If Israel is to survive another 50 years, it needs to secure a viable, long-term, two-state solution with the Palestinians. Furthermore, Israel needs to parlay that peace with Palestine into a peace with its regional neighbors that involves thorough economic and cultural integration and interdependence. And just to be clear, an acceptable, viable Palestine must have at least three components: statehood, contiguous borders and East Jerusalem. What follows is a point-by-point explanation of why Israel's chances of reaching its 100th birthday without a Palestine and an interdependent relationship with its neighbors are poor.

The US Will Shift Its Support from Israel to Arab Countries in the Coming Decades

During the 1950s-1980s, Israel's military protection from the US was primarily rooted in the US's Cold War strategy. Either the West's fear of reverting to Cold War dynamics will subside entirely, or many other Arab countries, with greater natural resources and larger potential markets for American goods, will emerge as better regional strategic partners for the US (somewhat akin to the way former enemy Warsaw Pact nations are joining NATO).
As for the wanting power of the American Jewish community, American population shifts will bring a decline in the main pro-Israel lobby's Capitol Hill influence. The US Arab-American population is now at 3 million and growing rapidly.1 There are now about 5.5 million American Jews, but that number is shrinking and is predicted to fall below 5 million within 10 years.2 The two communities are on course to "switch places" in terms of numbers and influence. The Arab-American community is also, broadly speaking, a "model minority," making impressive inroads in the small and medium business world, sending its kids to college, and developing new relationships and markets for American goods in the Arab and Muslim world. The main Arab-American lobby is growing in wealth, influence, and lobbying sophistication.
Israel's religious domination by the Orthodox will damage its American Jewish support. Slightly over half of all American Jews are intermarrying.3 Already, millions of intermarried and secularly identified American Jews are feeling increasingly alienated from Israel. Identifying with it less and less, they will incrementally decrease their political support and interest.4 Also, with each passing decade, the secular American-Jewish population will become more removed from the memory of the Holocaust, and more complacent with its apparent safety in the professional classes of America. These processes will deprioritize Israel in the minds of many American Jews.
US politics are fundamentally based on preserving and creating an environment in which large corporations can thrive. Because of this principle, Arab and Muslim countries will become more attractive trading partners and allies to the US than Israel, offering much larger markets than Israel. The political muscle of American Jews, while an impressive accomplishment in the annals of the history of America's ethnic minorities, is no match for this fundamental, ubiquitous American political force. What the next century presents is different and unprecedented: a geo-political corporate scenario, emphasizing free trade, in which an isolated Israel would be at odds with corporate needs on a very broad scale.
American anti-Semitism is still a largely unaddressed issue. Jews, while widely tolerated, are still usually thought of as less than full Americans by the WASP majority, and are commonly thought of as "overly privileged" by Hispanics or African Americans. It is still very acceptable in American culture for non-Jews to feel concern over the perception of "too much Jewish influence" in certain spheres - in Hollywood, business, the professions of medicine and law, etc. These could serve to isolate American Jews and weaken American support for Israel at a time of domestic or international crisis.

Israel's Economy Will Deteriorate the More It Is Isolated

A 21st-century Arab/African boycott will make the economic impact of the previous boycott seem small. This is because major Western corporate interests - the forces at the top of the global power hierarchy - will be looking to Arabia and Africa as the "Chinas" of the next century: new emerging markets of billions of people. This process has already begun.5 Israel's tiny market will be eschewed by many corporations whose products will not be considered in Africa and Arabia if they are trading with Israel. Economic collapse will demoralize Israelis, along with increased political isolation and increased terrorist violence.
Israel will not be able to maintain its coveted hi-tech industries. As daily life becomes scarier and more riddled with unpredictable violence, Israel's most talented engineers, doctors, and scientists may leave for high-paying, peaceful diaspora opportunities. Israel's economy could be reduced to two industries: arms and tourism.6 Tourism will fall off as terrorism increases and global political isolation grows. Arms may survive and be a source of wealth, but Israeli arms industry honchos will find themselves in the predicament of having to sell advanced weapons to enemies, or to allies of enemies, in order to stay profitable.7

