The chief diplomatic correspondent for the Jerusalem Post, native Denverite Herb Keinon, spoke in Denver over the weekend, maintaining that the long perspective on Israel gives great room for optimism. Among his points:
First: Israel’s population upon its declaration of independence in 1948 was 600,000 Jews. Today it is 6.2 million Jews (and 1.8 million Arabs).
In 1948, Israel was outgunned and outarmed, assaulted by many Arab armies. Today Israel is the strongest military power in the region.
Second: In 2002, over 450 Israelis died from Palestinian terrorist attacks. In 2013, that number was six! Keinon attributed Israel’s defeat of Palestinian terrorism to four factors:
• the security fence dividing Israel from Palestinian territories, making it much more difficult for terrorist to enter Israel (not that they’ve stopped trying).
• the use of drones for targeted assassinations (something the US bitterly criticized during the second intifada, 2000-20005, but which the US has now embraced).
• much improved Israeli intelligence technology and methods.
• the IDF’s willingness to enter Palestinian cities to arrest terrorist, something still done.
Third: Despite the fact that the diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians broke down, they will come back, because it is in the interests of all parties to have “motion without movement,” as Keinon puts it.
• The Palestinians want these negotiations because they guarantee massive foreign aid to the PA from European countries.
• America wants these negotiations because it does not want other countries to fill the vacuum. (The US cut aid to Egypt to indicate American displeasure with antidemocratic moves of the current government, but when Egypt turned to Russia for military aid, the US quickly changed its mind.)
• Israel wants these negotiations because it takes the heat off of Israel from the West.
Negotiations are “motion,” but they will yield no real movement, says Keinon, because the Palestinians are not prepared to meet Israel’s three basic conditions: 1.) an agreement must officially mark the end of the conflict; 2.) recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. 3.) an end to the demand to import into Israel some five million descendants of Palestinians who left Israel in 1948.
Keinon noted that in both 2000 at Camp David and in 2008 under former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israel offered the PA 95% of the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state — and the PA rejected the offers because they also required acceptance of the three basic conditions outlined above.
Fourth: Israel will take care of the existential threat posed by the Iranian nuclear program, if and when Israel feels that its back is to the wall. Under circumstances of absolute desperation, Israel has shown that it is willing to defy even its best friends for its own national security.
• In 1948, despite the absolute opposition of the US State Dept., Israel declared its independence.
• In 1967, despite the express threat of US Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson that if Israel struck the Arab armies surrounding it preemptively Israel would act alone — Israel acted preemptively. The Six Day War unfolded after Egypt, Syria and Jordan explicitly announced their intent to wipe Israel off the map.
• In 1981, despite the accurate prediction that US President Ronald Reagan would be infuriated by a unilateral Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, Israel destroyed the reactor. (Reagan was infuriated. However, during the US-initiated first Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, the US was infinitely gratified that Israel had acted.)
• In 2008, despite being told directly by President Bush not to destroy Syria’s emerging nuclear reactor, Israel destroyed it (without ever confirming that it acted.) With the raging civil war in Syria today, who, other than the Assad regime, is not infinitely pleased that Assad has no nuclear weapon at his disposal?
Fifth: When in 2003, then Israel Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu drastically cut the “child allowances” under which every Israel family received a princely monthly check for each child in the family, the haredi Orthodox community responded by sending its mothers into the workplace. A number of haredi men followed. At around the same time, haredi men began to volunteer for the Israeli army in small numbers. That number last year reached 1,800 people.
The growing integration of the haredi populace into Israeli society was set back by the punitive measures attached to the recent haredi draft law, but in the long run Keinon sees the economic pressures on large haredi families as boding well for a much greater social integration. Just as the once, seemingly insuperable Sephardi-Ashkenazi divide in Israel has been bridged, so will the Israel-haredi divide be bridged.
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