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July 12, 2018 11:51 am

Balancing Dangers and Opportunities in Modern Israel

avatar by Isi Leibler

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The Western Wall and Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The speed of change, both positive and negative, in this region over the past two months has been breathtaking.

On the negative side, the ongoing escalation of antisemitism, especially in Europe and in the UK, which could elect an antisemitic prime minister, is detrimental to the quality of life for most Jews. Children and teens are particularly vulnerable to the vicious, blatant Jew-hatred they encounter at school and on campus.

Despite occasional lip service to the contrary, most European governments do not conceal their contempt for Israel and their foreign policies and voting records at the United Nations highlight the absence of even a modicum of morality or ethics.

Nothing illustrates this better than the reaction of most of the world (with the exception of the US and Australia) to Israel’s measures to defend its borders from incursions by Hamas terrorists and rocket attacks. To depict Israel’s efforts to defend itself as disproportionate, to describe mobs incited to penetrate Israel (often employing children as human shields) and seeking to murder indiscriminately as “peaceful demonstrators,” can only be called obscene, especially as the evidence of their attacks are a matter of public record. Not a single country in the world would have responded with the restraint displayed by Israel.

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The behavior of the Palestinian Authority has deteriorated from bad to worse, with the ailing Mahmoud Abbas and his acolytes descending to levels of antisemitism that would have made the Nazis proud.

In addition to these negative factors, we have substantial sections of American Jewry, especially from the Reform and Conservative movements, whose rabid hatred of their president has led them to distance themselves from or even condemn Israel. In fact, polls showed that 42% of American Jews opposed moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.

Further evidence of this distressing trend was the graduation ceremony of the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College, which invited as its guest speaker Michael Chabon, a viciously anti-Israel Pulitzer prize-winner who concentrated on two issues: excoriating Israel, which he accused of committing the most grievous injustices he had ever encountered, and urging his audience to promote intermarriage rather than union between Jews.

These trends are also reflected on the broader Jewish political level, where the Anti-Defamation League, the once respected apolitical body whose mandate was to combat antisemitism, today aggressively seeks to slander President Donald Trump and frequently criticizes Israel.

The Democratic Party has become radicalized with the emergence of anti-Israeli agitators á la Senator Bernie Sanders, whose influence is steadily increasing. The primary election defeat of Rep. Joe Crowley, the Democratic caucus chairman and a firm supporter of the Jewish state, was a significant blow to pro-Israel forces. Jewish voters were not dissuaded from supporting his opponent, the relatively unknown 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has made no secret of the fact that she is hostile to Israel. She is affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, which endorsed her and supports the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement.

The situation for Jews on college campuses has worsened and many of the anti-Jewish and pro-BDS agitators are led by fringe Jews, often in conjunction with radical Arabs and far-left extremists.

The above summary is nightmarish. But in this gloom, there is also light.

Israel has never been as successful as it is today.

Although Israelis are exasperated with corruption and the multiple allegations against the Netanyahus, polls show that were an election to take place now, Benjamin Netanyahu would be reelected as head of a strong coalition government. Support for his Likud party has escalated to heights not seen by any party in decades.

Despite frenzied internal debates, the people of Israel today are more united than ever since the massive chasm created by the adoption of the ill-fated Oslo Accords. Most recognize that, under the present Palestinian leadership, a two-state policy would create a terrorist state and provide a potential launching pad against Israel for Iran. There is an overwhelming desire not to be an occupier (even though most Palestinians live under their own autonomy), but most Israelis agree that separation must address the overriding condition of guaranteed security.

In the wider US population, there is stronger support for Israel than there has ever been, with evangelical Christians enthusiastically supporting Israel.

For the first time in US history, the Trump administration has made it clear that Israel and the US are true allies that can count on each other’s support at all levels. The decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem was of enormous symbolic importance, along with Ambassador Nikki Haley’s strident lambasting of the hypocrites at the UN, who viciously employ double standards against Israel. In addition, unlike his predecessor Barack Obama, Donald Trump does not refer to the antisemitic PA leader Abbas as a moderate. He has made it clear that an institution which gives over $4 million per annum from its foreign aid grants to finance and incentivize terrorists cannot be considered a partner for peace.

The Trump peace plan soon to be announced will probably fail because the conflict is not about real estate. The core issue is that the PA and Hamas are utterly determined to bring an end to Jewish sovereignty in the region.

In this context, the US decision to reinstate sanctions on Iran, which Trump considered on the brink of becoming a nuclear threshold state, was extremely positive. It may, in time, bring about regime change as the Iranian economy could implode.

Netanyahu’s relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, is extraordinary. Based on his childhood experiences, Putin has a liking for Jews. Considering the long history of Soviet and Russian antisemitism, his warm relationship with Netanyahu and Israel is remarkable and unprecedented.

Without Russian coordination, the IDF could not have effectively destroyed key Iranian targets in Syria. Putin has also supported Israel’s demand that the Iranians keep their distance from the Israeli border.

In addition, Israel has developed an important relationship with India and is heavily engaged in trade with China. Netanyahu has also established relations with many African, Latin American, and Southeast Asian countries. While the Western Europeans still display bias and are increasingly susceptible to pressure from their vastly expanded Muslim constituencies, the relationship with Eastern European countries is strengthening.

Although not widely publicized, Israel is now enjoying unofficial liaisons with the Saudis and Gulf states and allegedly exchanging intelligence.

This is a truly incredible reversal of the isolated Israel of a decade ago.

Israel is a mini-military superpower, successfully deterring the Iranians and their surrogates from embarking on a war in which they could be defeated by Israel’s military prowess.

Israel is also an economic powerhouse with consistently amazing innovations in the high-tech and medical fields which attract entrepreneurs from all over the world.

In addition, Israel is a world leader in water recycling, successfully overcoming its own drought conditions and providing assistance to other countries.

And finally, Israel has discovered large natural gas fields and will become an exporter of energy, which will further strengthen its global relations.

These positive factors more than offset the negative elements referred to above. It is therefore not surprising that, despite their incessant grumbling, Israelis are a very happy and proud people.

We should look at Israel today and, without becoming complacent, reminisce about our position only 10 years ago, and give thanks to our leaders and the Almighty for our achievements.

Isi Leibler is an Israeli columnist. His website can be viewed at www.wordfromjerusalem.com. He may be contacted at ileibler@leibler.com

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