The Difficulties of Governance (8 cents)

Look what problems we have in this country – George Bush leading us into two wars and destroying our economy, the Tea Party movement blaming the Bush era’s problems on Barack Obama, a seemingly unsolvable Latino immigration problem, the National Rifle Association as one the most powerful organizations in the country, continual drug and family violence, a health policy run not by medical professionals but by insurance companies, etc., etc., etc.

Look at all the countries that have uncontrollable dissension and violence – in the Middle East and Africa particularly, and those who control their internal violent oppositions only through brutal methods, like Egypt and, yes, Russia.

And look at the extraordinary economic problems being faced by PIGS – Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain, and now by Hungary – the PHIGS, I guess.

And then look at the crazy quilt country that is Israel – internally divided (Jew and Arab, religious and secular), scared to death, and very, very prosperous (albeit with great divisions of rich versus poor).

But Israel has two major strikes against it. First, it is surrounded by neighbors who would wish its existence away – either silently, like (I am sure) the majority of Jordanians, or extraordinarily vocally (like Hamas in Gaza). A victim of its 1967 success, perhaps, Israel didn’t know what to do with Gaza and the West Bank: do you keep it, do you turn it back, do you turn back everything except what you believe vital to your physical security (and how do you determine that?), do you colonize or settle it, or by inaction allow your citizens to colonize or settle it?

But at this point, the history, interesting as it is, becomes irrelevant: the question is, starting from where they are today, what should they do?

Unfortunately, too often Israel has not known what to do, and has reacted with a knee-jerk defensiveness that has led increasingly to more and more problems. Reversing this is not easy, as we can see. And that brings us to the Israel’s second problem, growing world condemnation (you would think that at some point this would max out, but apparently not).

The universal condemnation of Israel is ridiculous. Israel is certainly no worse or more brutal than most other governments, and in fact ranks well above average on most levels. Yet it is treated like a pariah.

The current problem is the Gaza blockade. The stated goal of the blockade is to keep weaponry from entering Gaza. This is an essential goal as the Gazan government is sworn to Israel’s destruction. But it obviously contains the seeds of its own failure – both in reality (even further radicalizing Gaza residents) and in perception.

I believe that Israel’s main problem is its failure to trust any international organization – it is perhaps an understandable problem, but it is its major problem none the less. I would think that the situation in Gaza lends itself to international cooperation.

First, with complete transparency, all incoming ships could be searched (and inventoried and photographed) by international inspectors to ensure that war materiel was not brought into the area. Second, I would think that both the Egyptian and Israeli borders with Gaza could be policed by international organizations, controlling passage and immigration in accordance with agreed upon protocols.

Neither side would want this: the Israelis out of a lack of trust, and the Gazans out of a belief that time is on their side and eventually Israel will simply crumble. But well meaning international pressure could force it upon these unwilling parties, if……..

And here is the big “if”: the Arab/Muslim countries would have to be willing – and if Syria is not, and Turkey is not, and Iran is not, and even the new “American” Iraq is not, this obviously will not work.

Yes, I think that part of this overall situation is caused by the increasing fear and frigidity within Israel. But make no mistake: just as in the United States segregation was a white problem, not a black problem, in the Middle East, the tensions with Israel are an Arab/Muslim problem, not an Israel/Jewish problem.

And because of the general lack of freedom of speech and thought and actions in the Arab/Muslim populations, something that will not change soon, the problems will continue for decades to come.

In the meantime, what should Israel do? It should try hard not to vilify its neighbors, it should try hard to get over its Holocaust mentality, it should open itself up to international cooperation, it should put a positive spin on so much of the negativity it must face, and it should avoid a current tendency in the country – to clamp down on internal political dissent.

And what must the United States and the western world do? It should support Israelis in these efforts and encourage them, and it should not buckle under to the hypocritical and bellicose statements of so much of the Islamic world today.

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