Resources for a Strategic Balance
Since its inception, the State of Israel has never had the resources that are necessary to maintain a strategic balance of power in the region. Consequently, it has always been dependent on the assistance of superpowers in economic aid, in international support, and with respect to deterrence policies toward enemy countries. The fact of this dependency brings up the most existential of questions: What would happen if we were to wake up one morning and find out that we no longer enjoy the support of a superpower? A prime minister who fails to raise this fateful question is simply not worthy of the job. As for the answer, it is determined by another question - that of whether Israel, today, carries significant weight in terms of global strategic interests. If the answer is positive, it is reasonable to assume that support will keep coming. In the past, Israel has indeed played a vital role as a stabilizing force in the Middle East, thereby contributing to the strategic policies of the superpowers, and serving their primary interests.
Our wars and their outcome clearly illustrate this principle. Whenever Israel acted as a stabilizing force in a war, it received superpower support (including a nuclear deterrence capacity, delivered by Kissinger at the end of the 1973 war). However, those wars in the course of which Israel threatened to destabilize the region (Sinai, Lebanon) failed to win support. In every such case, Israel eventually had to withdraw. Our cabinet ministers can boast that we will not have conditions dictated to us from abroad, and that we alone will make decisions involving our security. That stance may be appealing to the public, but it is unrealistic.
A country in need of assistance from a superpower cannot enjoy the freedom to adopt policies that are significantly distinct from the superpower's own interests. Such a country can only design policies that coincide with the supporting superpower's strategic interests, while struggling to preserve some differences based on its national agenda. At any rate, it has no option whatsoever to exercise broadly divergent policies.
This fact itself raises a question with long-term implications. The international democratic community has always granted Israel privileges it denies to other states which, like Israel, deny the rights of others. One cannot but wonder why Israel has actually gained from such privileges. The latter are, of course, tied to the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. The Jews' history of persecution is the reason why democratic countries and their leaders are careful not to deal with Israel the way they do with some other states. Nevertheless, things may change in the longer run. The tribunal for war criminals created by the U.N. is a clear sign that things are moving. In addition to this unprecedented situation, we now see a new "Jewish threat" hovering over American support for Israel of which American Jews are the supreme guarantee. A conversion law that would ostracize Reform and Conservative Jews (90% of American Jewry) could only spell disaster for us. Yet it is precisely the law Prime Minister Netanyahu supported. While expressing concern about security issues, he alienates American Jews from Israel.
Strategic Deterrence - Turned Around
Israel once had the monopoly of strategic deterrence in this region. The Israeli air force could strike destructive rear blows on neighboring Arab countries, and those countries were unable to retaliate. Today, in the age of missiles, they can retaliate and destroy. Israel no longer has a monopoly. This is a significant revolution, but one that Israeli society has yet to digest, engrossed as it is in obsolete notions. Israel's deterrence monopoly is no more, and will never be again. This important fact should be viewed in the light of what we know today. Israel is not at present a mobilized society. Its readiness and ability to withstand attacks like those we experienced during the Gulf War - when missiles were launched against Tel Aviv - are that of a modern welfare society. In other words, they are very low.
Furthermore, the next time around, we may be talking about not just 30 but hundreds of missiles. Future war scenarios may also include non-conventional weapons, whether chemical, biological or nuclear. This would put us on a different plane altogether. Attitudes change when a nuclear option is available. Faced with the specter of nuclear ashes, Anwar el-Sadat, the Egyptian president, understood that it is impossible to exterminate without being exterminated, and he came to Jerusalem to make peace. The supreme strategic question today is whether Iran or Iraq will get nuclear weapons. If they do, the range of maneuvering and pressuring over Israel will change, and with it the strategic balance.
The way to prevent those countries' exercise of a nuclear option - if there is one at all - is to create a peace coalition between Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, the United States and, possibly, Saudi Arabia. Such a coalition would enable the U.S. and the U.N. to preempt the non-conventional threat. Some believe, however, that nuclear armament is inevitable. If that is the case, a coalition of this type almost appears as a requirement. Peace with all neighboring Arab countries would reduce and prevent the danger. In this regard, it is worth keeping in mind Sadat's most significant statement when he was in Jerusalem: "I am talking of a big, big plan," he said. I believe that he was referring to a coalition of this kind. But Israel has no strategy. Instead, it has settlers. As a result, it is simply blind to comprehension.
