Leading article: Israel's search for security

Share
Related Topics
WHATEVER the ultimate fate of the Northern Ireland peace process may be, Stormont Castle is not, of course, the only place in the world where a "peace process" has been going on for decades. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel we see the hardest lesson of all - that it can be the years after a "settlement" that are the most dangerous. As with Ireland, history provides a key to understanding the ready diet of grievances, suspicions and a national obsession with security. It also shows us how the imperatives of security can change.

It is a little hard to recall that, a few months after the proclamation of the State of Israel in 1948, Winston Churchill told the House of Commons that this event was "one of the most hopeful and encouraging adventures of the 20th century". Indeed he went on to warn the hasty historians of tomorrow: "The coming into being of a Jewish State in Palestine is an event in world history to be viewed in the perspective not of a generation or a century, but in the perspective of a thousand, two thousand or even three thousand years."

Journalists are notoriously short-termist but it is possible even with such a short vantage point as a mere half-century to offer a tentative judgement on the state of the State of Israel. In brief, it is uncertain as to how much hope and encouragement for peace could be derived from the present leadership of Israel.

In fact, the first 50 years of Israel's history might be best described as a "war process". Israel was a nation born out of conflict and hatreds stretching back in a truly Churchillian timescale. It certainly gained a huge momentum because of the hostility the Jewish diaspora encountered almost wherever it went. This varied from time to time and from society to society, from mild snobbishness to the kind of violent state-sponsored pogroms that culminated in the Holocaust. But whilst these events resulted in waves of frightened people emigrating to Palestine (and elsewhere) it needed the guarantee of American support and the successful war of self-determination to found the nation.

Even then Israel was not secure, or at least did not feel secure, and much of her story has been a search for security. It has been a struggle between hawks and doves.

When Israel found herself in major armed conflicts with all of her neighbours in each of her five decades of existence one could understand the hawkish outlook. The wars have contributed to the Israeli perception that she is "vulnerable", "threatened" by hostile neighbours. She may, at various times, have been right. Certainly no-one could mistake the anti-Israeli rhetoric of some of her enemies who wanted the state driven into the sea. Israel's story has been one where leaders like David Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir have trusted no-one and placed their faith in force. This tradition has been shamelessly exploited by the present Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. As we come to the 50th anniversary, Israel should in fact recognise the scale of her own achievements and that the time for hawkishness has passed.

The state is no longer seriously threatened by external enemies. Her alliance with the United States has been tested time and time again. She has concluded peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. She has survived each of her armed conflicts and emerged strengthened. There are new threats to the stability of Israel, but more and more of these are "home grown", like the extremist Israeli gunman who murdered Yitzhak Rabin. Or they emerge from Israeli policy, like the West Bank settlements. The responses of the past are no longer appropriate and do not, in fact, serve Israel's best security interests, let alone justice or morality. Israel need not fear ending the oppression of the Palestinian people and the creation of a fully independent Palestinian state.

The Israeli anthem for the 50th anniversary runs: "Together in pride / Together in hope". As in Northern Ireland, we hope that the Israelis will soon work to add "Together in peace".

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Brand loyalty: businessmen Stuart Rose (pictured with David Cameron at the Conservative conference in 2010) was among the signatories  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police