The Over-Promised Land: at the beach in Tel Aviv, December 2014.
BAZ RATNER / REUTERS

In 1996, Ehud Barak, who was then Israel’s foreign minister and would later serve as prime minister, charac­terized Israel as “a modern and prosperous villa in the middle of the jungle.” Twenty years later, as political turmoil and vio­lence engulf the Middle East, that harsh metaphor captures better than ever the way most Israelis see their country and its place in the region. Their standard of living has never been higher. Their country’s economy is robust, and Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit remains the envy of the world. In 2015, Israel ranked as the planet’s fifth-happiest country on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index, topped only by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Switzerland. In its first half century of existence, Israeli soldiers fought a war virtually every decade against well-armed conventional Arab armies. Today, the threat of such a war has vastly diminished, and

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  • Robert M. Danin is Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter @robertdanin.
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