Tel Aviv–based journalist Carlstrom, a correspondent for the Times and the Economist, considers a near-term future in which Israel is destroyed—not by external enemies but instead torn apart by civil war.
The state of Israel, writes the author, is effectively without existential threats from the outside; it has brokered peace treaties, if uneasy ones, in its neighborhood and is well-funded by the United States and other powers, so much so that its economy is healthier than those of many European nations and in the world’s top quartile. Yet, whereas elsewhere in the developed world the rising generation tends to be socially liberal, in Israel, conservatism among young people is a widespread trend, with leftism the province of old, mostly European Jews; the fact of the disappearing political center resembles the U.S. in that regard. Some of the conservatives embrace a conception of Israel as an expansionist power based on “territorial maximalism,” as exemplified by the long-established settler movement. Along with a rise in nationalism and religious orthodoxy—which Carlstrom describes as “features, not bugs” of modern Zionism—is an increasingly sharp division in domestic politics. There are some ironies attendant; for instance, Israel recognizes same-sex marriage executed outside the country, but it does not allow such marriages to be carried out in the country (or marriages between mixed-faith couples, for that matter). This is a product, Carlstrom suggests, of the outsize influence of the religious orthodoxy and of a government, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, that the author, following several international organizations, does not hesitate to label as wildly corrupt. The persistence of this corruption and of orthodoxy, along with the embrace by Israeli youth of conservative and authoritarian politics, drives a “fundamental difference between Israel’s identity and the changing identities of Western societies.”
A provocative, highly readable view of a nation that seems headed for more trouble, this time from within.