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
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
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
Israel's Economy Will Deteriorate the More It Is
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
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
Moderate Israelis Might Leave, Weakening the State's Economy,
and Ceding It to Its Religious and Nationalists
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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.