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Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary

Latest update : 2008-05-08

Israel celebrates sixty years of statehood on Thursday, a day after it kicked off week-long celebrations in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But the fraud probe around Israeli PM Ehud Olmert marred the festivities. (Story: J.Jackson)

Please also see our special report on Israel, 60 years in the making.


On the second day of commemorations around the 60th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel, the military is at the heart of the celebrations. Aerial and naval parades, parachute jumps and military battle reconstructions mark the anniversary of a country built with the force of military victories but, which, in the absence of a solution to the Palestinian conflict, remains vulnerable.


“Israel wants to show all it has accomplished thanks to its military, which is one of the most powerful in the world,” explains Marc de Chalvron, FRANCE 24’s Jerusalem correspondent. “That military is the cement of a nation that is becoming more and more of a mosaic.”

Michel Gurkinkel, a journalist and author of the book ‘Roman d’Israel’, tells FRANCE 24, that “the majority of the plans, the dream, have been realized. The population has multiplied itself tenfold, it has been housed, cared for, educated (…) And the language of Hebrew has been reborn.” But, he adds, “there is a point in which Israel has not succeeded, and that is where peace is concerned.”

Since Monday the Israeli army has imposed a military lockdown on the occupied West Bank, claiming security concerns.  A number of demonstrations are taking place under high surveillance because of the fear of deadly attempts by militant Palestinian extremists. The audiences at the various concerts and shows organized throughout the country will have to undergo strict security measures, metal detectors and bag-searches.

"We’re here to stay"

The kick-off for the celebrations, which cost 28 million dollars to stage, took place on Tuesday. The flags have been put at half-mast on all public buildings, in honour of the 22,437 Israeli soldiers who have died fighting and the 1,634 civilians killed by suicide bombers and other means since the creation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948.

Jerusalem launched the festivities on Wednesday with a big outdoor show attended by Tony Blair, former British prime minister and representative of the Quartet for the Middle-East. Tel Aviv’s population was treated to fireworks and a concert.

“I’m sure that many people in the world are surprised that we managed to reach our 60th anniversary, ” Liat Dimant, 25, a student at Tel Aviv university, told Reuters.  “But everyone who lives here – young or old, male or female, left or right, has to know that we are here to stay”.

Sixty years after the joint attack of five Arab armies against the new state of Israel, an attack that threatened its very existence, the country presents many facets to the world. Thanks to liberally-inspired reforms and a robust technology sector, the country’s economic growth has climbed 5 % every year since 2003.

But this growth has not benefited everyone. According to official statistics, more than half of the children born in Jerusalem live below the poverty level.

The only ones keeping away from the festivities yesterday were the Arab minority with Israeli nationality living mostly in East Jerusalem.

Always hope for a solution to the conflict

The external threat is however always present. Israel, which has signed peace accords with Egypt and Jordan, still has an tense relationship with Syria and believes that the Iranian nuclear programme is a threat to its existence.

"Our conflict has lasted a long time, " says Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a speech given at the the Mont Herzl cemetery in west Jerusalem on Wednesday.

For the first time in seven years, peace talks have begun again between Israelis and Palestinians, strongly encouraged by the United States who hope to have drafted some agreement on the outlines of an accord before the end of the year. But the discussions could be interrupted by the investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in a corruption scandal.  

“About half of the Israeli public opinion is realizing that there is a large dimension of injustice which has been caused by the Israeli national pursuit something which wasn’t the case in the 1960s” Joav Toker, a professor of political sciences at the American Graduate School of International Relations, told FRANCE 24. “Watch the way Israel’s public opinion moves because it does move”


Date created : 2008-05-08