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Redefining our goals and problems instead of investigations and resignations


We have to try and identify the essential from the less important, in the endless discussions that have permeated Israel since the war in Lebanon ended. Otherwise we will soon fail in more unsuccessful wars, endless internal struggles or even witness the establishment of a fascist regime. I prefer a courageous public debate which would redefine and try to create a wide support for the essential goals and the ways to achieve them, instead of going into a long period of investigation committees, resignations, and new elections. The latter will only create more havoc, at a time in which we are facing serious threats, internally and externally.

I want to start by saying, despite public pressure to the contrary, that I do not envy our political leaders these days. They began their assignments just a few months ago under the illusion that they live in a world which seemed to them to be improving every day. (Prime Minister Olmert said a few months ago: "It will be a pleasure to live in this country after the next disengagement and behind the wall.") They just cannot understand how all of this befell them: abductions of soldiers, talk about their personal failures, investigation, resignations… They should be held accountable for the fact that they did not prevent the last war, even in face of the public pressure 'to do something' after the abduction of the soldiers. Thereby, they could have spared us all the painful losses and the turmoil this war has created. To their credit, one has to admit that they only followed in the footsteps of what their predecessors have said and done over the last scores of years. They did not grasp, just like the public at large, that one sunny day they will suddenly have to face a completely new situation, with new immediate and distant threats, and thereby pay the price of the mistaken patterns of thought that have rooted themselves in our society all these years.

Secondly, we now have to rethink our concepts in a fast and determined way, under much more difficult conditions, as we have wasted the opportunity to do so when it still could be done under much more favorable circumstances. Right now it does not matter if this is a general human defect, or a particularly Jewish one, that people can re-conceptualize only under pressure, with their backs to the wall. We have right now to admit that we face external and internal threats which our military and civil systems are not properly equipped to manage, unless they will undergo a basic reorganization. Such a process will need time, money, and a relatively stable situation. We will have to buy these resources by making painful concessions, internally and externally. Our problem is that our erroneous concepts have brought our system to its edge, and not much more pressure is needed for it to break down and fall apart.

What are the essentials we have to focus on right now?

1. We have to rebuild a defense army that will replace the 'police of occupation and accompanying settlers' children' that has developed here over scores of years. Such an army will have to be much smaller, cleverer, better equipped, and based on principles that existed in our military until the 1967 war. We have to understand that the current army, from its generals to the private soldiers, does not remember the army that was then. Over the years of occupation the army has become addicted to a huge, wasteful and cumbersome system, which cannot respond properly to the current threats to our country. This development was, among others, the direct result of the 1973 war and the Agranat investigation committee, a committee many people want now to replicate. In order to develop a better army, we have to give up the misleading idea that through military force we will be able to promote our political agenda in this region. An army has to defend us, can act only in most extreme cases of threat, and also then at a very high human price.

2. National service: Every person who will not be willing or able to join this new military service will have to do two years of civil service. The ultimate goal of that service will be to rebuild our destroyed geographical and social periphery: education of the less privileged, support of the neglected elderly, establishment of a firm economic basis, creation of new jobs, thereby reducing drastically the huge gap between the less privileged and those who can afford it. This is today the biggest threat to our society. Every young person who wants to be a citizen here (including Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox) will have to do such service, if not drafted to the army. Such civil service will be accompanied by a redistribution of resources – locating education as the top priority, especially that of the periphery. This has never been properly done in this country (though there were many proclamations to that effect), since the establishment of the State of Israel.

3. We have to return to negotiations with the Palestinians and the moderate Arab countries who surround us and who are just as worried as we are by the growing Iranian extremism. The ultimate goal of such dialogue will be the establishment of a free and flourishing Palestinian State, alongside the State of Israel. We have to stop making all these arrogant declarations such as "there is no one to talk to" (can one talk with us?), "They understand only force" (are we any different?) or "we will not release prisoners with blood on their hands" (are we without blood on our hands?). Among the Palestinians there are moderate people who understand that the Hezbollah does not serve their cause at all and they prefer to discuss with us a compromise, through mutual recognition. We should spend days and nights with these people in order to find a way out of the mess we got into through the failure of the 2000 Camp David summit. In such talks we will have to admit our major miscalculation, that of identifying ourselves with US foreign policy after 9-11. We should remember that soon there will be elections in the US. A new government may pull out of Iraq, just as they did from Vietnam. The United States has two oceans that will still defend it even after such a pullout, but where will we be then, with all the Arab States around us?

4. Developing a new social contract: We will have to redefine our mutual responsibilities as citizens and as a state. We will have to take better care of our weaker parts, and we will have to redefine both our expectations of our political and military representatives and their responsibilities toward us. The discussion around this contract will include also the media, whose task will be not only to publicize all of our problems, but also to perform within an educational capacity, promoting positive social and economical processes.

There are many other issues and agendas that have been neglected for many years which demand change and respect. We are facing serious threats, externally and internally. Still, we have ourselves, with abilities to formulate and choose. This is an asset which not many societies enjoy. We should have started this process with ourselves long ago. Let us not delay it, before it will be too late.

Dan Bar-On,
Ben Gurion University of the Negev,

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Replies: 1 Comment

I agree with everything you say on this page. Really friends, Israel and Palestine would be much better to show Semitic Unity, as history shows us that semites have been pitted against each other to the benefit of Western powers. Does Israel really think it will be treated any different from the legacy of countries that were built up, supported, used, then abandoned by the West in it's own greater agenda? Will we learn the lessons of history? I do not belive that zionists are evil, but evil has been commited in it's name. It seems that zionists have a belief that they feel should be forced upon others while ignoring the basic right os self-determination. If these issues are not addressed than zionism will never be seen as a 'good' thing. Like modern 'eugenics' advocates who dress up the ultimate form of social control under the guise of 'peace'. Now really, the human intuition and the drive for TRUE freedom will never be crushed!

Posted by William Bartlett @ 09/18/2006 12:20 PM CST

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