Behind the action of the refusniks
is a wider disillusion with the image of Israel as a ’warrior
democracy’. Around 40% of those eligible for call-up to Israel’s
conscript army are evading service on grounds of mental health,
religious conscience or are declared unfit for other reasons. And
while after the fall of communism, Israel has seen a wave of immigration
to swell the ranks of the Jewish population, a recent opinion poll
indicated that many younger Jews would like to emigrate. On the
other hand, the Palestinian population in the region - in its poverty
- will far outgrow the Jewish.
Unlike, for example, Northern Ireland, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of
real strategic interest, an open wound in relations between the West and the
Arab world. Last weekend’s meeting of EU foreign ministers let vent to
Europe’s increasing concern at the direction of American policy in the
Middle East. Colin Powell, who seems to be the voice of reason and diplomacy
in the Whitehouse, needs all the help he can get.