Those who deal with security planning in strictly professional terms know that, to all parties involved in a conflict, war is indeed a terrible thing. Consequently, the level of motivation to engage in war is a critical element. To create the conditions that will reduce the risk of war is a primary political task. In our specific case, such an option is also the least costly. Altogether, we are merely dealing with a dispute over 4,000 square kilometers of land in the West Bank. A compromise on that issue would pave the way for peace with Syria, and provide a basis for the kind of coalition mentioned above. Clearly, when dealing with peace accords, principles of caution should not be overlooked. The correct approach to such accords should, therefore, rely on an agreement about the details of political, security, economic and cultural issues in a peace settlement. It also requires a predefined agreement on a "trial period." Generally, it must be based on the principle of benevolence on our part in drafting the final map, and a great measure of persistence in the process.
Security Border - A Moot Concept
The concept of "security border" - borders that guarantee the security of the state - has been prevalent in Israel since the 1967 war. Every public figure, from Labor's Yigal Allon to the Likud's Ariel Sharon and the rabbis - has raised the concept's merits. In this section, I propose to challenge the validity of the concept.
A border is either a geographical or a political notion. In matters of war, borders don't exist. In every Israeli-Arab war, the outcome was determined outside of Israel's borders. In theory, one could conceive of a security border - such as, for example, a geographical barrier that cannot be crossed. But who can name a barrier of this kind in the world today? The Suez Canal and the Bar-Lev Line were once perceived as security barriers in this sense. However, those who talk today about a security border - like Ariel Sharon with his repeated claims that the Jordan River and hilltop settlements constitute our security border - do nothing but blur and distort the public perception of Israel's genuine security needs.
Since the days of Ben-Gurion, the military doctrine of Israel has relied on three principles: deterrence, warning and overpowering the enemy forces on their own territory. Let us suppose that the Jordan River and the settlements actually form a security border. This implies that the next war, should it - God forbid - take place, will be conducted from an area east of the Jordan River. In strategic terms, such an assumption is a complete absurdity. Today, satellites give us the capacity to receive early warning from as far as Iran. Thus, according to Sharon, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would simply wait patiently until Iraqi, Iranian or Saudi tanks reach the Jordan River. Sharon, the soldier who opposed the Bar-Lev Line and was the first to cross the Suez Canal, would have us believe that the Jordan River is the security border. Such tales have nothing to do with security, and everything to do with interests.
We are thus left with the question of non-conventional weapons - chemical, biological and nuclear. The only response to such a threat is, as we said above, a regional coalition of peace. That is the principle which was suggested to us by Sadat, and which we failed to comprehend. If we miss the opportunity of a peace coalition and if non-conventional armament in the region cannot be prevented, our military doctrine will be based on two defense ranges. One is the use of satellites, which can provide warning from as far as Iran, and the second is the reliance on submarines in the Mediterranean for the purpose of a second strike. We would then have to deal with an entirely different reality. That reality would be one of missiles and the loss of our monopoly over strategic deterrence. It would comprise the non-conventional arms threat, the computerized battlefields, communications control, the capacity to jam information systems at military headquarters, and smart bombs that can hit a specific target with accuracy. In the light of these facts, the argument that the settlements and the Jordan River constitute a security border is nothing but a delusion whose sole aim is to deceive public opinion for electoral purposes.
Moreover, if the concept of security borders is a moot one, even more is the notion that settlement is linked in any way to security. In the pre-state period, when there was no Israeli army, settlements did coincide with security. Settlements then defined the boundaries, but since the foundation of the state, IDF forces have set the borders. Golan Heights settlers may claim that their settlements were established for security purposes, but on the eve of the 1973 war, they were all evacuated. Any military expert would confirm that settlements only impede security. Settlements in the Jordan Valley do not serve a security need. We could reach an agreement with the Jordanians and the Palestinians on the principle of a long-term military lease in that area, and an eventual pullout if peace does prove reliable and stable.
