It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Dickens was writing about the French Revolution, but he could just as well have been writing about Israel today. Indeed, it is the best of times, it is the worst of times.
Israel’s economy is flourishing. Our currency is stable, our national debt is low and our GNP is among the highest in the world. Who knows? What with the collapse of Europe’s economies and the upside-down Obama economics, we may yet see the wealth of the world migrate to the safe economic haven of brought about by Netanyahu and Stanley Fischer.
True, the economic malaise in Europe will impact on our exports, but Israel is a small, strong and dynamic economy. We will increase our exports to the east and more Israeli products will stay inside the Israeli market. We will overcome this crisis, and if we will re-frame our economy on the right Jewish cultural/social plane, we will emerge from it even stronger than before.
And there is more good news. The hi-tech and R&D centers of the world understand that without Israeli know-how, they will be left in the dust. Israel’s medical and pharmacological advances, our sophisticated weapons, our cows that produce the highest national milk yield in the world, our world-class wines that are giving the French a run for their money – we have good reason to be proud of our accomplishments. And the icing on the cake: There are more Jews in Israel than anywhere else in the world. This is a sea change in the state of the Jewish nation and the first time since the First Temple era that the majority of Jews has resided in Israel. This summer we start the countdown to the end of the exile. The prophets promised and G-d is making it happen. Truly the best of times.
Unfortunately, though, it is also the worst of times. Anti-Semitism is exploding all over the world. The State of Israel is rapidly losing the legitimacy for its very existence. Simply put, our successful state has turned into a pirate ship; it is fine for other states to plan its destruction, and they will even remain members of the UN in the process. Iran can say whatever it wants, while Israel’s senior army officers dare not land in Europe. It is now fashionable in academia to talk about the day after the destruction of the State of Israel.
De-legitimization always precedes the coup de grace; Der Sturmer always precedes Auschwitz. Destruction has two sides; the actual perpetrator and the side that does not afford refuge to the victims and does not bomb the death camps. Obama will not lose any sleep on the day after. Let us not delude ourselves. We were supposed to have learned something from our history, but the ominous pictures of the 1930s keep popping up on our screens.
So is it the best of times or is it the worst of times?
Every time that Israel enjoys unbounded success, it manages to make the worst of the situation. At the end of the War of Independence in 1948, the IDF was about to liberate Judea and Samaria. The Palmach insisted that they would not stop until they reached the antennas of Ramallah, the IDF was already in Sinai and if the retreat orders had not been given, the Old City of Jerusalem would have been liberated then. In other words, there would have been no “green line,” no “occupied territories” and nobody would ever have heard of “illegal settlers.” But Israel retreated.
In an act that planted a ticking time-bomb in the outcome of the Six Day War, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan gave the keys to the Temple Mount to the Moslem wakf at the end of the war and sent soldiers with flowers to the Jordanian border to convince the Arabs fleeing Kalkilya to return to their homes.
After the First Lebanon War, the PLO leadership was exiled to Tunisia and was practically defunct. The PLO in Tunisia supported Sadaam Hussein and became a world pariah. Arafat was banned from entering the US. The PLO could no longer pay the salaries of its aging soldiers and was on the verge of total collapse. Terror in Israel was almost non-existent. No fences, no Kassams, no road blocks, no guards at the entrance to every café. And then Peres and Beilin brought Arafat and his fellow terrorists to Israel. They armed them with Israeli weapons and made sure that they received money and international recognition. They imposed the PLO regime of terror upon the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza – and the rest is history. Today, the world sees the Arabs as the rightful owners of this Land, and the Jews as the invaders.
I was in the US on 9/11. The Americans saw the pictures of the celebrations in Shechem and Ramallah. George Bush was president. Sharon had a free hand to restore Israel’s security. But instead, he destroyed Gush Katif.
Today, Israel is stronger than ever, with impressive achievements behind us. But once again, we are positioned to make the worst out of this situation. What will Israel’s leaders choose? Is it the best of times, or the very worst?