The State of Israel is 70 years old, from its inception in May, 1948. There is no doubt that Israel has greatly exceeded all expectations. When it was founded it was small and vulnerable, and most people thought it wouldn’t last a year. Now it is 70 and the most stable democracy in the whole region. What has been accomplished in 70 years?
- Israel’s population has increased 10-fold, from ca. 800,00 at its birth to ca. 8.8 million now. After 1948 the influx of Jews from war-ravaged Europe, the survivors of the Shoah, added over 1 million, then the influx of Jews from Arab lands added another 850,000. Finally, the ca. 1 million Jews who immigrated following the opening of the Iron Curtain and the collapse of the Former Soviet Union added another 1 million. About 75% of the population are Jews, and ca. 20% are Arabs, those who remained behind when the State was founded. Although there has never been a truly congenial relationship between the Jews and Arabs in Israel, there has also never been a serious uprising either. Most of the Palestinian Arab violence comes from outside the State, from those Arabs who left and from the surrounding countries.
- The IDF has gone from good to amazing. Not only did Israel’s conscription army defeat the Arab armies in every attempt to destroy the State, but Israel has always had control of the skies and superior forces on the ground. From the War of Independence in 1948, the Sinai campaign of 1956, the Six-Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the Lebanon War of 1982, the IDF defeated all comers. The intifadas (Arab uprisings) and the wars in Gaza and against Hizbullah in Lebanon have been more complex, fighting in cities and against irregular terrorist forces. But, so far so good, the ring of encirclement of Israel’s enemies has been whittled down, with peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan and Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq in ruins. However, the current challenge is Iran that seeks to establish a platform in ruined Syria from which to attack Israel. Israel can never allow this to happen.
- Israel’s economy has grown exponentially from a socialist-oriented plutocracy to a much more open capitalist-dominated economy. Israel is not known as the “start-up nation” for nothing. It has more start-ups than the whole of Western Europe combined, and is second only to the US in that respect. Since it is based on technology, Israel has developed breakthroughs in many areas, in biomedical research, in electronics, software, cyber-security and military applications.
- Politically, the situation in Israel leaves a lot to be desired. The proportional representation system in Israel means that all Governments are coalitions. This results in the small religious parties exercising more influence over the State than is warranted. But, that is the price Israelis pay for respecting the role of Judaism.
Overall, Israel is a stable, prosperous, advanced State. that will celebrate its 70th anniversary of independence and hopefully many more to come.