How Ungovernability and Social Instability are Directly Linked to Israel’s National Security Challenges
By Mr. Lior Akerman | October, 2022
|Photo: Office of U.S. House Speaker|
The Israeli media and most government officials enjoy and prefer to engage in Israel’s national security challenges as a top priority. The Iranian nuclear threat, the issue of the Palestinians, Hamas and Hizballah’s threats, world cyber challenges, and more. While all of these issues are absolutely true and genuine, the Israeli government seems to be almost entirely overlooking threats that are no less strategic that are being posed from social and civilian directions, and are rooted in the collapse of Israel’s civil systems. The present paper will focus on the need for and importance of linking Israel’s national security challenges and its social and political struggles, while attempting to discern how the latter directly, and negatively, impact the former. Those in politics and the media aim to address the visible “here and now” issues; however, the need to examine the current state of affairs from a more national and strategic bird’s eye view to identify ungovernability and the absence of rule of law as a crucial and influential factor in both internal and external counterterrorism is becoming increasingly more important.
In the present article I will attempt to provide some examples demonstrating how the weakness of Israeli civil systems and collapse of its social system are directly linked to the potential detriment to Israel and its citizens’ security and national resilience. First, the political instability in Israel should be noted. The frequent transition of power and lack of social unity contribute to the notion on the other side – be it Palestinian partners, Hamas terrorists or fanatic Hizballah fighters – that Israel is visibly weak, unable to govern or deter, and lacks any strategic long-term vision for addressing them.
This issue is at the heart of Israel’s problematic conduct, and is an unequivocal indication of the direct link between a weak, unstable government and Israel’s avoidance of long-term strategies in the various social and civil areas. As a result, the regime is weak, unable to govern, does not enforce the rule of law, neglects to address key social issues, avoids determined law enforcement against social media inciters, allows polarization as well as social and religious schisms to aggravate with Israeli society, and lends a hand to the emergence among internal and external adversaries of an overall image of a country that is weakening from within despite having a strong, modern army.
Simply put into existing facts, the most fundamental and problematic failures may be identified, as well as their connection to the devastating result of a lack of governance and rule of law in Israel.
It is 2022 and Israel is headed for its fifth election campaign in 3 years, with a sixth clearly up ahead. Come November, the 37th government will be formed (or not) and will, in all likelihood, will be followed by the 38th within 12 months. It is simple math. 38 governments in Israel’s 74 years means a new government is formed every two years or less. Prime ministers are not in office long enough to formulate and implement a national strategy in any area. Even those who will survive and complete their term in office will waste their entire time engaged in political survival and daily battles for sustaining one precarious coalition or another due to the current structure of administration and election system. In a country where the government is replaced within months or under two years, no minister can specialize in their field, or build and implement long-term strategic plans. In such a country, chances are slim of rehabilitating the health system and adding more physicians and nurses to it, as their numbers per capita are among the lowest in the world, or redressing the shortage of imaging devices. It is highly unlikely that the education system, the failure of which I have elaborated on in a separate article in this newsletter, will ever be rehabilitated. It is impossible to construct a lasting public security and law enforcement strategy when the national police force gradually weakens to the point that all governability over certain parts of Israel is lost, while the number of police officers per capita is also among the lowest worldwide. The collapsing welfare systems will also be impossible to restore, and the expansion of poverty each year is unlikely to be reduced. No leader will engage in the legislation of governability enforcing laws on the ground, or stronger regulation over social media and technological giants to better protect Israel’s cyber systems, and curb soaring incitement to perpetrate crime and acts of terrorism. Greater detail on the state of these systems will be provided in subsequent articles.
Another severe threat that has developed and grown in recent years is the rising social media and soaring clout of shallow, extreme and superficial opinion leaders who take over the public discourse and assume the traditional position formerly filled by state, social and familial hierarchies. Social media allows for blunt, inciting discourse, spreading lies so as to motivate the younger generation to increasingly engage in violence, crime, and terrorism. It points to the essential need to create powerful governance in this area, and create regulation, with or without the large media corporation’s cooperation, that would prevent information from being publicized freely. The combination between the total chaos prevalent on social media and politicians’ ongoing calls to distinguish between various parts of the population increases polarization and hatred, expands social schisms, and drives us toward the risk of a civil war. For while these rifts serve politicians to hone the differences between them for election purposes, it is harmful to the already fragile fabric of relations within Israeli society, highlighting the gaps between Jews and Arabs, religious and secular Jews, Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews, and so on.
One more increasingly aggravating threat is global cyber, particularly Iranian terrorists’ cyber warfare against Israel. once again, due to the absence of governance and regulation over technological and business enterprises, Israel is struggling to force them to take the kind of preemptive steps that the Israel Security Agency (ISA) is attempting to implement as part of its job.
Another civil and social aspect pertains to the fragile relationship between the Arab and Jewish sectors of Israeli society, particularly the growing involvement and partnership between them. In this instance too, the government’s inaction and avoidance of strategically and profoundly addressing the processes taking place in Israeli society manifests itself in lack of governability and rule of law, enabling both organized crime to grow powerful in this sector, and the wild west lifestyle prevalent among the Bedouin population in Israel’s south (the Negev).
The government’s inability to address Israel’s key problems over the years has inevitably weakened its law enforcement and public security systems, led to an aggravating absence of legislation that would have identified and prevented processes over time, as well as a lack of all ability to formulate and implement long-term strategies and visions in all areas of life in Israel. these weaknesses are preyed upon by the terrorist organizations in the Palestinian Authority, extreme subversive parties active within Israeli borders in both Arab sector and extreme right, as well as Iran and its proxies in Hizballah, Syria, and Gaza. These processes that are gnawing at Israel’s social and national resilience also do not go unnoticed by other countries in the region, each with its own patron. For while they do not pose an existential threat to Israel’s security, they have begun to change their former thinking patterns, realize the shifting power relations, identify the growing weaknesses in Israeli society and leadership, and seek out the Achilles’ heels that would enable all those elements to continue expanding at the expense of Israel’s military deterrence. And while they will all build up their force and grow, we will continue to wallow in the endless swamp that is Israeli politics, ever self-absorbed and immersed in its own survival to turn any attention to Israel’s state of affairs, and that of all its civil and social systems. We will continue to hear and voice political slogans instead of proposing real plans to change, and keep nurturing the hope of a political paradigm shift that will never occur while the world around us changes rapidly.
Israel has a strong, modern army with excellent and satisfactory capabilities, an outstanding ISA with incredible thwarting capabilities, and professional Mossad that carries out breathtaking operations to protect Israel’s security. But none of them can counter the only real existential threat posed to Israel at this point in time – the domestic socio-national one. the challenge that feeds off of Israel’s political instability, lack of governance, growing polarization and rifts, and its government’s blind eye to Israel’s strategic issues.
Israel must take action quickly, and formulate long-term national strategic plans in all areas, while striving to change the structure of the administration and elections system in an effort to increase governmental stability and governability in the long range. Israel must restore its education system in terms of essence and content as well as budget, class sizes and teacher working conditions. It must take immediate action toward the rehabilitation of the health system by opening up more physician, nurse and researcher positions, as well as adding more advanced imaging devices. Israel should streamline its welfare budgets, reduce poverty, and increase the number of social workers while improving the terms of their employment. In Arab society it must invest more in welfare, education, industry and transportation infrastructures, enhance law enforcement and governance, encourage and cultivate a new Arab leadership, one that genuinely pursues a true partnership with the State of Israel.
Authored by Mr. Lior Akerman, a senior researcher at the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS), Reichman University.
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