Israel in the New Year: Resounding Successes, Looming Threat

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics has released its population data for 2012, the year that just ended. As usual, the trends are favorable. The total Israeli population rose to just under eight million, while the Jewish population—for the first time—rose to just over six million.

Naturally, the number has a certain resonance. Aside from the grim association, it has a special positive ring to it as well. At the time Israel gained independence in May 1948, its Jewish population stood at about 600,000, meaning that as of the end of 2012 it had grown tenfold.

By most accounts the Israeli Jewish population also surpassed the American Jewish population in recent years. The comparison, though, is misleading, since American Jewry is undergoing high intermarriage and assimilation rates while in Israel intermarriage is negligible and, with the Israeli Jewish culture dominant, there is nothing to which to assimilate.

The year’s end has brought other good news as well. The recent one-week skirmish with Hamas not only unveiled awesome Israeli defensive (Iron Dome) but also offensive capabilities, including revolutionary intelligence and drone innovations. Hamas celebrated a “victory” in which its 1500 rockets managed to kill six Israelis while Hamas’s side suffered about 180 fatalities, the considerable majority of them combatants.

The war, of course, was hardly enough to tame the wild Middle East, but rational actors observing it would realize that taking on Israel is a risky proposition.

Israelis have also heard in recent weeks that: Israeli students have improved substantially on standardized tests and now rank seventh in the world in math; 2012 saw the country’s lowest total for traffic deaths in 50 years, population growth and all; and illegal immigration from Africa through the Sinai—which only last spring seemed a menacing problem—has been almost stopped by the building of a border fence.

And this just in: Israel’s economy came in best in the West for 2012, its 3.3 percent growth rate outpacing all other Western countries.

With such achievements, the incumbent government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to win big in Israel’s elections three weeks from now, and the center-left opposition is reduced to proclaiming that its patron saint, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, is the real deliverer of Israel.

The picture at the start of 2013, then, appears to vindicate the claim of Zionism—a movement originating in 19th-century Europe—that the Jewish people in the modern era needed their own state to thrive. It is, though, already a truism that another major claim of Zionism—that creating such a state would be the solution to anti-Semitism—has not been borne out.

The inaccuracy of that contention was again illustrated on New Year’s Day 2013 when Dr. Essam el-Erian, an Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood official, predicted that “Israel will be destroyed within a decade.” As he elaborated:

The Zionist project in Palestine came to prevent the existence of democracy in the Arab countries, and to prevent the presence of Arab unity and development in the Arab region. It came to deplete the wealth of the Arabs by making them stockpile weapons in countries that do not fight at all but spend billions on buying aircraft.

It was, at least, a novel account of the crafty objectives that really drove Zionism. El-Arian, it should be noted, is a senior adviser to Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, whose rapidly progressing Islamist takeover of the country has been characterized by some, including the Obama administration, as a flowering of democracy.

Meanwhile Washington Post columnist Jim Hoagland quotes a French diplomat who told him that “Iran has responded to the toughening of sanctions by speeding up its work on a bomb, not slowing it down…. We now have only a relatively few months to act before Iran’s nuclear effort becomes irreversible.”

The diplomat told Hoagland that the West should make Tehran a final offer and, if rejected, the only remaining alternative would be “an American-led military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability at some point in 2013.”

Whether or not Obama has any such intention is a matter of speculation; his former adviser Dennis Ross insists that he does, while John Bolton dismisses the possibility.

For Israel the issue is one of continuing to thrive or facing a sworn genocidal enemy with nuclear weapons. The overarching question for 2013 is whether Israel will have to resolve that issue by itself.

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  • Mladen Andrijasevic

    "Islamist takeover of the country has been characterized by some, including the Obama administration, as a flowering of democracy."

    Two years on – who was right on the Egyptian crisis?

    • Arlie

      Israel was right and I pray they keep the faith STRONG. Israel is the last best change for anything resembling a sane humanity to survive. G-d Blesses Israel and I can see why. They try harder and better to keep to truth in the face of evil they proceed…that is true faith and Glory to G-d our Creator.

      • Asher

        God Granted Israel their land and the right to exist…hope they stay strong in their committment to Hashem..We will keep helping the settlements in Judea and Samaria as long as we are on this earth.

        • JacksonPearson

          Scripturally, God will be there in the end for Israel. Presently, for such a tiny Middle East nation, their success has been driving the Islamists nuts.

    • EarlyBird

      Israel can defend herself against th "new" Egypt. Let the Egyptians go through their growing pains. They could not be kept under Mubarak's (read American's) thumbs anymore. The top exploded off of the pressure cooker and there was no way to put it back.

      We don't have a clue how Egypt will ultimately turn out. This is still very much the beginning. We only know that they have to go through this unrest, and ultimately reject the Islamists too, to move forward as a healthy nation which isn't obsessed with it's Israeli "enemy."

    • Ghostwriter

      Well,EarlyBird,one need only look to Iran to see how this story will turn out. But I don't think you read too much history anyway.

  • Shalom Freedman

    This is an excellent upbeat presentation of Israeli accomplishment. It is important that such articles appear simply because there is so much,most often unjustified, that is negative written about Israel.

  • Marty

    The fact that Israel has achieved sustainable prosperity is one of the primary reasons islamic states desire its termination. Millions of energetic and innovative Jews living in a flourishing democracy and a relatively free market economy can only be despised by muslims who expect the rest of the world to provide for them while they burn tires in Paris, slaughter one another in syria, and reside in the worst hellholes on the planet. Too bad for them. They will never leave their medieval mindset until or unless they finally rid themselves of the totalitarian and brutality of islamic ideology.

    • Dr. John

      Well said!

  • Yusuf

    Modern Israel is a strange place where old, new and God intersect. The economy is strong in general. However most ultra Orthodox Jews or Chareidim chose to not participate in modern Israeli life and self-ghetoize in neighborhoods that reinforce an 1870's East European dress, limited secular education level, and overall narrow minded world outlook. .Many young Chareidim are questioning this backwards and maladoptive outlook and beginning to participate in mainstream life and join the army. Chareidim can provide a reservior of bright, eager

  • Ghostwriter

    I know this. The Israelis are pro-American,unlike their neighbors,many of whom want to destroy us.

  • Jozy

    Islam will not prevail. Stay strong, Israel.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    "My life must have been a great success, look at how many people came to my funeral"?
    If I was the leader of Israel no nation in it's right mind would attack and as psychiatrist to
    the World I would isolate and nuter every nut in the roundabout while telling everyone not
    to worry, it will only hurt for a little while…………………………Williiam

  • Parenthetical Phrase

    The Muslim Brotherhood is not the only entitiy which believes Israel will not survive. Henry Kissinger, the German born Jew brought to this country when his fellow Jews were dying by the millions stated somewhat recently and with no sense of sorrow, "There will be no more Israel in 10 years." What an ungrateful pig. This is a man who brought with him all the anti-Semitic garbage he unfortunately was allowed to escape from and has spent his American career sticking it to those from whom he so desperately wants to separate.