In honor of Israel’s 70th anniversary, Breaking Israel News is pleased to present a compilation of analysis from some of the Jewish world’s top advocates and experts. Looking towards the next 70 years, here is their exclusive breakdown on Israel’s top challenges and opportunities.
Iran and Hezbollah
According to longtime Harvard University Law Professor, attorney and author Alan Dershowitz, Israel’s greatest external threat is the threat that Iran and Hezbollah pose to Israel’s existence.
“The greatest threat is the Shia Crescent extending from Iran through Iraq, through parts of Syria, into Lebanon and Hezbollah, and the attempt by Iranian Mullahs to literally destroy Israel regardless of how much sacrifice they would have to make to do it,” Dershowitz told Breaking Israel News.
Further, he said, “When you couple that with the world’s apparent lack of concern for that threat, it brings up Elie Wiesel’s famous statement ‘always believe the threats of your enemies more than the promises of your friends,’ so ultimately Israel will have to deal with that threat alone without the help of the international community and perhaps without the help of the United States. It certainly cannot count on any other country to deal with the Iranian/Hezbollah threat, it will have to be prepared to deal with it by itself.”
Ensuring Christian Support for Israel
Yael Eckstein, senior vice president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, maintained that one of the biggest challenges in Israel, which she deals with on a daily basis, is galvanizing the next generation of Christian supporters for Israel.
“One of the challenges I see for the future is continuing the Christian support for Israel,” she told Breaking Israel News. “We have come to believe that being Christian is synonymous with being pro-Israel, which is something that the Jewish world forgets took so much investment in so many different ways of the Fellowship, my father Rabbi Eckstein, myself, and many others. It’s not a given.”
Loss of US Liberal Support for Israel
The third most important threat according to Dershowitz is the loss of support of Israel by many American Jews and many American liberals, who he believes “prefer their own comfort and convenience to supporting the nation-state of the Jewish people.”
Dershowitz told Breaking Israel News, “We are seeing a diminishing support in the United States, particularly among young people, for Israel. It’s not so much opposition to Israel but lack of interest in Israel, easier to be disengaged today because you won’t be attacked by your colleagues and friends if you disengage. But if you are perceived as an active Zionist, it has a major negative impact on your life.”
Social Issues and Poverty
According to Eckstein, “Israel is below Mexico in different UN reports regarding poverty. 60% of our GDP goes to security and military but we have a horrible track record when it comes to taking care of Israel’s needy.”
She told Breaking Israel News, “I see one of the challenges being bridging that gap between the basic needs for the poor people of Israel and really integrating them into society while providing for them their basic needs, such as a national food program like they have in the United States.”
She concluded, “We have a lot to work towards in terms of taking care of our needy and the huge percentage of people in Israel who live below the poverty line.”
Another external threat, as suggested by Dershowitz, is the international community’s application of the double standard to Israel. “That manifests itself every day, in what’s going on in Gaza, in the way the international community responded to the problem of the influx of economic refugees into Israel,” he said.
“Israel is judged by a completely different and much, much higher standard than any other country in the world, and that causes the BDS movement and that causes the campaigns all over the world to delegitimize and demonize Israel,” Dershowitz told Breaking Israel News.
Integration of the Haredi Community
Dov Lipman, former MK and Director of Public Diplomacy in the WZO Vice-Chairman’s Office, maintained that the greatest challenge facing Israel relates to the unity of people in Israel. On one front, he explained, the Haredi population is growing “way beyond” the rest of the Israel, and “if they don’t join the work force and don’t participate in high numbers economically there’s no way Israel can sustain itself.”
He told Breaking Israel News, “animosity will grow between religious populations and the rest of Israel if the Haredi community continues to remain isolated, not participating in Israeli society and the army.”
On another front, Lipman maintained that “if the Haredi community holds onto its political power, we will never be able to move forward on these issues because in the system we have, they will always stop any government from moving forward on trying to find balance on balance between a Jewish and democratic State.”
European Anti-Semitism and Nationalism
Zooming out to the Jewish world, Dershowitz claimed that the fourth greatest threat to the Jewish people is rising nationalism in Eastern Europe. He bemoaned increasing anti-Semitism both by the right and the left in Europe, “by the left as reflected in Jeremy Corbyn and the British labor party, and by the right as reflected by growth of extreme nationalist parties in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, and other places.”
“I think we are going to be seeing a lot more Christian tourists to Israel,” said Eckstein. “China has 100 million Christians just in China alone, and then you have South America with over 40 million Christians. If we invest in that next generation and the Christian communities with Israel advocacy and education, we will see a huge rise of numbers of Christian tourists coming to Israel.”
Establishing Alliances of Convenience with Sunni Arab Countries
Another great opportunity that Dershowitz sees is the opportunity of creating “coalitions of convenience” with Sunni Arab countries, particularly the Gulf Countries. While we have a great opportunity in the short term, cemented by common threat of Iran, Dershowitz argued that we must be cautious, as Sunni Arab countries, and the Saudis in particular are “opportunists who will join Israel when convenient and then abandon Israel when it’s not.”
Thus, while he argued Israel must use this opportunity, it must also be careful about becoming too close and too dependent on Saudi friendship.
Haredim Integrating into Modern Society
According to Lipman, now that Israel has addressed its security issues, it has the opportunity to answer the questions of “who we are internally,” “why are we here,” and “why is sacrifice worth it for the Jewish State.” One way to do this, Lipman proposed, is to address the “number one challenge” of the State of Israel– integration of the Haredi community into Israeli society.
He told Breaking Israel News, “The more the Haredim become integrated into modern society, the more moderate they become, and if we succeed in this goal, their political power in terms of holding on to the way things were will diminish because they become more moderate and more sensitive to broader Israel and will not want to have representation in the Knesset who are fighting the old battles instead of trying to move forward.”
Israel’s Diplomatic Status
According to Dershowitz, Israel’s biggest opportunity lies in its strength in military, economic, and diplomatic standing under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s leadership. “Israel has never been stronger,” Dershowitz told Breaking Israel News. “Under Netanyahu, its diplomatic status has improved throughout Africa, South America, Asia, and Eastern Europe, and Bibi has to be given an enormous amount of credit for increasing Israel’s diplomatic standing around the world,” he said.
According to Eckstein, “Every day brings new prophetic revelations to Israel that the world is connecting to and excited about as well.” She said, “Just now over Passover we had 100,000 kohanim (priests) at the Western Wall giving their priestly blessings. So that will continue to grow, with the amount of Jewish people coming home to Israel and connecting to the Torah and God’s word and tapping into their own spirituality, so I see spiritual growth looking good in the next 70 years.
Peace with the Palestinians
According to Dershowitz, “If Israel is able to make peace with the Palestinians and can literally turn its swords into plowshares, the peace dividend for the world would be unimaginably great.” He told Breaking Israel News, “Israel would be able to contribute, as it already has, to the welfare of the world, and maybe even be commended for it, which right now it’s not.”
Light Unto the Nations
According to Lipman, Israel has a great opportunity to “fulfill its mission in becoming a light unto the nations.” He said, “Here we are, established, we are a flourishing country, we are here, and now we have the opportunity to show the world what a Jewish State looks like in terms of its values, its respect for each other, and its respect for other people. We should be the shining light to the world in terms of showing how all people are created in God’s image.
He continued, “On a certain level, Israel is doing that in terms of medical advances and technology, but as a society, in terms of corruption in politics, we still have a long way to go in really demonstrating those values and I certainly hope as we celebrate the 70th we can begin focusing on that dimension of what a Jewish State should be.”