Security and Defense
In Israel, the distinction between the notions of security and defense has always been blurred. This is one of the negative points in Ben-Gurion's legacy. Ben-Gurion encouraged the confusion because he wanted to leave to his office a broad area of political maneuvering.
Security is primarily defined by a striking force, i.e., an army. But a striking force requires appropriate conditions. In our case, it has to rely on an economy that can extract the necessary resources. It also needs advanced technologies, scientists who create those technologies, an educational system that creates those scientists, a motivated society, appropriate relations with the world superpower and American Jewry, and countless other factors. Every one of these various aspects is included in the concept of security. It is interesting to note that, of all these components, only the IDF is actually under the authority of the defense minister (who is called "security minister" in Israel). Other agents and institutions deal with the other components of national security. Therefore, the "security" minister is in fact strictly the minister of defense rather than of the whole of security.
The public confusion over such issues goes even further. It also applies to the problem of terrorism, with the result that terrorist acts are seen as a security matter. Leaders of the Labor party (from before the Rabin-Peres government of 1992-1996) and of the Likud, alike, took great pains to purposely dim the distinction between those two notions in the eyes of the public. Nevertheless, security is strictly a strategic concept. In other words, security policies must deal with forces that threaten the country's very existence. Terrorism, for all the horror, destruction and cruelty it spawns, has no bearings on the country's existence. The only reason why terrorism has become the object of a public debate as a fundamental threat over the nation is the cynical exploitation by our politicians of a legitimate feeling of anger among the public. Instead of entertaining this regrettable confusion, political leaders should demonstrate civic responsibility and encourage the public to identify the difference between strategic security and individual terror. Their failure to do so deprives the leadership of its freedom of action. As a result, our leaders end up putting the fate of the nation in the hands of a few Palestinian terrorists. Those who oppose a compromise with the Palestinians keep asking how peace can be achieved while terrorism continues. It can indeed. To make that happen is simply up to the leadership.
In this regard, we should learn a valuable lesson from a great prime minister and statesman, Winston Churchill. During the blitz over England in the Second World War, British intelligence services discovered the radio transmitter code used by the German army, and learned that the Germans were preparing a massive bombing raid over the city of Coventry. Churchill had to decide whether to evacuate the city in order to avoid casualties and thus reveal to the Germans that their code was no longer secret, or not to evacuate and keep the advantage of the code. He opted against evacuating Coventry. The ability to take such a decision is what made Churchill worthy of his position as prime minister. Is there one Israeli leader today who would be brave enough to tell the public that perpetrators of violence and terror victims cannot dictate in any way the history of a nation? Is there one Israeli leader today who would be bold enough to tell the public that whenever one people dominates another and denies that people its legitimate rights, terrorism is inevitable, and that it is up to the state - and to the state only - to prevent terror? We were the victims of terrorist attacks from Jordan, and they stopped. We were the victims of terrorist attacks from Egypt and from Syria, and they stopped as well. Terrorism from those countries did not stop because their leaders suddenly became humane, but because they had to pay a heavy price for encouraging such acts. There will be a Palestinian state, and terrorism will stop. Some believe that the Palestinian state will not entirely eradicate terror. If this is true, our real choice is between the absence of peace with some terror, and a peace agreement with some terror. The better option is obvious. While a certain degree of terrorism - here as in many countries - is both an evil and a given, incomplete peace is clearly preferable to a complete absence of peace.
The Threat from Arab Countries
Two beliefs dominate the Israeli consciousness. One is that Arab countries are not reliable because of their political instability. The other is that Arab countries, in fact, only want to destroy the State of Israel. Such creeds can be examined on the basis of historical, cultural, religious and other criteria, but the latter are hardly relevant here. The only criterion we need to consider is political. King Hassan of Morocco, the regimes of Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria have all been in place for decades. During the same period, many Israeli governments have come and gone. Do the Arabs really want to exterminate us? In terms of mere wishes, it is clear that most of them would be happy to see Israel disappear. But that is not the question. Many Israelis entertain similar wishes towards the Arabs. The question is whether Arab countries devise policies based on an intention to exterminate Israel. Clearly, no Arab country is developing such a policy today. All Arab countries have understood and internalized the fact that it is impossible to exterminate without being exterminated. We have the IDF and we have a non-conventional capacity to protect ourselves. This is the message that Sadat tried to convey to us in Jerusalem. But there we are inside the tunnel, with no antennas fitted to receive such messages. And there we remain stuck with our Jewish fixations and anxieties.
