There were fireworks, concerts, torch processions and parties throughout the country. In Jerusalem the night sky was illuminated by 300 drones that coalesced to form images of favourite Israeli symbols, such as the national flag and a dove with an olive branch in its mouth. The celebrations included a live, televised retelling of Jewish history dating to biblical times. In one scene children with yellow stars pinned to their clothes fled marching Nazi soldiers. Another showed pioneers building the fledgling Jewish state.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, helped lead the national extravaganza, despite objections that his presence contradicted the event’s traditional, non-political character. This moment – the 70th anniversary last Wednesday of Israel’s independence, according to the Hebrew calendar – marked the country’s emergence as a rising world power, he declared.
Israel offered the hand of friendship to all, Netanyahu said. But there should be no doubt, Israel was here to stay: “In another 70 years you’ll find here a country that is 70 times stronger, because what we’ve done until today is just the beginning!” Israel’s ability to protect itself was “the essence” of independence, he said.
If Netanyahu sounded defensive, he had reason. Israel has faced many crises since its birth in 1948, including wars in 1967 and 1973, conflicts in Lebanon, and endless confrontation with the Palestinians, for whom Israel’s independence is known as the Nakba (“the catastrophe” or “cataclysm”). It was the day 700,000 people lost what they considered their homeland. Palestinians were not partying last week.
Yet according to Israeli and regional experts, the storm now gathering around Israel’s borders potentially surpasses in severity anything the country has faced throughout its short and difficult history. Whichever way you look, in any direction, trouble looms. At its heart, connecting all the geopolitical Scrabble pieces, is one four-letter word: Iran. [Continue reading…]
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