For the past two years, Israel has withstood crisis upon crisis and exhibited admirable resilience. This, despite the intellectuals who have been writing the country off, refusing to look at the big picture and focusing on the minor detail that was bothering them at each given moment.
Since 2019, Israel has had to grapple with medical, economic, security, diplomatic and political crises.
Until recently, the efforts to curb the coronavirus pandemic were severely undermined by the lack of cooperation from the ultra-Orthodox and Arabs. Being an export-oriented country, its economy was hurt as global markets continued to shrink. The recent conflict in the Gaza Strip forced most Israelis into shelters, while the military worked on preventing Iran from establishing a foothold in Syria and Western Iraq and Israel’s mixed cities saw weeks-long riots perpetrated by Israeli Arabs.
In terms of diplomacy, Jerusalem has had to come to terms with the fact that the Biden administration is determined to return to a nuclear deal with Iran. And last but not least, the political system has been in limbo for several years.
Any democracy would struggle to see a bright future under such circumstances, let alone come up with solutions to this spate of crises.
To make matters worse, it does not seem that the situation will get better anytime soon: The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, the economic crisis is expected to worsen in the upcoming years, the conflict in Gaza has no solution and U.S. President Joe Biden is strengthening Tehran’s stance in the region and pushing it closer to becoming a nuclear threshold state.
For Israel’s new government to create a proper strategic assessment, it must first understand that when it comes to structural problems, a temporary solution is also a commendable accomplishment.
A drug is helpful if it improves an elderly man’s quality of life, even though it will not make him live forever; a treatment that gives a paralyzed woman the ability to walk is a dramatic development, even if it will not make her an Olympic runner.
Israel’s security problems, in a region as violent as the Middle East, are structural. Until world peace sets in, our challenge is to avoid the delusion of peace and brotherly love among nations and to focus on guaranteeing that Israel will continue to be a free and thriving country despite its threatening environment, while working on small, modest, but consistent achievements that would somehow blunt the impact of the conflict.
As for Iran, the Islamic Republic will only cease being an existential threat to Israel and the entire region if the regime and its violent practices are defeated. But Jerusalem does not have the power to do so, and it must, therefore, create a regional alliance with Iran’s adversaries to counter Tehran’s pursuit of hegemony. This will at the very least slow down the development of its nuclear and conventional capabilities.
While Israel won’t be able to get Biden to change his mind about the nuclear deal, it should hold talks with the administration in order to bolster Jerusalem’s defensive posture and maintain its freedom of action.
Israel has managed to emerge from the pandemic with relative success compared to other Western democracies—despite the issues that came up with the Arab and ultra-Orthodox communities—boasting a much lower death rate and a relatively quick economic rebound.
And on top of that, Israeli society has shown resilience during the recent flare-up with Hamas, Israel was not dragged into a war in the north and in Judea and Samaria and the Israeli-Arab coalition in the region has been strengthened.
Israeli democracy has so far been able to cope with the political turbulence. Our health and financial institutions have succeeded in curbing the pandemic better than anyone else in the world. Israel’s public successfully grappled with domestic Arab violence. The home front, the Israel Defense Forces and the Abraham Accords survived the conflict in Gaza as well, and Israel’s relationship with the United States has remained strong notwithstanding the disagreements over Iran. And most importantly: Freedom of expression has been preserved, allowing serial complainers to write off our country.
Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.