In strategic terms, no Arab country today actually threatens Israel. Only Syria - if it has to - may wage a "shocking war" that would then spur the world and its lone superpower to force Israel into a compromise. In that case, the superpower will comply because, in such a scenario, Israel would be the stubborn party that shakes the stability of the region. That development would constitute a return to the strategy of the 1973 war, in the wake of which Israel was compelled to surrender the Sinai, although it had won the war. The tragedy is that the Israeli government has too many divisions within its midst to be able to ask the relevant strategic question. If Arab countries are indeed plotting the destruction of Israel, there is no genuine or tactical interest in toying with the idea of making peace. On the other hand, if it is true that Arab countries no longer represent a fundamental threat, what is there to gain from peace negotiations? What there is to gain is the regional coalition of peace we have discussed.
The Arab world has been torn for generations by a struggle between Islamic fundamentalism and the Arab identity in its historical patterns on the one hand, and the forces of modernity on the other. Among our neighbors, both the regime and the army are shaped by the forces of modernity, and they both are the target of a holy war waged against them by Islamic fundamentalism. The latter is more dangerous to those institutions than Israel itself. The Oslo Accords were an historic and strategic attempt on the part of Rabin and Peres to turn this conflict into a revolution of ideas. Their underlying significance was to attain, after 100 years, the normalization of Jewish existence in a sovereign Jewish state.
The Netanyahu government and its right-wing supporters have taken us back to a tunnel of ideas. They have negated the truth so distinctly spoken by Sadat, King Hussein, Hosni Mubarak and Yasser Arafat. Once the rhetoric geared to their own domestic needs has been peeled away from their statements, it clearly appears that those Arab leaders are ready for a political coalition of the type we have examined here. They also clearly believe that this coalition would be of such value to us that we should be willing to surrender 90% of the occupied territories in return. This is food for strategic thought. But again, Israel has no strategy. It has settlers instead.
The Golan Heights - A Security Shield for Israel?
The sensitive issue of the Golan Heights should be examined in the light of a few hard facts. While the latter may be difficult to accept, they do constitute an essential part of any comprehensive strategic thinking. In addition, a cold look at those facts may help dispel from the Israeli mind a great number of tragically erroneous myths that can potentially lead us to disaster.
There exists a nearly complete consensus on the view that the Golan is the primary area of strategic defense over the northern part of the country. My own belief is that in the event of a wide-scale attack which might endanger the country's survival, the Golan would not be - from a strictly military point of view - the primary area of defense. The mountains of Upper Galilee provide, in fact, a more adequate military barrier. The terrible reality behind this view is that the Hula Valley may be made to pay the highest price in the event of an attack. Once the Golan has become a demilitarized zone as per the peace agreement with Syria, and a timetable for proper security arrangements (including an early-warning system) has been agreed upon, the Golan Heights and the Hula Valley can be turned into the cemetery of the aggressors, thanks to the technologies of the future battlefield.
Based on those facts, no military objection can be raised against the return of the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace, with all the proper conditions and military, political and economic agreements. A prime minister should look upon this issue from a cold strategic point of view, and should not have to consult with soothsayers who speak on behalf of political parties, rabbis and settlers.
We must examine the question in terms of vital strategic defense. Experts in the field tell us that every country has what is called a "strategic heart." When the strategic heart of a country is invaded or occupied, that country ceases to exist as a political, legal and civil entity. On the Golan Heights, IDF forces are positioned 35 kilometers away from the strategic heart of Syria - Damascus. The Golan Heights, however, are not the strategic heart of Israel. Nor is the Galilee Panhandle. Therefore, there can be no valid equation between Israel's and Syria's strategic need to control the Golan Heights, and no comparison between the Golan's vital military significance for each country.
