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Money talks (Illustration) Photo: Tsvika Tishler
Money talks (Illustration) Photo: Tsvika Tishler
 
 

Israel's new God

Money quietly replaces security as country's most prominent concern

Aviad Kleinberg
Published: 12.30.06, 01:23 / Israel Opinion

American journalist Ted Koppel once said that his future wife's aristocratic family wasn't too thrilled with their daughter's marriage to the young Jew.

 

Don't marry him, the mother warned her daughter, as it will end in tears. The daughter, as daughters tend to do, ignored her mother's words of wisdom.

 

Twenty five years later, at the couple's silver anniversary, someone turned to the mother and asked whether she was now willing to admit that her concerns were baseless. The elderly lady coldly stared at the man and replied with one sentence: It's too early to know.

 

The end of the year arouses great desire for summaries. A historian's protest that historical processes do not abide by the calendar, that it's still too early to know, and that processes have not yet come to fruition won't help here.

 

Silence 

The calendar and newspaper editors are demanding it. What, then, can we say about the year that saw the first war where Israel experienced the first defeat in its history without this having any substantive effect on the political and financial establishment? Come on, who has the energy for this. Silence.

 

The public's disregard for what should have been a huge shock is surprising. This silence, more than the war itself (in our region wars are the norm,) is the big story of the past year.

 

Theoretically, we should have had a big crisis here, as after all our military power is the Israeli basis for existence; in practice, nothing happened. Silence.

 

How do we explain such repression? It's one thing to look at the Israeli education system's gradual collapse, ranging from the ongoing deterioration of schools to the wholesale of higher education; it's one thing to see the growing gaps between the prospering center and the expanding, despairing margins – after all, we're used to repressing those things.

 

All of the above are the price exacted by our security needs, which reign supreme. There's no God but security and the IDF is its prophet.

 

But how do we repress a severe system failure in the holy of holies, the security forces?

 

Olmert's Israel good for capital

You can find the answer by examining the economic data of the past year in Israel. The markets ignored the war. In terms of global economic terms, the short clash on our northern border was a passing, minor clamor.

 

The global system and its Israeli representatives love Ehud Olmert's Israel. Olmert's Israel is good for capital. It may indeed be bad in every other respect, but it does guarantee the firm, uninterrupted flow of money into the right pockets.

 

Listen closely. It isn't true that you can find silence everywhere. The money is flowing. And as long as money continues to flow, we won't have any kind of self-reflection here.

 

Nobody declared this revolution openly; nobody announced it with trumpets, but reality attests to it clearly: Money has taken security's place as Israeli society's new God.

 

As long as the middle class is doing well and as long as its bank managers are satisfied, we won't have any protest here and certainly no introduction of radical reforms. What for? We're happy with what we've got.

 

And what about all the rest? Education and society and culture, neglecting Israel's future, the dangerous gulf between Jews and Arabs, the collapse of Israeli democracy? Who cares? Warren Buffet and his colleagues certainly don't.

 

The problem is that in the global market Israel holds no particular significance. At the moment it's a convenient investment, and in another moment it will no longer be. Investors don't care about the long run and they certainly don't care what kind of country we'll have here, aside from the economic opportunities.

 

Alas, for those who live here the picture is more complex. You want this past year's summary in one sentence? The Olmert government is very good for foreign investors; it's very bad for locals whose future is invested in this country.

 

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