According to the Wall Street Journal ($), some Israelis are blaming the country's lackluster performance in last year's war with Lebanon on the dissipation of socialist solidarity and the rapid expansion of an "entrepreneurial economy":
The makeover shows how Israel has flourished beyond the wildest dreams of the ardent socialists who founded the Jewish state. Powered by high-tech exports, the Israeli economy grew 6.3% in the first quarter this year, with a 28% jump in personal consumption of durable goods, such as cars and refrigerators. Sales ofPorsches doubled in 2006 from 2004, and last year Lexus opened shop in the Jewish state.
Yet prosperity has not brought security. As Israelis begin another summer fraught with regional instability, some are pondering a troubling question: Is the idea of an advanced consumer society, with its attendant individualism, compatible with the solidarity and focus required to defend a small state bordered by hostile neighbors? And could the growing gap between poor and wealthy Israelis undermine its national drive to protect itself?
In recent years, the socialist ideals of the founding Zionists have given way to one of the most successful entrepreneurial economies on earth. In place of solidarity, some Israelis argue, there is a growing gap between haves and have-nots. Rates of poverty are high among the country's 20% Arab population, but are also growing among Israeli Jews. Though the average Israeli salary has risen steadily, to more than $22,000 a year currently, one in four families live below the official poverty line. The poverty rate among children is 35%.
There are many reasonable explanations for the outcome of last summer's war in Lebanon, though "materialism" is likely low on the list. For an interesting dissection of the IDF's manifold military failures during last summer's (as of yet unnamed) war, check out Efraim Inbar's post-mortem here.
And it's easy to forget, but Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the soldier whose capture precipitated the IDF invasion, is still being held by Hamas. Yesterday, his captors released an audiotape of Shalit calling on the Israeli government to release Palestinian prisoners. Story here.