By: Joseph Puder
Few would argue with the characterization of Israelis as tough and generous. Most of those familiar with the inner-workings would also agree that Israelis deserve a better and more accountable leadership.
The ability to survive under the constant threat of war and terrorism has made Israelis tough. The Israeli determination to defend their country in the face of 60 years of constant Arab violence intended to destroy them because they are not Muslim or Arab is either admirable or crazy. The survival of Israel’s 5.5 million Jews surrounded by nearly 300 million Arabs and Iranians determined to annihilate them, is nothing short of miraculous.
Israelis are, under the circumstances, amazingly generous and "liberal." For instance, Arabs throughout the region come to Israel for critical medical services and Israeli agricultural experts share their famous techniques with Arab farmers. Incidentally, these gestures and countless others are noticeably absent from the BBC or NPR coverage.
Israel is generally first on the scene with medical teams, specially trained dogs, and rescue specialists at times of disaster like the Tsunami in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia in 2006, earthquakes in Mexico, Turkey or Iran (the Islamic Republic actually refused entry of an Israeli rescue team following the February 2005 earthquake in Bam, Iran). During the 1960’s Israeli experts spent years training Africans and Asians in agricultural techniques. African students, in turn, flocked to Israel to be trained in nation building. And, unlike the Europeans, Chinese or the Soviet’s, Israelis did not condition for their assistance or political paybacks, and were abandoned by the African states when the Saudi’s promised cheaper oil prices if they severed relations with Israel.
Generations of Israelis quip of the "misdirect" by Moses to Canaan instead of Saudi Arabia, which left them with land bereft of natural resources. The only resource it has in abundance is its brainpower. Israel’s GNP is larger than the combined GNP of its Arab neighbors. The 2004 Almanac cited the combined 2002 GDP for Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, representing a combined population of 129 million, to be $14,900 compared to Israel’s GDP of $19,500 for 6 million people. Israel is one of the world’s top exporters of fiber optics, plastics and computer technology and is rated second to the U.S. in high-tech start-ups. Considering the economic strain its citizens must shoulder for national security, the success of Israel’s economy vis a vis the rest of the world, is rather amazing.
It seems clear that the hostility of the world towards Israel cannot be attributed to anything else but age-old anti-Semitism, much of which is borne out resentment of a people that gave an unwilling world its moral code – the Ten Commandments. And, of envy, that a downtrodden people that should have disappeared by now is still a player on the world’s stage and, a successful one at that.
How else, but anti-Semitism to explain for example, that the UN General Assembly has held only 10 emergency sessions since its inception 60 years ago, 6 of which have dealt with Israel. And, since the Six Days War of 1967, 30% of all resolutions issued by the UN Commission on Human Rights have been against Israel.
During this time we have learned of murderous coups in Africa, a genocide in Rwanda, ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, Syria, and Iraq, slavery in Saudi Arabia, the occupation of Tibet by China, genocides in East Timor and Darfur, gassings of Yemenis by Egypt, gassing of Kurds by Saddam Hussein, and more, yet Israel is the "problem" that is roundly condemned by the UN. All attempts to address human rights abuses by Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, China, Zimbabwe, and Russia, have been blocked by procedural motions. Israel has become the same scapegoat as the Jews in European countries were throughout the last century.
A European poll conducted in 2003 showed that 60% believed that Israel is the "greatest threat to peace in the world today." Not the fanatical Iranian Ayatollahs, not the maniacal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, nor the brutal Assad dictatorship in Syria or North Korea’s unpredictable dictator Kim Jong Il. Israel, who is defending itself against homicide-killers and terrorist attacks against its civilian population, is the number one villain. Appeasement of violent Muslims who play the intimidation card, along with "just-under-the-surface" anti-Semitism of those who seek to unshackle themselves from the guilt of having perpetrated the Holocaust has led to impugning the Jewish State with "moral lapses."
While Israeli perseverance and fortitude, in the face of unmerited and despicable hatred from the outside world is admirable, Israelis have endured the burden of unaccountable governments, which have made catastrophic decisions.
The system of proportional representation that elects a party list rather than choosing qualified individuals by districts has resulted in Israel’s 120 member Knesset resembling an assembly of early 18th century French noblemen who shunned the commoners.
Personal gain, it appears, supersedes ideology in the current Israeli coalition government. Prime Minster Ehud Olmert plunged the country into the Second Lebanon War while failing to prepare the army and the home front. The Vinograd Commission found him and Defense Minister Peretz responsible for numerous dismal failures. Yet, despite the immense damage done to the country and a populace who is aware of it, as is obvious by his 7% job approval rating, the Prime Minister is not impeached and continues to hold on to his "chair."
Avigdor Lieberman, leader of Israel Beitenu – a right-wing party – who claimed he was in the government in order to be able to make necessary changes from within, has not resigned from Prime Minister Olmert’s Kadima-led coalition nor helped to bring the government down, despite calls to do so from those who supported him, because he enjoys the trappings of power – the fancy offices, security guards, taxpayer paid Volvo, health insurance, overseas trip, etc.
Olmert and former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon engineered the disastrous Israeli withdrawal from Gaza destroying the lives and livelihoods of 9000 Israelis and paving the way for the Islamist Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections of January 2006. Gaza, following the withdrawal, became a launching pad for daily rockets attack on the nearby town of Sderot and, in the absence of any government actions to defend and secure their safety, many residents have fled. Olmert, who is not accountable to the electorate, has acted as if nothing happened.
Foreign Minster Shimon Peres and former Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin engineered the Oslo Accords, which were responsible for the return of Yaser Arafat and his fellow P.L.O. terrorists to Gaza and the West Bank. Their Labor-led government provided Arafat with weapons and a territorial base alongside Israeli population centers. Within months of the signing the Accord it became evident that the hate indoctrination in Palestinian schools, the media, and the mosques, directed by Arafat himself, continued unabated, ultimately leading to a rash of suicide bombing that killed hundreds of Israelis and resulted in a change of government. Shimon Peres, who replaced Rabin, never took responsibility for the Oslo disaster and he continues to uphold it as a "virtuous" deed.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from Lebanon resulted in the empowerment of Hezbollah. Hezbollah, in turn, encouraged Arafat to fight the Israelis and destroy them. Arafat’s rejection of the peace offerings made at Camp David II in July 2000 and his decision to launch the intifada was an outgrowth of this empowerment. Thousands of Israelis were killed or maimed. Yet, in sheer irony, Shimon Peres was just elected President (an election by the Knesset members, not by the people), Barak is now the Defense Minister, and Ehud Olmert is still the Prime Minister. None of them have ever been held accountable to the people for their critical failures.
The people of Israel deserve accolades for upholding its democratic values and its standards of human rights while on the front lines in the war against Islamic terrorism. Israelis also deserve a better and more accountable government that would represent them directly. A government that governs according to the will of the people will earn the respect of the people – their greatest resource.