Ever since its birth, Israel always had an existential problem. And I do mean existential problem. In the past sixty odd years of its independence, it has always faced a threat to its own existence. In all cases, it has resorted to the military option to counter that threat with some instance of political and diplomatic initiatives added on. Israel now has the most powerful military in that region, it has nuclear weapons, it has the support of most of the world's governments (including many Muslim and Arabic ones) and the deep links between USA and Israel preclude almost any kind of overt action against it.
But what Israel is losing is the support of the people, and that in itself, is a far bigger threat than all the world's armies combined. And none of those lovely F-16's, Merkava Tanks, Uzi's or its famed intelligence services can stop this. Let us explore why? And will we see an Israel in another sixty years time? What can Israel do to improve its chances and surf this changing environment? Israel is the culmination of a national self-determination project, a project to create a Jewish homeland, protected by the strongest 'walls' possible, so that there will never be another exile or another holocaust. It is an existential driver, and people should never forget it, both foes and friends. When a nation is driven by existential threats all the time, the decisions and reactions of a state go further than what logic allows. Secondly, most of the global opposition is clearly anti-Semitic in nature.
You might quibble about what Semitism means, but most of the criticism and opprobrium towards Israel is driven exactly for the same purpose as that of Zionist hatred. The facts that no other "occupying" country gets the same treatment (such as India in Kashmir, Philippines in Mindanao, Thailand in Southern Thailand etc), and no other country gets the same widespread boycott calls (such as Sudan in Darfur, Russia in Chechnya, Malaysia in Malaysia itself, etc), and no other country gets the same unthinking hatred which pulls fanatical suicide bombers from around the globe, and no other country has so much proportional press and activist attention paid to it, all clearly point to Anti-Semitism. That said, this is not going to change.
The fact that this discrimination is couched in liberal terms makes it even more pathetically repugnant (for example, British academics, journalists and architects boycotting Israel). It is unfair, it is discriminatory, it is morally revolting and people who do this are definitely intellectually challenged, but Israel has to live with it or better still, it has to manage it. Be that as it may, the situation remains, that over a wide swathe of the world, Israel is now very quickly becoming a pariah state in the eyes of the people. And no amount of military hardware or Western (read US) support can change it, this is a battle of ideas, not a battle of equipment (mind you, even though they lost to Hezbollah in 2006 but that is another argument, Thomas Friedman's arguments (http://freedemocracy.blogspot.com/2007/05/thomas-l-friedman-arab-commission.html) notwithstanding). There are four main reasons for them losing support. (1) The presence of Israeli settlements (2) The treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories; (3) The discriminatory treatment of the Israeli Arab minority and (4) the American factor. Israel is caught between a rock and a hard place.
Demographically speaking, it's on the losing end of the scale with the rate of growth of its Jewish majority population being considerably less that the Arab minority. So that is an inexorable train wreck just waiting to happen. A geographically bound democratic country cannot simply be ruled by a minority for too long, the internal tensions tend to put in massive stresses in the country (like in Iraq, Bangladesh, Kosovo, Bosnia, Rwanda, etc.).
One could survive for a long time with the minority carrying out repression, such as Iraq and Syria, but not for long, those stresses and strains will come out somehow and somewhere. (I have already explored this before in another column http://piquancy.blogspot.com/2006/03/when-minorities-rule-over-majorities.html) But despite all its faults, Israel is a functioning democracy, and a functioning democracy cannot execute that kind of overt and relentless repression against its own citizens no matter who they are. But there is still sufficient documented (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/116885) and well publicised (here) discrimination against its own Israeli Arab citizens which causes all kinds of problems (http://www.adl.org/ADL_Opinions/Israel/20060519-Forward+Oped.htm). For example, if Israel is indeed a liberal democracy, then one cannot have an institutionalised discrimination towards its minorities. So Israel has to live with its growing Arab minority. See how India gets regularly pilloried for its caste system despite explicit laws banning discrimination and with positive discrimination.
To further compound the matter, it has gobbed on to the West Bank and Gaza. I know it has left Gaza and Palestinian authorities control some towns in West Bank, but come on, you know as well as I do that it is Israel which still calls the shots. To me, the current Israeli strategy seems to be a strategy of diminishing return. What it wants to do is to string Fatah and Mamoud Abbas along, throw him some tax revenues, but do nothing at all to provide the basics, to wit, independence. In return Israel wants Fatah to provide security, which it does by clamping down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad (plus some of the other assorted gangs and goons).
Fatah is full of corruption and pus. So what happens? Hamas wins. Now why is Hamas unwilling to negotiate with Israel? Why does Hamas still have the eradication of Jews and Israel in its guiding covenants? Because Israel's negotiations with Fatah have shown that there is no point in any negotiations. So what's the result? The Palestinians are now pushed into a tiny thorny corner. A classic situation which violates the fundamental dictum of warfare (for example, written by Sun Tzu), never back your enemy into a corner with no hope of escape. Supporting Fatah is totally wrong. Remember what happened in China? Chiang Kai Shek had the planes, tanks and men. He also had the money and the support from USA and UK.
But who won? Mao did! He did it by imposing a draconian discipline on his troops and managed to win over the people. How did Mao do that? See the following rules issues by the Red Army (http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/lin-biao/1965/09/peoples_war/ch04.htm): The Three Main Rules of Discipline:
(1) Obey orders in all your actions.
(2) Do not take a single needle or piece of thread from the masses.
(3) Turn in everything captured.
The Eight Points for Attention:
(1) Speak politely.
(2) Pay fairly for what you buy.
(3) Return everything you borrow.
(4) Pay for anything you damage.
(5) Do not hit or swear at people.
(6) Do not damage crops.
(7) Do not take liberties with women.
(8) Do not ill-treat captives. From what I have read and heard, Hamas follows very similar rules for their own people. (Yes, it goes full on against Israel and Fatah, but not against their own people http://www.amazon.com/Hamas-Politics-Charity-Terrorism-Service/dp/0300110537).
And then what the west and Israel are doing is to go plump for Fatah and Abbas. Talk about being condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. You might as well as ask, so why negotiate with Hamas? My counterpoint is, you cannot kill off Hamas and Fatah is useless, so what is Israel planning to do? It cannot keep millions of people in a concentration camp like state for decades or centuries! Is Israel planning to have this existential threat throughout its future? Will Israel exist in sixty years?
I would think not or at least, the probability of a peaceful Israel will continuously decrease if it does not proceed towards making real peace and not just negotiate about peace. So if the question does arise of removing the existential threat, then Israel needs to talk to Hamas. Political and Militant Islam is in play and will remain (see my previous essay on the enduring Muslim Brotherhood organisation). Israel has to manage and talk to it. The challenge is no longer from the secular leftist Fatah wing, which has now become a dribbling fool of an organisation.
The challenge is from Hamas. Bring them to the negotiating table and give them a stake in government and then you have a chance of building something which will remove the existential threat. And yes, despite Hamas's desire to eradicate Israel. Israel cannot do much about the demographic bomb. In addition, it can also get away with the embedded pro Jewish character of the Israeli state. But what it can do is to create a two state structure which allows Palestine to have a self-governing entity. In an ideal situation, what Israel should aim for is to become boring and invisible to the Palestinians. Or perhaps give the Palestinians a stake in Israel. Either or both will do, otherwise the existential threat to Israel will remain. All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!