In one of the sections above - Security and Defense - I defined the most important elements of national security. However, I left aside one particularly important element. What I have in mind is the "enemy's level of motivation to engage in war."
The Golan Heights have been in our hands for 25 years. As stated above, we are positioned at a distance of 35 kilometers from the strategic heart of Syria. Yet Syria is not going to war. It must have its own logic and reasons for not doing so. Common sense tells us that if the military balance remains in the future as it is today, the Syrians will keep to their non-belligerent resolve. If, in addition, the Golan Heights are returned to them, the Syrians' level of motivation to go to war will then go down to zero. As a result, we will be able to establish peace with them on a flexible dynamic level of elements.
The claim that the Syrians, should they recover the Golan Heights, would resume their attacks on Galilee settlements, as was the case before the 1967 war, is brandished by those who busy themselves with party and settlers' interests. That claim is erroneous. It stems form the absurd security principle that has guided us in this issue. The argument in favor of occupying the Golan Heights was "to distance the canons from the settlements." We did indeed distance the canons from the settlements, and then proceeded to bring the settlements nearer to the canons once again. Still, that did not cause the Syrians to resume bombings - not because they are not able to bomb, but because their calculations are correct.
The Golan Heights, today, are not a shield, but precisely the factor that invites war. Control of the Golan Heights is what binds us to Lebanon and what exacts from us the terrible price we pay for our continued presence there. In strategic terms, making peace with Syria would mean putting an end to the "eastern front." One can wonder what right settlers' interests may have to impede such a fundamental achievement. A government that grants such a minority the power to hold a whole country hostage to its own interests is devoid of any sense of responsibility.
The State of Israel and Eretz Israel
In order to comprehend the reality of our essential problems, we must primarily understand, internalize and acknowledge the contradiction that exists between the State of Israel and Eretz Israel. It is as old as Zionism itself. It was briefly resolved between 1948 and 1967. Since 1967, it has been repressed, overshadowed by the messianic zeal of the Gush Emunim movement, and the extremism of the United Kibbutz Movement (Hakibbutz Hameuchad). Those groups pushed us to make all the mistakes in the book. They first led astray the Labor party leadership, and then the Likud - which continues to be fooled to this very day.
Many Israelis believe that the status quo of non-peace with the Palestinians will remain possible forever. They think Israel will forever be able to prevent the Palestinians from having their own state and to avoid compensation agreements for the refugees of 1948. They think Israel can dictate to the Palestinians how many refugees they should absorb in their own country. They believe in many other Jewish delusions. It is both grotesque and saddening to see most of the Israeli public cling to such absurdities. If Israel renounces its belief in these fallacies, the Palestinians will, in turn, have to forgo one fundamental claim of their own - the right of return to within Israel's borders.
The Zionist founders who believed in "a people without a land for a land without a people" were not necessarily nationalistic colonialists. In their day, there were some 8 to 9 million Jews in anti-Semitic Europe, and about 500,000 Palestinians in Eretz Israel. The Zionist founders believed that 6 to 7 million Jews could emigrate to Israel. Half a million people did not seem much compared to seven. The Holocaust changed the entire picture. A year after the 1948 war, 100,000 Arabs were left in Israel. An additional 40,000 were allowed back. Today, Israel's Arab population is close to 1 million. Some 180,000 Palestinians live in Jerusalem. In 25 years, there will be between 400,000 and 500,000 Palestinians in and around the city. Can anyone imagine that Jerusalem will then remain "united," with no compromise on our part and no need to guarantee Palestinian residents some rights, some kind of status in the city?
Within 15 to 20 years, there should be over 15 million residents between the Jordan River and the sea - more than half of them Palestinians, in addition to an estimated 6 million more Palestinians in the region. In such a demographic reality, is it possible to envisage any future that would not require compromises?
What clearly matters here is the building of mutual trust and the development of common interests in earnest, without manipulations, and without the gross exploitation on our side of our superiority in strength. Nothing is worse for a people than a feeling of humiliation that goes on for generations. Yet we see so many moronic Israelis rejoice at every opportunity to humiliate the Palestinian people or their leadership. There are too many of them on the streets of Israel, in the Knesset, in the political parties and the security services.
