Opinion: After 70 years, Israel still plagued with internal rifts



Israel is celebrating its 70th birthday, and it is not a cliché to say that the Jewish state has made world-shaking achievements during the past decades. Israel, with the intelligence, aerial, operational and informational superiority, has become the strongest state in the Middle East and is powerful enough to deter any possible military threat from its neighbors.

Israeli youths dance at the Mahane Yehuda market in the center of Jerusalem, April 18, 2018, during the 70th Independence Day celebrations. / VCG Photo

The country still faces security challenges. Tension along the Israel’s northern front with both Syria and Lebanon is increasing during the past years, with the expansion of Shia militant groups supported by Israel’s major enemy, Iran.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians in Gaza are still protesting along the walls and fences separating the Gaza Strip and Southern Israel, the casualties of the Palestinian protesters and the conflicts between Palestinian civilians and Israel soldiers flare up the national sentiments in both Palestinians and Jews.

Although confronted with these external threats, Israel is truly a military, economic and technical superpower in the Middle East and its existence is not shrouded in doubt, while there are no forces really threatening its survival.

Even as warned by Israeli defense minister Avigdor Liberman that a multi-front war might erupt between Israel and its neighbors, both Hamas in Gaza in the south and Lebanon and Syria in the north, Israel is still able to safeguard its own national safety.

US-made Israeli air force T-6 Texan II planes fly over during an air show as part of the 70th Independence Day celebrations, April 19, 2018, in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv. / VCG Photo ‍

Israel’s army holds a definitive advantage over the rest of the region, but the 70-year-old country is confronted by its growing internal divisions that may tear up the state.

After Israel was established in the wake of the Holocaust, the country decided that Jews had a birthright to create a life in Israel – and that Israel would always be the safe haven for Jews around the world. Over a million Jews from Eastern Europe and the Middle East moved to Israel after World War II.

When the state of Israel declared independence in 1948, Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion wanted to build a homogeneous society that would melt the divisions among different Jewish immigrant groups. After 70 years of establishment, Israel is still a divided state under a process of national integrity.

Israel’s internal social rift has been obvious in the 1970s when the division between Eastern European Jews, or Ashkenazi, and the Arab Jews, or Sephardi, was so intensified that it transformed the political landscape of Israel from the left wing led by the Labor Party to left-right rivalry with the rise of Likud Party.

In 1990s more than one million Russian Jews packed into Israel from Soviet Union and significantly influenced the social culture of Israel. The coming of more than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews from Africa provokes the sensitive topic of injustice and inequality among different immigrant groups inside the country.

An Israeli man sells balloons during celebrations marking Israel's 70th Independence Day in the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel, April 18, 2018. /VCG Photo

Another sensitive topic inside Israel is the relation between secularism and religion.

Today, there are four independent educational systems inside Israel: the secular, religious, ultra-Orthodox and Arab. Each group has their own independent political camp and harbors sense of alienation and even hostility against other groups.

When it comes to some sensitive topics such as observation of Shabbat or system of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conscription, the intensified debates are seen everywhere.

Seventy years has passed since the establishment of modern Israel state but a “new Israeli order”, as expressed by Israeli president Reuven Rivlin, is still far from constructed. The most serious threat in front of Israel today is not its external enemy, but rather its internal rift.