The author, Benny Morris, a professor of Middle Eastern history at Ben-Gurion University, is the author, most recently, of “1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War.”
MANY Israelis feel that the walls — and history — are closing in on their 60-year-old state, much as they felt in early June 1967, just before Israel launched the Six-Day War and destroyed the Egyptian, Jordanian and Syrian armies in Sinai, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
Now, this next paragraph, third sentence is quite interesting.
Israelis, or rather, Israeli Jews, are beginning to feel much the way their parents did in those apocalyptic days. Israel is a much more powerful and prosperous state today. In 1967 there were only some 2 million Jews in the country — today there are about 5.5 million — and the military did not have nuclear weapons. But the bulk of the population looks to the future with deep foreboding.
I've highlighted it for emphasis. The military did not have nuclear weapons in 1967, he says, leaving the implication that they do now.
His analysis is quite dire: the Arab and wider Islamic worlds, despite Israeli hopes since 1948 and notwithstanding the peace treaties signed by Egypt and Jordan in 1979 and 1994, have never truly accepted the legitimacy of Israel’s creation and continue to oppose its existence.
Little argument can be made about that.
public opinion in the West (and in democracies, governments can’t be far behind) is gradually reducing its support for Israel as the West looks askance at the Jewish state’s treatment of its Palestinian neighbors and wards. The Holocaust is increasingly becoming a faint and ineffectual memory and the Arab states are increasingly powerful and assertive.
A combination of dire threats face Israel: Iran to the east, pursuing a nuclear policy, denying the Holocaust and of any domestic homosexuality, has Israel’s political and military leaders on tenterhooks; Hezbollah to the north, which would join in a war between Iran and Israel, now has an arsenal of 30,000 to 40,000 Russian-made rockets, supplied by Syria and Iran — twice the number it possessed in 2006. Some of the rockets can reach Tel Aviv and Dimona, where Israel’s nuclear production facility is located; Hamas in Gaza has a large arsenal of rockets — home-made Qassams and Russian-made, Iranian-financed Katyushas and Grads smuggled, with the Egyptians largely turning a blind eye, through tunnels from Sinai; and an internal threat: the country's Arab minority.
What is common to these specific threats is their unconventionality. Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the threat from conventional Arab armies. Indeed, it repeatedly trounced them. But Iran’s nuclear threat, the rise of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that operate from across international borders and from the midst of dense civilian populations, and Israeli Arabs’ growing disaffection with the state and their identification with its enemies, offer a completely different set of challenges. And they are challenges that Israel’s leaders and public, bound by Western democratic and liberal norms of behavior, appear to find particularly difficult to counter.