Hallucinations of Peace
Despite its notoriously defective electoral system, Israel is a country with an authentic government and a real opposition, a country where the major parties regularly contend to form governments; where the judiciary performs its duties without the slightest hesitation, rendering decisions that regularly overturn government policy and state laws; where the press is free to attack, criticize, and tear down. On television talk shows, guests shout and gesticulate: religious against secular Jews, settlers from Judea and Samaria against spokesmen for Peace Now; army generals against mothers of soldiers at the front; Israeli Arabs against representatives of Likud. A joke making the rounds is that there is not a taxi driver in the country who does not consider himself well-enough informed to take the place of Yitzhak Rabin or Shimon Peres. And it is true that Israelis at all levels of society debate public matters with the thoroughness, vehemence, and knowledgeability of professional politicians.
Israel, in other words, is a vibrant, restless democracy—the only one in its region and, as it happens, the only democracy in the world that is at war. Since the beginning of the “peace process” in September 1993, it has been undergoing a phase of its existence that is at once fascinating and deeply troubling. It is a dramatic phase, laden with implication.
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