Israel's Nuclear Deterrent Will Stop Being a Guarantee against Being Invaded

This may take 50 years, or it may have already become true. Within 25 years, Iran and Iraq will certainly possess nuclear weapons ready to be used. Within 50 years, surely Syria and Egypt will have this capability, too. In fact, perhaps even the Palestinians will have the bomb. Incredible as this sounds, once Iran has nukes, it will certainly consider trying to get one or two to Hamas.8
One of the following is very likely to happen if there is no Israeli-Palestinian solution acceptable to Arab nations: A nuclear terrorist could detonate a nuclear weapon in Tel Aviv, or a political crisis could emerge in the region involving an Islamic leader willing to exchange nuclear strikes for the destruction of Israel. Isolated and cornered, Israel will preempt with a nuclear attack on Teheran, Baghdad, or another population center. This will lead to a regional nuclear and non-conventional weapons war in which Israel might well be destroyed.9

Israel Will Find Itself Unable to Cultivate New Allies If It Sticks with a Right-Wing Agenda

Egyptian and Jordanian regimes will not be able to protect their own security and long-term economic interests if Israel does not agree to a two-state solution and a shared Jerusalem.10 Without Egypt and Jordan, that leaves only Israel's economic/strategic alliances of convenience with Turkey and Europe, but those will also likely unravel under the pressure of the other factors. In the case of Turkey, its Muslim population and major Muslim trading partners will eventually not tolerate this alliance. In the case of Europe, once Arab and Muslim potential markets emerge to the tune of a billion consumers and growing, Israel's 5 million, comparatively affluent citizens won't be enough of an enticement to outweigh Europe's interest in the billion potential customers.

Moderate Israelis Might Leave, Weakening the State's Economy, and Ceding It to Its Religious and Nationalists Extremists

The increasing domination of the Orthodox over matters of personal status is demoralizing to the vast majority of Israeli Jews. More and more may leave for secular societies where they can earn good livings with their comparatively high level of education and training, and not have extreme difficulties with matters of divorce (for women), intermarriage, or religious coercion.

Anti-Semitism Will Play a Role

Anti-Semitism is still poorly understood, unexamined, entrenched, or openly practiced and taught.11 It will very likely gel again, possibly in response to a tragic regional episode.
American Jews don't see the long-term precariousness of their situation, nor do they understand the deeply rooted functioning of anti-Semitism in their own society.

Bitter Pill

In the short term, Israel will continue to have the political and military upper hand in the region. Its army has the most troops and the highest level of training. The air force is probably the most advanced and well-trained in the world. It has a successful nuclear weapons program and possesses the capability to destroy one or more enemy population centers in a matter of minutes. It takes in $1.3 billion a year in military aid from the United States. And its military intelligence team has penetrated every enemy nation and could probably provide advance warning of any planned attack.
Israeli right-wingers believe that this short-term reality is one that can be sustained into the long-term future. They are resigned to the idea that the Arab majority will never accept their existence and, therefore, the only option for long-term survival is to maintain military superiority ad infinitum. This political assessment leads them to think that the Israeli left's call for an end to the occupation and a Palestinian state is based entirely on moral belief.
In fact, many on the right will even concede that the left's vision is the moral one in the debate. But they will tell you that this moral position is incompatible with the political and military requirements for survival.
The bitter pill for Jews is accepting that Israel will ultimately have to depend on its neighbors' willingness to allow it to exist. When one looks at the long-term factors discussed above, it becomes clear that it is Israel, not the Palestinians or other Arab nations, that actually has the weakest political and military position in the Middle East.
Now, the idea of being politically dependent on anybody, much less the Arabs, is something most Israelis can't stand. Molded by the devastation of the Holocaust and 19 centuries of exile, persecution and catastrophe, Israel's core identity is founded upon the idea that Jews cannot count on surviving as long as they have to depend on the acceptance or goodwill of any other nation. The existence of Israel represents, to most Jews, finally being done with that precarious role in history. What will be difficult for most Israelis and Jewish supporters to accept is that, while it may be true that Jews are at risk without an independent state, they are also at risk even with a state.
In order to safeguard their long-term survival, Israel and the Jewish people need to start by coming to terms with the fact that there is no such thing as total security for small peoples in this world. Nothing can purchase that kind of invulnerability: not a long-term strategy of maintaining military superiority, not even atomic bombs and the willingness to use them.

