On September 21, 2011, MK Dr. Einat Wilf of the Independence Party gave a guest lecture to the Sixth Session of the Israel Government Fellows program . She currently serves on the Knesset committees for Foreign Affairs and Defense, Education, and Finance. MK Wilf spoke at length on the problem of Arab denial of Jewish rights, combating delegitimization, the economic protests, and the future of the Middle East region.
MK Wilf framed the Palestinian Authority’s UN stunt of declaring statehood independent of a peace agreement, in the context of the Arab world’s refusal to recognize the rights of the Jewish people. “Their calendar begins with Balfour,” she said, noting the general tendency to ignore the history of Zionism and Jewish settlement in Israel. The Arabs have failed to destroy the Jewish state through war and through terrorism, so they have stepped up the push for international delegitimization of Israel.
The most prominent example of the need to resist that delegitimzation was the incident aboard a vessel in the Gaza flotilla, the Mavi Marmara. The flotilla fiasco resulted not from a failure of military strategy, but of hasbarah, of Israel advocacy. The growing acceptance of efforts to delegitimize Israel is a direct result of the failure to promote the Jewish state’s narrative. MK Wilf called for an “Intellectual IDF” to go on the offensive against the propaganda and rampant hypocrisy emanating from its enemies. The state needs to strengthen its diplomatic machine so that it can devote more attention to its economic challenges.
The “social justice” protests that gripped Israel are symptomatic of the rising cost of living and the economy’s increasingly unequal distribution of wealth. MK Wilf described the demonstrations as a “positive crisis, an opportunity for change without the danger of macroeconomic collapse.” She would like to see an Israel with a more open and competitive economy, one that evens the playing field for the nation’s talented workforce.
MK Wilf expressed cautious optimism for the future of the region. The Arab Spring is likely to lead to more hostile neighbors, but they will be weaker as well. Using the analogy of early 19th-century Europe to describe a regional balance of power maintained through diplomacy, she asked, “Where’s our Metternich?” In the very long term, she hoped that the revolts lead the peoples of the Middle East to adopt more modern values, giving Israel a better chance to integrate into the region. This dream may not be as far-fetched as it sounds. After all, the Israeli protesters took their cue from the Arabs.