal Zionist”(a contradiction in terms if there ever was one) although theoretically “supported” by a steady majority of Israeli Jews, has never and will never be tried for a real settlement would entail equality for non-Jews, both in the West Bank and Gaza as well as within Israel which is anathema to all Zionists. If you believe the founding premise of Zionism, that non-Jews do not deserve being treated as equals, then why should you negotiate at all? Zionists believe that non-jews, especially “arabs” should be glad to be ruled, either outright or through “pressure”, by the “master race”. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Unfortunately, only if the pain of outside pressure becomes great enough will Israelis discard this ideology and face the reality, both of what they have done and the necessity of change. It promises to be a bumpy ride but in the end, Israel will be unrecognizable to today’s Zionists or else it will cease to exist.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      One grave problem is the division within the Palestinian community.

      Even well-meaning Israelis do not know what Palestinians want.

      There are only a couple options on a couple matrices.

      1. Single-state (including confederation ala Belgium)
      2. Two-state (including confederation ala EU)

      Two characteristics
      1. Democratic
      2. National

      Achieved by two means
      1. Resistance/Unilateralist
      2. Negotiation/compromise

      Anyone know clearly?

      So, supporters can actually support.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Philos

      If Turkish-Israeli relations are a guide to the future then nothing substantial will change in Israel’s relations with Europe or the USA. There might be a change in rhetoric and some unpleasant minor consequences for ordinary Israelis (like a visa regime for the EU) and one or two Israeli oligarchs but political-military coordination will remain tight.

      Israel and Turkey have worked hand in glove to utterly destroy Syria under the direction of Washington. Indeed, even Erdogan has realised that he can be as megalomaniacal as he likes because he won’t face any real consequences from Europe or Washington. Turkey is too indispensable to their cynical (and vicious) exploitation of Middle Eastern resources as well as key to any strategy of containment (and economic war) against Russia.

      Israel is as indispensable to Washington’s grand strategy as Turkey, and the European capitals will play along as they always have done, always do and always will. Israel purchases billions of dollars worth of military gear (from spare parts for US aircraft manufactured under license in different EU states to computer software to heavy warships) from the EU, especially the UK, France and Germany. There are billions of Euros invested in the Israeli economy. There are loans that Israel must service to European and US banks. The list goes on

      The idea that “the West” will jeopardise all that for the Palestinians is laughable. They can barely be bothered to do anything about a plague of Ebola in Africa and the prospect of famine and the flooding of nations like Bangladesh because of climate change produces at best a bored yawn and at worst dollar signs in their eyes.

      Don’t look to the West for salvation. There’s only barbarism to be found there.

      Reply to Comment
      • Philos

        Quite the contrary. BDS raises awareness. The more awareness that is raised, the greater the likelihood (however remote) that ordinary US and EU citizens realise that they have no impact on how policy is formulated – the better. Israel and Saudi Arabia couldn’t be better examples of how public opinion has zero influence on policy

        Reply to Comment
        • Sluggo

          I am trying to follow your argument. First of all, the comparison between Saudi Arabia and Israel are farcical. One is a dictstorship. For example, women cant vote, drive, are hold on to all their sexual anatomy if they get too randy. Secondly, help me understand why it is good for BDS when people realize that it is a useless, hateful, prejudiced campaign?

          Reply to Comment
          • Majnoon

            He is one of those insane socialists that live in their mother’s basements in Che t-shirts and underwear waiting for the socialist revolution to sweep the globe. Any minute now the “proletariat” in America will rise up because its voice is being ignored on the issues of Israel and Saudi Arabia, line up the members of the current government and mow them down with a machine gun. Any minute now… Of course most Americans support Israel and the socialist revolution has been permanently postponed, but true believers will continue waiting for the revolution to make things left.

            Reply to Comment
          • Sluggo

            The sad part is that Palestinans who are wallowing away in wretched refugee camps have to pay the price for his dream to come true. Any day now…

            Think about all the things the political and financial cspital spent on denying people Soda Streams and the wrong brand of humus could buy that would improve the lives of these people. But, at least BDS “raises awareness”. Lol

            Reply to Comment
    5. Antares

      You shouldn’t blame the Palestinians for being choked to death by Israel. It is also a laughable idea to suggest that Palestinians are a danger to Israel while most of their land has already been annexed by that ‘threathened’ country. And last, there can be no Jewish state because not all inhabitants are Jewish, unless you want to copy the situation in former South-Africa, which is already todays practice. Nelson Mandela was very clear about this. Israel has become even worse. Nobody is defending that apartheid anymore.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sluggo

        I see. So you decided that there can’t be a Jewish state. Lol.

        Let me leave you with this. A child throwing a tantrum is responsible for his/her actions even though they have no power. That is why a good parents teaches them to behave

        Reply to Comment
        • Antares

          Calling Israel a Jewish state is the same as calling my own country a white state. No black person would ever accept that.

          It would be even worse if this country decided to represent blank people all over the world, but not their own black people.

          That’s precisely what Likud tries to achieve with Jews and Palestines. They are not representing a large part of their own population. Therefore it is not a state but a privat project.

          Reply to Comment
          • Mike Panzone

            Sluggo, exactly what about Antares’ writings is childish? Whether he is wrong or right, he is making reasonable, well-written comments. You try to insult him by calling him a child and tell another commenter he is a “sick Arab fuck”. In truth, you are the one who sounds quite like the opposite of a mature adult. In fact, most of the Zionist settler commenters who camp out on this site resort to name-calling, insults, and ugly sarcasm. Such are the tactics of people who know deep down that their voices are being drowned out and they are losing.

            I’m not sure why more vulgarities such as these aren’t deleted by the editors…but I wish they were.

            Reply to Comment
          • Mike Panzone

            …I take that back…I’m glad the editors don’t delete these comments. Leave them to show the world just how sick and small minded are those who say them.

            Reply to Comment
          • Sluggo

            You sound like a buffoon

            Reply to Comment
    6. Mike Panzone

      Righteous people know down deep that they are right and have no need to speak to others like you and your pals on this site speak. You remind me of street thugs who lash out when cornered like rats. Or of the old newsreels of the Nuremberg trials where the defendants resorted to childish snickering and immature comments.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sluggo

        I really, really doubt that the image of the posters here reminds you of violent thugs and/or Nazis. If so, your sense of proportion is stunningly lacking. If not, saying they do is not very righteous. At all.

        Reply to Comment
    7. phil

      Well said Mike Panzone.. sadly, the comments pages on this site are patrolled by hasbaristas who use personal abuse as a substitute for debate

      Reply to Comment
    8. phil

      Even more sadly, 972 are letting their own site go to to dogs by allowing this to continue

      Reply to Comment
    9. phil

      @sluggo.. you posted the following a day or two ago:

      “Brian, isn’t that a photo of the Palestinian legislator that you rub it out to? Lol”

      Is this what you call empathy? Or productive discussion?

      Or is it a sexualised slur on another commentator?

      Reply to Comment