The Peace Option

After accepting that they will eventually have to depend on their neighbors to exist, the next thing Israelis need to do is to pursue a political path that will prevent the dependency from being a one-way street. They need to create long-term relationships with their neighbors that will also make their neighbors dependent upon them for their own success and well-being. If Israel can manage to form a long-term, sturdy, interdependent economic, cultural, medical, and industrial infrastructure and, possibly, military ties with its Arab neighbors, then Israel's ongoing existence will be in its neighbors' interests.
This kind of security vision is what Shimon Peres has promoted for years, and it is usually scoffed at as idealistic and highly risky. But this vision is a blueprint of the necessary political conditions for Israel to be a viable state over the next 50 years. Shimon Peres was able to convince Yitzhak Rabin that Israel's long-term security lay in creating a new Middle East - one that is extremely interdependent.12 That is why Rabin rescued the career of his mortal enemy, Yasser Arafat, from the brink of total collapse by extending his hand to him.
Rabin saw that it was necessary. He also saw that other steps would be necessary on Israel's part - letting go of the West Bank and Gaza, letting the Palestinians establish a state, end even making compromises on the issues of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees.
Rabin, whose entire military and political career was based upon safeguarding Israel's security, saw that the peace options, Israel's only real chance of a permanent place in the region, rested upon abandoning outdated security strategies. There were many early indications that Rabin's strategy was working. Arab leaders began making secret, and then public, overtures to Israel. The Arab boycott was eased, then dropped, allowing billions of dollars to enter Israel's economy. Jordan offered a cease-fire, and then made peace. Rabin made unprecedented official state visits to the King of Morocco and the Sultan of Oman. Even Saudi officials shook hands in public with Rabin and Peres on the White House lawn.
Israel was also able to begin the work of integrating its economy and infrastructure with its neighbors - the next phase of the interdependence survival strategy. Israeli-Jordanian and Israeli-Palestinian teams began trade talks, water and electrical system talks, agricultural talks and military joint exercises. Regional tourism opened.
It is all this hard work that Netanyahu and his government are undoing. While they begrudgingy implement the Wye agreement, in the name of their vision of long-term security, based on uncompromising nationalist territorial claims and the fallacy of "permanent military superiority," they are ironically destroying what might be Israel's only chance of real longevity.
The scariest part is that Israel may position itself into being an expensive and annoying burden to the US, costing America a lot of money to keep it viable, and causing American business to lose out to the other wealthy industrial nations in the next century's battle for huge Third-World markets in Africa and the Middle East. (Enter Pat Buchanan at this point, railing against Jewish interests ruining life for middle America.) Couple that with an American Jewish population that is shrinking due to assimilation, and that is losing its ability to identify with an Israel that is allowing the ultra-Orthodox to dominate, and you see how probable it is that there will not be enough pro-Israel political support in the US to outweigh the liability Israel will become to the corporate, ruling interests.
This is the path Bibi and company are charting for Israel. But then you will say, fundamentalist Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank, encouraged by backers in Iran, saw what was happening. Seeing that their wish for a strict Islamic state in all of Israel and Palestine would never materialize if Israel became integrated into the region, they deliberately set out to get Israelis to abandon their new, integrationist strategy. They needed Israel to return to its previous uncompromising strategy of being the neighborhood bully,13 so they could win back the support of the entire Arab world. They needed Jews the world over to get stuck in the short-sighted trap of their own psychology of fear and mistrust. They knew what would most likely accomplish this goal - blowing up civilians.
History will record this, if we let it. But, Jewish tradition teaches us that we are not helpless to the momentum of history. Indeed, our 3,500-year survival represents what could be the longest human odyssey against historical odds. Now is the time for all of us who care about Israel's future, and about the future of a just peace, to see that these are intertwined.


