A suggestion for introspection.
Over twenty years ago, the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, gave a speech which has since been referred to as “The Spiderweb Speech.” In my eyes, this is a pivotal speech which portrays the current thinking of Israel’s adversaries regarding its strength and the paradox of its national resilience in the 21st century.
The raw insight of the speech is perhaps the most painful when describing the trends in Israeli society and their influence on Israel’s geopolitical standing. Nasrallah’s Spiderweb Theory makes the distinction between Israel’s military power and the continuing erosion of the resilience of Israeli society. As the Israel Defense Forces increases its power and readiness for a regional conflict, Israeli society is undergoing the inverse transformation. Israeli society is content with the status quo, tired of wars, and is less prepared to pay the price of an existential conflict. Our national resilience, which is dependent on survival, preparing the home front, and maintaining social cohesion — has eroded to the point where it represents a real and present danger to Israel’s survival.
The increased gaps in society, the lost values of statesmanship and respect, the expanded legitimacy for autonomies which are alienated from the State and its institutions, the falling rate of youth who enlist in the military — all of these contribute to the degraded national and societal resilience. Along with this, there are continued trends of the loss of common ground between sectors of society, the Occupation of the West Bank, and the weakening of Israeli democracy. This is in addition to global trends of increased materialism and escapism, alternate realities, reliance on undependable sources and culture of fake news, which all contribute to the democratic backsliding of developed countries.
The conduct of Israeli society over the past two years of the global pandemic are a bright and blinking warning sign about the resilience of large swaths of Israeli society. Realistic scenarios of the danger of increased stocks of missiles in the region point to unprecedented substantial losses and damage on the home front. In this scenario Israel emerges decisively victorious, but the damage to the home front will be significant — both in terms of the loss of human life and the damage to critical infrastructure.
Amongst the security establishment there is a deep understanding about Israel’s eroding societal resilience. This can be seen in all the proactive military operations initiated by Israel in the past fifteen years and this situation makes it difficult for decision makers to institute policies resulting in decisive and reality-changing victories in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Lebanon. Israel invests astronomical resources in creating multidimensional anti-missile defensive capabilities which at its core is meant to provide for increased domestic legitimacy and tolerance of military operations in times of conflict. This investment comes at the expense of much needed investment in society, education, the health system, and welfare.
It goes without saying that the marginal profit of this investment will not prevent the collapse of civil society which is showing ever-decreasing strength. Coronavirus, though it was not an isolated incident, exposed the vast vulnerabilities of Israeli society. The recognition of this fact has severe and dramatic strategic implications on the decision makers in the current and future governments.
Israeli society’s inability to deal with a relatively minor crisis, inability to adapt to changing circumstances, and submission to disinformation, politicization to the point of loss of common sense, and losing perspective has led to describing the situation as “chaotic” and comparing it to the destruction of the Temple. All this regarding a global issue, which is under relative control, and has resulted in fewer deaths than half of those predicted to perish during the first day of a substantial missile attack targeting Israel’s major cities.
This description darkens even further in light of the fact that the pandemic did not damage the supply chain, did not damage any transportation infrastructure, did not bring down the electric grid or water system, media continued without any restrictions or censoring or being prevented from accessing statistics or events, and no hospital reached maximum capacity. There were no mass burials and there were no announcements of thousands missing due to the collapse of buildings. A situation under control which does not come close to what is in Israel’s future if there is a major natural disaster (e.g., an earthquake) or a missile attack.
Israel has turned into a weak and embarrassed society which runs away in the face of challenges. The expectation of absolute certainty, the giving up of any initiative, any ability for individual and local organization, and the development of an attitude of complete reliance on others — all of these are worrying signs; symptoms of a deeper crisis.
Nasrallah was even more accurate in describing our spiderweb. What was correct at the beginning of the century has drastically evolved over the past two decades. Armament of the military, increasing the range of our weapons, and elite technology — all of these will not close the gap that is left in the culture, values, and collective psychology of Israeli society. This challenge demands leadership which will take responsibility and confront Israeli society to understand that it needs to make pivotal decisions regarding the essence of the future of the State of Israel.
by Lior Chorev
Lior Chorev, Strategic consultant and Expert of Perception
Co-Founder and Chairman of Percepto International