At 75, Israel Has Plenty to Celebrate

The Jewish state turned 75 on Sunday, mostly in a sour mood.

The country is governed by a coalition that includes political extremists, proud homophobes, ideological monomaniacs, and the merely corrupt. A proposed judicial reform that would have gutted the principal institutional check on rank majoritarianism has been paused, but not quite stopped, by some of the largest protests in Israeli history. Secular Israelis fear the country’s demographic balance is tilting to the religious extreme. Benjamin Netanyahu can’t get an invitation to the White House. It doesn’t seem to bother most American Jews, who struggle to understand, much less justify, the prime minister’s characteristically self-serving, but uncharacteristically inept, leadership.

To top it off, Israelis just endured five days of rocket fire from the Gaza-based, Iranian-backed terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It’s a reminder that, notwithstanding Israel’s recent successes in normalizing diplomatic relations with parts of the Arab world, many of its neighbors still want it wiped off the map.

And for all this, Israel is doing remarkably well.

It helps to remember the circumstances in which the country was born. Israel is a post-colonial state. It started its national life dirt-poor. Its peer group of countries includes Syria, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and North and South Korea. These states came into being with many of the same core problems: hostile neighbors, unsettled borders, deep poverty, restive ethnic and religious minorities and other unresolved dilemmas from their independence struggles.

As with Israel, many of those problems still dog most of those states. The Koreas don’t have a settled border. India and Pakistan have painful memories of forced population transfers. Those who think the Palestinian issue is unique should consider the situation of Kashmiris in India, Tamils in Sri Lanka, or Kurds in Syria.