1. Casey Kasem, Arab Americans: Making a Difference, The Arab American Institute, 1991.
2. Christian Century, March 13, 1996.
3. Fifty-two percent of American Jews intermarry, and of those with children, only 28 percent are raising their children to identify as Jews. Blueprint for Renewal: The Report of the Commission on Jewish Continuity, The Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, 1995.
4. Apparently, this dis-identification has already begun. Several Jewish communities recently placed unprecedented restrictions on their annual contributions to American Jewish Appeals (UJAs). These communities earmarked funding they collected for Israel so that it could not be used by the Orthodox authorities, and in some cases they reduced the amount sent to Israel. This began with the annual 1997 allocation of the San Francisco Jewish Federation to the UJA. San Francisco Chronicle, May 2, 1997, p. A-15.
5. For more information about this, see The Economist, June 14, 1997, whose theme is "Emerging Africa."
6. Diamond processing and distributing, a current Israeli industrial staple, will probably switch to other distribution centers, such as Antwerp in Belgium. Why? Because Israel's diamond processing industry relies on raw diamonds flowing in from the De Beer's company in South Africa. But since Israel made enemies of South Africa by supporting the apartheid regime for four decades, black-controlled South Africa will likely participate in the 21st-century Arab boycott which will end De Beer's relationship with Israel.
7. Indeed, Israeli weaponry and military technology have been sold to China for some time, and strong evidence indicates that some of this hardware and information has subsequently been passed by China to Iran. A revealing article about Cruise missiles capable of being outfitted with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons traveling this route appears in Aviation Week & Space Technology, February 1, 1993, pp. 26-27.
8. On September 29, 1997, William Webster, former head of the CIA, issued a report on the threat posed to American national security by Russian organized crime. A major concern of the report was the likelihood of demoralized former Soviet military personnel having already sold nuclear weapons or parts to terrorist organizations. The report urged President Clinton to treat the situation as a serious national security issue (UPI, All Things Considered, September 27, 1997. National Public Radio).
9. The San Francisco Chronicle reported recently that US officials working with Russian scientists at former Soviet biological-warfare labs firmly believe that bio-weapons and technology were sold to Iran by underpaid Russian lab workers (August 10, 1997). Also, more recently, the former Swedish head of the United Nations weapons inspection team in Iraq reported that, during his tenure on the team, one day he discovered several missile system components which had been hurriedly dumped into the Tigris River. The components were for systems which could fire chemical warheads as far as southern England (The World, Public Radio International, November 4, 1997).
10. After the Israeli secret service attempted to murder a Hamas leader in Jordan in October 1997, King Hussein reportedly considered breaking off ties with Israel over the incident, USA Today, October 7, 1997, p. A-1.
11. I and many friends have seen the widespread sale of hateful anti-Semitic books in the bookstores and street kiosks of Jordan and Egypt. Many of the books have ugly caricatures of Jews squeezing blood out of the world, gobbling up dollar signs, etc. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, that classic fabricated text which was discredited over 75 years ago, is widely read and believed to be true in much of the Arab world (Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred, Robert S. Wistrich, p. xxiii, 1991. Robert S. Wistrich, Rex Bloomstein and Thames Television ).
12. For a thorough account of his vision, read Shimon Peres's book The New Middle East, Henry Holt and Company, 1993.
13. Bob Dylan used the expression "neighborhood bully" to refer to Israel in a song of the same name on the album Infidels. The song is actually a critique of Israel's critics from a fairly right-wing Israeli point of view, but the expression is nonetheless one way of understanding Israel's behavior in the region, as well as the underlying causes that have led to that aggressive behavior.