Those considerations lead us to the conclusion that Eretz Israel and the State of Israel are two different concepts. It is clear that both definitions cannot be true at the same time. The Gush Emunim movement and the settlers must renounce their vision of the country as the corridor to the kingdom of the messiah king. They have to accept and internalize the belief that a nation-state is indeed a state and, as such, must rely on the rules that govern states. With the assistance of Netanyahu, they are now doing their utmost to keep us trapped in the tunnel, and to prevent the advent of peace, which is abhorrent to them.
Religion, Tradition and Modernity
The schism between the religious and the freethinkers (the secular) carries within itself a potential threat to the state and to the concept of democracy. True, we must be careful not to generalize. Parts of the religious population do support the concepts of state and democracy. But it should be obvious to all that they are being increasingly absorbed by the ultra-Orthodox. A case in point is what is happening in the Bnei Akiva youth movement, where a growing number of religious Zionist children are educated. Other signs can be seen among religious Zionist educators who have appointed themselves the harbingers of Messianism, and the National Religious Party (Mafdal), that is giving such prominence to political rabbis whose sole task is to deal with the issue of Eretz Israel. The model they propose leans toward an ever-increasing fundamentalism.
Our purpose here is not to settle accounts between the history of Zionism and ultra-Orthodoxy. What we have set out to do is to examine the issues from the angle of the creation of national strategic power. In this regard, I would like to ask the question of all questions: How will a nation of six or seven million people hold its own, shoulder to shoulder, with the big advanced countries in the modern world? Here again the perspective is one of strategy rather than of value judgment. A balance of power with our environment - with a view to peace or to war - requires the most qualified modern manpower. A dynamic balance of creative forces with the giants of the world in the relevant fields requires that the best creative potential sealed in every individual's brain be brought out. In the global environment of the 21st century, the most creative among our sons and daughters will leave the country if we fail to offer them a complete range of opportunities. They will simply go and look for such opportunities elsewhere.
Nevertheless, the ultra-Orthodox are now sucking away from the national potential a growing percentage of human capital, which could have expanded the output in all fields of the economy, science, technology and security. Lavish resources are diverted and wasted. With the combination of ultra-Orthodox political power, the political flattery displayed by the secular and the citizens' apathy, how are we to deal with the challenges, values and rules of the game inherent in a developed democracy?
The broad question of religion and faith is not at stake in this dispute. What is argued here is that the norms which constitute a state cannot operate when the following elements are absent: a modern and open culture, democratic rules, the separation of state and religious institutions, legal standards of civil equality and actual equal opportunities, priorities that are clearly those of a democratic, cohesive society, and the need of the control over another people deprived of its rights. In short, what the state needs in order to operate is to do away with all the things that the ultra-Orthodox are forcing upon us. A democracy without standards remains weak. In the Far East, the giants of technology, who until recently were looked upon as the symbol of success, have begun to fall because of the corruption, arrogance, protectionism and lack of democratic standards that characterize their societies.
The secular, the traditionalists and the modern democratic religious must rise and combat the ultra-Orthodox threat. They must make an ideological choice that cuts across political parties and feelings of empathy or hostility.
Global Economy and Competitiveness
Like other countries, Israel is moving from a national to a global economy. This process implies the adoption of completely different concepts. In a national economy, the government protects the economic infrastructure, and that protection determines the rules of the game. In a global economy, the government does not protect business corporations, which are left to operate according to the rules of the international market. In such an environment, "cutthroat competition" is the name of the game. In this regard, preaching on behalf of privatization and even speeding up the privatization process are not enough. We cannot afford to send our players with their hands tied to these Olympic games on the economy.
The secret to a successful economic policy is to increase the ability to compete. This is the actual test of any government. Many features of the Israeli economy hinder the country's ability to compete. Israel has a low rate of population participation in the work force compared to developed countries. Security-related fields employ 12% of the work force, compared to 1% among our competitors. We have 6% or 7% yeshiva students, and 9.5% unemployed. In other words, the 75% in the work force who do work have to do well in global competition, generate economic growth, and maintain the idle 25% that contribute nothing to the national output - all at the same time. In addition, the government transfers billions upon billions to the ultra-Orthodox sector and the settlements (between 4 and 5 billion shekels directly and an extra amount through a variety of schemes, which make it impossible to know the exact figure). Those funds should go instead to investments that can improve our ability to compete.
