Iran still wants a bomb, but the United States and Western European powers insist that as long as the mullahs threaten Israel and the West, they will have only civil nuclear power. Grudgingly Iran continues to allow international monitoring. Half a century has passed since the “civil but not military” compromise narrowly avoided Israel’s 2013 red line. Israel’s not terribly happy about the compromise, but not terribly unhappy, either.
Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt are all firmly in the hands of the Islamists, but of the mild variety, Erdogan-esque. No love lost with Israel in those quarters, but matters are much worse for intellectuals, Christians, women, gays and lesbians, and those economies than they are for Israel. The West pumps in money to ensure that those countries don’t devolve into utter chaos. Israel’s neighbors might love to do it in, but they know that they can’t; America has Israel’s back. So they worry more about repressing the demands for genuine democracy in their capitals and, the occasional venomous outburst about Israel notwithstanding, they essentially ignore the Zionist cancer across their borders.
In Gaza, the heirs to what used to be called Hamas are still in power. Gazans are still poor and overcrowded, but not starving, as a carefully monitored crossing with Egypt allows in food, medicine and building materials. There are some imports by sea, as well, subject to Israeli naval supervision. Every now and then, the regime lets fly some rockets; Israel then pounds them into temporary submission. No one likes it, but no Gazan citizens are clamoring for regime change, so almost everyone in Israel has just gotten used to it.
To the east, Fatah still hangs on. The Palestinians never got real statehood, because they continued to insist that as a precondition for negotiations, the now 10 million Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and Syria be allowed to return to Israel; Israel simply refuses.
The Palestinian economy chugs along under a reasonably light Israeli thumb, and because Israel regularly makes proposals for longer-term arrangements and has effectively worked European capitals, international consensus holds that the Palestinians are the real stumbling block. There are occasional dustups about Israeli plans for building housing, but the planned neighborhoods are mostly contiguous with existing Israeli cities. Because Israel has reined in the hilltop settlers, violence against Palestinians has stopped; with the European Union and its post-nationalism now a thing of the past, Europe is not exactly enamored of Israel, but the hostility has dissipated a bit. The rare periodic flare-ups generally pass quickly.
Internally the crushing despair of 2000-2015 has largely dissipated. The economy continues to thrive; Israel remains a mini-Silicon Valley. Hostility among Israeli academics to the country’s very existence has softened, and thanks to some small Zionist and pluralistic colleges, creative and energetic Zionist thinking thrives once again. Ben-Gurion and Berdichevsky would not recognize the issues being bandied about, but they would recognize the diversity, the passion and the commitment to Jewish statehood.
Thanks to electoral reform, smaller parties are mostly a thing of the past. The haredi stranglehold on coalition politics is a memory; haredi kids do not serve in the army, but they do national service, and after that, they work for a living.
Israel still wins many more Nobel prizes than it does Olympic gold medals. That’s a frustration to some, but they’ve learned to accept it. Israel is the Jewish state, after all.
The Jewish state is much as it was in 2013, only more so.
Iran got the bomb in 2013. Immobilized by battle-fatigue, the US decided it would not attack. It gave Israel the green light, but overwhelming doubt in top Israeli echelons led to successive postponements. When Iran finally detonated a warhead beneath the sea, it was too late to attack.
European hostility to Israel never subsided, and successive Israeli governments turned irritating both the EU and the US into a national sport. In response to repeated European and American demands that building projects cease, the government assured Israelis, “They’ll learn to live with it. We just have to show them we can’t be bullied.”
Germany changed the rules first. Lufthansa stopped flying to Israel, and a year later, Germany refused El Al landing rights. After subsequent dustups, Air France and France followed suit, as did British Airways and the UK. Soon, the only way to get to Europe was by sea. Israelis could still fly to Turkey, though.
At first, it didn’t seem a sea-change. But with the economy in a drastic downturn and wild-eyed mullahs parading their gleaming weapons, the best-educated and thus most mobile Israeli parents asked themselves if raising children in the cross-hairs of nuclear-armed maniacs was moral. Increasingly they departed for calmer pastures. It wasn’t a mad exodus, but the Start-up Nation sputtered; everyone knew that if you wanted to do hi-tech, you had to cross the ocean.
Syrian civil war, which dragged on for years after President Bashar Assad fell, produced several million refugees. Once another protracted civil war toppled the Hashemite Kingdom, there were several million more. Hundreds of thousands made their way into the West Bank, which could not sustain them. Under intense US pressure (American Jews had long since softened their support for Israel on Capitol Hill), Israel agreed to grant tens of thousands of work and residency permits, and then more. The economy tanked further.
With Jews and Palestinians so clearly sharing the space between the river and the sea, and with the mere idea of a two-state solution a faint memory, the UN announced plans for a commission that would study how and when a one-state solution would be implemented. Outside a few staunch Israeli ideological pockets, there wasn’t much resistance. Those Israelis who remained were exhausted. Some members of the haredi community were actually relieved; a shared state would effectively be an Arab state. It would have no real enemies, and at long last, no one would care if they went to the army.
Among Israeli graduate students, the looming new reality was dubbed “The Second Yishuv.” How it would be different from The First Yishuv was a matter of academic debate, as was the question of whether the state that had existed between the two Yishuv periods could have been saved, or whether demography and geography had been too steeply stacked against it from the get-go.
But in the 2060 Olympics, Israel won two gold medals. The athletes had grown up in the States and trained there, but they were technically Israeli citizens. They figured that they had better chances of making the Israeli team, and they did far better than anyone had anticipated. For a couple of days, Israeli spirits lifted, if only a bit.
SOUND CRAZY? It’s not. The details might be different, of course, but either of these scenarios is distinctly possible. Neither includes a settlement with the Palestinians, and neither requires that a single bullet be fired.
So, Happy New Year. And enjoy voting.