The New Israel: Peacemaking and Liberalisation
Gershon Shafir and Yoav Peled (Westview Press 2000)
Between 1975 and 1995, Israel’s GDP grew sevenfold. Its growth rate surpassed several European countries, and the IMF graciously elevated it — together with a number of the Asian tigers — to the status of ‘developed country’. This book of essays examines Israel’s economic transformation and looks specifically at the cross-finking and close relationship between economic growth and peace-making. Shafir and Peled argue that the Israel-Palestine conflict can be reinterpreted as an obstacle in the path of Israel’s participation in the international economy. Not the sole factor, but a significant one — and there are quotes from Yossi. Beilin and Yossi Sand, the doyens of the Israeli peace camp, embracing liberalization and globalization. Yet it is the magnitude of the other, often unquantifiable factors, such as the ongoing current Intifada, that injects the uncertainty principle into this thesis.
Dov Khenin’s essay traces the changes within Mapai back to the 1951 election, when there was an ideological confrontation with the Polish middle class of the fourth aliyah, now assembled as the General Zionist party. Khenin explains that socialism now meant constraining capitalism within ‘responsible’ parameters. Israel’s socialist character was emptied of its practical aspects and substituted by an innocuous festive dimension. Utilizing Benjamin Barber’s polarized yet apt juxtaposition of McWorld versus jihad. Uri Ramm suggests that this is manifested in Israel by a globalist, civic, post-Zionist agenda versus a globalist, ethnic, neo-Zionist agenda. Again, the current intifada may have upset the neatness of that imagery.
Michael Shalev also suggests that there are undoubtedly winners and losers in the fallout from economic liberalization in the context of globalization. In Israel, the beneficiaries are Jewish, Ashkenazi and mainly men. The losers are Mizrachi Jews, Palestinian commuter labourers and Israeli Palestinians. This book offers many challenging insights into both the changing identity of Israel and the peace process — only time will tell whether or not these projections have been nullified by the effects and influences of the current Intifada.
Political Studies vol.50 no.5 9 January 2003