When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu failed to form a government on Wednesday, you could hear a collective groan from all 8.7 million Israelis at the thought of having to endure another election campaign this fall. But the exasperation was quick to dissipate. Israelis—at least Jewish Israelis—are at peace with themselves and aware they are enjoying an unreservedly good moment. “It could be worse,” declared a former Israeli official as we sipped coffee on a spectacular May evening overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jaffa Gate.
The country is clearly on a roll. Israel ranks as the 13th-happiest country in the world, its economy is steady at 4 percent unemployment, no one is afraid to board a bus, the tourists keep coming, relations with its neighbors are mostly good and growing, and no one (outside of the government) much cares about the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. On that May evening, one would have never known by the crowds on the beach south of Tel Aviv that Hamas and other extremist groups had recently poured rocket fire into Israel from Gaza or that the U.S. national security advisor was threatening war with Iran. The rockets had stopped, there was no war, and so things were good. They certainly “could be worse.”
Among the many benefits of personally visiting a given country is the chance to take all the chatter currently in circulation about it before separating the nonsense from the relevant parts. This is especially true in Israel’s case given the distortions and even outright lies that have become accepted facts about the country. The Israelis have a lot to answer for, including their slow-rolling, 52-year-long annexation of the West Bank; the terrible conditions they’ve allowed to fester in the Gaza Strip; and the so-called corporate Mossad that is doing everything from running hit squads for hire in Yemen to providing spyware to unsavory governments around the world. But Israelis do not harvest the organs of Palestinian prisoners, and they are not responsible for police brutality in the United States. On most of the crucial issues of the day, Israelis simply do not conform to much of the most widely prevalent reporting, analysis, and caricatures, both good and bad.
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