Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2021

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Israel provides light in the darkness of American politics

From generation to generation. So teaches the Good Book.

With that biblical admonition always in my head, I gave my two brilliant grandchildren a homework assignment the other night. Yes, I know school is out for the summer, but not for them!

Besides, I needed an idea for this column, so who better to turn to for inspiration than Oliver and Julia? After all, if any of us grandfathers aren’t thinking about this world we will leave for our young ones, then what else should we be thinking about?

Their assignment was to tell me the one thing they believed would be a challenge to them and their world — 10 years from now. In other words, what needs fixing now so it doesn’t become a major issue when they are young adults who may be responsible for leading this newest generation of Americans?

Julia chose the splintering of America’s political parties to the point of dysfunction. She was focused on the inability of both the Democrats and Republicans to find leaders who not only can bring the fringe elements of their parties together for a common good but who can find room to compromise with the other party to do what is best for the United States.

What I was hearing from her was a reflection of the fact that she has known nothing else in her young life but political strife, complaining and dissatisfaction from people who are supposed to have found common ground with one another. And she is concerned that what she is being taught is that the magic of a democracy will be just an illusion by the time she is a young woman.(Did I tell you she was brilliant)?

Oliver had a different concern for his world 10 years from now. He was focused on his generation’s attitude toward Israel and Jewish people in general.

I am sorry to admit the reasons for his concern have everything to do with the rise of anti-Semitism in the past four years or so ( a significant chunk of his young life) and how that translates in the world of social media. And that is based on a profound lack of understanding about Israel which is based on an extreme lack of knowledge, courtesy of our education system and its failure to educate those who need it most.

The timing of things always fascinates me. So it comes as no surprise that the two issues which concern my young grandchildren about tomorrow are intersecting today in the Middle East.

Assuming the Israeli Knesset (legislature) acts as it has promised, Israel will have a new government by the time this column is published. (Yes, I know all about assuming)!

That means that Israel’s long-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will be out of power and a right-wing leader named Naftali Bennett will be sworn in.

But wait, there’s more.

Bennett gets his right-wing credentials because of his advocacy for settlement growth throughout Israel, especially in the West Bank, which has always been considered the place for a Palestinian state — if ever the Palestinians could agree to not only talk peace but, more importantly, to do peace.

Bennett, though, is just the first prime minister in a power-sharing agreement with the real architect of Israel’s broad and history-making coalition. That man is Yair Lapid, who is the leader of Yesh Atid, the centrist party in Israel. Lapid, in true centrist tradition, has included for the very first time the leader of the United Arab List, Mansour Abbas, whom most would consider on the far-left of Israeli politics.

And, of course, there are smaller parties along the spectrum who have joined in to give Lapid the majority he needs to form his government. Those following the past four elections in Israel and the ensuing inability of anyone —Netanyahu or his political opponents —to get the majority needed, will understand the significance of the political hat trick Lapid has managed to achieve.

The message is clear: If Israelis from the left, right and center can put their significant differences aside long enough to come together for the common good — a change in leadership and direction for Israel — then it should serve as an inspirational and instructional road map for other countries with similar democratic dysfunction (think United States) to do the same thing.

Of course, time will tell if Lapid’s strategy for change in Israel will actually work. The odds of success are not that great. But long odds in Israel are not new. Nor is overcoming them.

Julia’s thoughtful concern about the danger of political dysfunction in America now has a ray of sunshine showing us a way out of our pettiness and selfishness. If Israel’s democratic mess can find its way, so can ours!

And Oliver’s rightful fear of a return to the history of rampant anti-Semitism and its effect on U.S. support for Israel can also take some solace in a new government in Israel which holds the promise that Jews and Arabs can find their way forward together. Thus, leaving no room and no oxygen to give further life to the anti-Semites and other haters who cannot breathe in a functioning society.

Israel’s brand new government — arising from its political center — shows the world that from political despair can come hope for better tomorrows.

That is what I hope for my grandchildren and all grandchildren. And that is certainly what I hope for the people of Israel. Always.

Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.