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Israel Is Less Fragile Than We Feared, More Fragile Than We Imagine
In today's post, we share a piece that appeared last week in Sapir Journal
Sapir is a journal exploring the future of the American Jewish community and its intersection with cultural, social, and political issues. It is published by Maimonides Fund with Bret Stephens serving as Editor-in-Chief.
The most recent issue, not surprisingly, is devoted to the topic of “Israel at 75”, just released online. There’s an array of really interesting articles by some fascinating people, some of whom I knew about and some of whom I didn’t—really worth taking a look.
I was asked to write a piece on how vulnerable Israel has been, is now and might be in the future, particularly in light of the deep political crisis in which Israel finds itself today. The piece is called Israel Is Less Fragile Than We Feared, More Fragile Than We Imagine.
We’re providing the opening of the article here; the rest of the piece can be read on the Sapir website.
This is the link to my piece on Israel’s fragility.
The opening section follows below:
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At 75, Israel is already one of the world’s oldest countries. In 1949, it became the 59th member state of the United Nations. There are now 193 states, meaning that well over two-thirds of the world’s countries are younger.
That feels counterintuitive. Instinctively, we think of the Jewish state as very new and thus forever vulnerable to one existential threat or another, particularly given that its neighbors and much of the world do not consider it legitimate. Coupled to our sense of Israel’s vulnerability, however, is another, almost opposite instinct: We think of Israel as the country that invariably manages to survive. Today, it faces an existential threat in the shape of judicial reform. What should we expect? An examination of Israel’s earlier crises may be instructive.
Challenges to Israel’s existence have come in many forms. Its earliest moments of vulnerability were, of course, military. Asked by the People’s Administration on May 12, 1948, about the Yishuv’s chances of surviving the military onslaught certain to follow a declaration of independence, Yigael Yadin, later a leading archaeologist but at the time the commander of the Yishuv’s military forces, said, “50-50.” Just three years after the liberation of Auschwitz, the leadership of the Yishuv understood that independence might result in yet another slaughter.
They risked it, and Israel more than survived, expanding considerably beyond what UN Resolution 181 had allotted in the 1947 Partition Plan. But defeat did nothing to lessen its enemies’ appetite. May 1967, the month before the war that was certain to come, is called the hamtanah — “the waiting period.” Though some Israelis left to escape the “certain” bloodbath, Israel tripled its size in six days. Having gained control of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula, and the Golan Heights, it had defensible borders for the first time and the beginnings of a world-class military. Six years later, however, when Egypt and Syria attacked on Yom Kippur with support from Iraq and Jordan, IDF soldiers died by the hundreds in the Golan and the Sinai, IAF jets were shot down by the dozen, and Israeli forces either retreated or struggled to blunt the Egyptian and Syrian incursions. And yet, by war’s end, Israel had clawed its way back to the borders from which it had started, encircled Egypt’s Third Army, and could easily have marched on Damascus.
Economically, the ship came close to sinking more than once, too. Throughout the 1950s, food was so scarce that the government instituted rationing: Its agents could inspect parcels on public transport and in iceboxes at home. Families were allotted 1,600 calories a day per person. They received a monthly allowance of 750 grams of meat, 200 grams of cheese, and 12 eggs. Nor was scarcity confined to food. The country, desperately strapped for cash, had few resources to house the hundreds of thousands of impoverished, broken souls making their way from Arab countries to the Jewish state after the war, expelled for the crime of being Jewish. Israel faced economic collapse again in the 1980s, when inflation reached 445 percent and was projected to run as high as 1,000 percent.
… article continues on the Sapir website, here.
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