Is Israel One Disaster from Collapse?

By Ghassan Michel Rubeiz

NEW YORK ~ Israelis are not united in supporting their government’s policies of a four-decade festering occupation of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territories. The occupation is costly, morally troubling and beyond the capacity of Israel to maintain.
Israelis are relatively free to question the occupation; surprisingly, American politicians, especially politicians who are running for national elections, find it hard to question the occupation. If for nothing else, mere concern for Israel’s future should embolden Americans to be more discerning on issues of the Middle East. An important Carnegie study recently showed that Israel is precariously open to breakdown.
The study implies that tight-lipped Americans need to open their minds to Israel’s vulnerability as an occupier. The heaviest cost of the 1967 occupation of Arab land is the impact on Israel’s national security. Israel received dire warning in the July-August issue of Foreign Policy magazine in the article “The Failed States Index of 2008. The Index’s latest results give the Israel/West Bank regime a rank of borderline on national security. The Index lists and discusses a long list of vulnerable countries and identifies twelve variables that undermine their national security. According to this ranking tool, the Israel/West Bank regime is among sixty fragile countries that are “just one disaster away [from] collapse.”
Israel has recently joined this club of high-risk countries. The Index rates Somalia number 1, as the most insecure country in the world. Iraq ranks 5, Lebanon 18, Syria 35, Egypt 40, and Iran 49. Georgia, this week’s disaster area, ranks 56. The Israel/West Bank regime ranks 58 and falls in the Borderline category, after Critical and In Danger. The study measures each country on twelve risk factors. Israel scored high on 8 out of the 12 risk indicators: demographic pressure, group grievance, uneven-development, delegitimisation of state, public service, human rights, factionalized elites and external intervention.
America’s unwillingness to more forcefully challenge Israel’s Jewish settlement communities in the Occupied Territories has immensely complicated the peace process.
In the same vein, by not applying US pressure on Israel to dismantle the security wall and an endless network of humiliating checkpoints – in and around the West Bank and East Jerusalem – America is passively condoning the delay of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. This “Berlin” wall, which is a work in progress, makes life unbearable for Palestinians. The wall arouses strong sentiments for revenge among the five million Palestinians who live divided under Israeli rule.
Thanks largely to America’s unconditional support, Israelis have adapted to an occupation mentality of denial of danger. Israelis today enjoy the safety of their daily-living and their economic prosperity. Their safety and affluence are at the expense of increased political arrest, liquidation of dissidents and reduction of mobility in the occupied territories. But stability of daily living should not be confused with long-term national security.
In the Holy Land today, on both sides of the conflict, the extreme has become the mainstream. Our two presidential candidates who are currently competing to appeal to the Jewish voters should ponder a dangerous dynamic in the Arab-Israeli conflict: The more Israel relies on punitive politics, the more Palestinians rely on militancy.
It is easier for Americans to comment on Palestinian terrorism but not on Israeli excessive retaliation. It is difficult for Americans to view political oppression as a contributing factor to Palestinian terror.
Israeli land annexation is moving parallel to Palestinian demographic expansion, a formula that is leading to system collapse in the future. The signs of political danger are scripted on the wall, but American and Israeli politicians refuse to read the graffiti. If The Failed States Index is a valid diagnostic tool, American foreign policy makers should rethink their Middle East strategy.

Dr. Ghassan Rubeiz ( is a Lebanese-American Middle East analyst. He was previously the secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches for the Middle East.

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