There are indeed many impediments to our ability to compete. Nevertheless, despite the fact that such economic hurdles have no equivalent in the countries we compete against, Israel experienced a 6% growth rate in the mid-1990s. Our annual growth rate in 1997-1998 is down to 1.5%, while Europe has returned to a 3% growth rate at least. Why? Our government may blame the crisis in the Far East, but the fact is that Europe and the United States were not affected by it. The truth of the matter is that the hurdles we have mentioned here are nothing compared to the economic damage we can now expect as a result of the stalemate in the peace process. As globalization increases competition worldwide, so the absence of peace will reduce our country's main chance to be able to sustain economic growth.
Economists find it difficult to explain to the public and even to business managers that the motion of an economic entity - whether micro or macro - toward prosperity or decline depends on marginal economic factors. With one additional percentage point of annual profit, a business will get over a crisis only 5 years later. A 0.5% increase in the interest rate can be critical. A 1% reduction of inputs can generate a 20% increase in profits. In macro terms, the 2 billion dollars that have been lost because of the drop in tourism can bring about a slump, which in turn will lead to recession. Growth processes take their time. Slowdown processes happen fast. After two years of stalemate in the peace process, unemployment has gone up to 9.5% and may still increase.
The ability to adapt to shifting concepts is of critical national interest. The open world we now live in is one of global communication systems that expose us and give us access to everything. We are experiencing giant leaps in technology and information techniques. Endless opportunities are available to the professional elite. These phenomena are transforming the concepts of culture and national identity worldwide. In such an environment, many of our creative people will leave the country if our economy continues to stagnate as it does under the current policies. The absence of peace requires the existence of a mobilized society. A society cannot be a modern and a mobilized one at the same time. Without inventions and innovations in form and in substance in a multiplicity of fields, successful competition is impossible. But the capacity to create and innovate relies on the skills of individuals and teams. It relies on motivation, ambition, and the entrepreneurial spirit - none of which is compatible with the fact of mobilization.
Peace is therefore the foremost condition of a return to economic growth, and beyond that, to the kind of growth that reduces unemployment. In the field of high-tech economy, a 3 or 4% growth is not sufficient to reduce unemployment. An annual growth rate of at least 5 or 6% is necessary to reduce unemployment and absorb young people and immigrants into the work force. Such growth rates require larger investments than what is available from domestic resources. That is to say, they require foreign investments. The condition for foreign investments to be forthcoming is peace and stability, as illustrated by the 50% drop in investments Israel experienced in 1998, with the cessation of the peace process.
The worldview that dominates thinking in Israeli society and in the minds of its leaders is oblivious to these essential modern needs. As a result of this, we are plagued with growth reduction, rising unemployment, shrinking budgets in education, health and infrastructure investments, and other negative developments. This is the economic and social price we are made to pay for bearing in our midst a faction of individuals who are enamored of concepts that abhor reality. These circles persist in their refusal to get out of their mental tunnel. Meanwhile, the tunnel and its walls of Jewish self-righteousness are closing in on us.
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To summarize, I have examined here nine different paths in which Israel is now going astray. After the brief reprieve afforded by Rabin's government between 1992 and 1995, we are witnessing the fossilization of national concepts. Processes of success or failure are not set in motion by haphazard moves and petty schemes. They are determined by conscious decision-making on the level of concepts and ideas. Unless we see the return of a leadership dedicated to enrolling the public in the struggle to change the worldview in which we are trapped, Israel will miss its chance to become a developed country in 21st-century dimensions. It will not be a country whose creative sons and daughters choose to stay rather than to join the open democratic world of the 21st century and the full range of opportunities it will offer talented people. We must, therefore, hurry to get out of the tunnel and face the new reality in which we live.
This article was written before the Israeli elections of May 17, 1999.