The top factors inspiring optimism.
With the holidays behind us, and the elections, I do have some good news to report about Israel.
No doubt, this is shocking to you.
Only recently, the Palestinian Bureau of Statistics issued its usual press release about how, in 2020, if the current trends persist, the number of Palestinian Arabs will outnumber the number of Israeli Jews (but only if you include Gaza, land which virtually no Israelis are interested in recovering). Of course, this headline is meant to scare Israelis, and the West especially, into restarting the “Palestinian Arab-Israeli Peace Process” by encouraging new pressure on Israel to make concessions to those noted “moderates” in the Palestinian Authority. Not that this reset would be necessary, by the way, if the PA had not consistently refused to come back to the negotiating table since 2008 and not violated the prior peace process – the Oslo Accords – by getting the world community at the UN to recognize the non-nation(s) of “Palestine.”
Unfortunately for the Israel haters, though, time is no longer on their side. Consider these facts:
• The population of Israel is booming, in contrast to most Western nations, and even many countries in the Arab world. Meanwhile, Palestinian statistics consistently overstate their actual numbers by 1 million. I have already written about this here. One new point though – the current 66% Jewish majority in the area of the pre-1967 Israel, Judea and Samaria could actually increase to an 80% majority in 2035, if Jewish immigration increases from the former USSR, France, Britain, Argentina and the US. This is quite possible, in response to Israel’s positive economic indicators, the intensification of European anti-Semitism (largely because of growing Muslim populations), and the growth of Jewish-Zionist education.
• Israel’s economy is also booming. Israel’s 2009-2012 economic growth of 14.7% leads the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, ahead of Australia – 10.7%, Canada – 4.8%, US – 3.2%, Germany – 2.7%, France – 0.3%, Euro Bloc – 1.5% decline. Also, Israel’s unemployment rate edged down to 6.7% in November from 6.9% in October. Tourism numbers went up to an all-time high of 2.9 million tourists in 2012. Simultaneously, much of the civilized world is or seems about ready to sink into a recession. Also, unlike the US and many other nations, Israel does not have crushing debt and entitlement burdens. Meanwhile, few of the non-oil producing Arab nations are doing well economically.
• The “Arab Spring,” or more accurately, the “Arab Winter,” has demonstrated, pretty convincingly, that Israel is not the cause of all of the problems in the Middle East. Even an Arab writer in the Arab News has acknowledged this fact. It has even prompted the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt, whose leaders continue to spout disgusting anti-Semitism and eliminationist rhetoric, to refuse to stick their necks out for its “little terror brothers” in Hamas, especially when Egypt has so many non-Israel related problems.
• With the Syrian Assad regime in its death throes and Hezbollah worried about its position in Lebanon, Israel can focus on Iranian nukes without worrying about these Iranian allies. And, by the way, the Iranian Regime, while still very dangerous, has its own economic and population problems that could hobble its drive to world power.
• Related to the above, although Syrian Sunni Islamists are leading the charge against Assad and could gain power in Syria, they have a major problem to face – at least 40% of the nation’s population is made up of Alawite, Christian, Kurdish, Druze, and other non-Arab or non-Sunni minorities. Many of these minorities, including the Alawites, the Kurds, and the Druze are located in select areas of the country and have substantial amounts of weaponry, and in some cases, the protection of mountainous territory. In reality, while the Sunni Islamists may lead the ouster of Assad, the likely forecast for Syria in general is for a continuing civil war, which should distract its rather disorganized participants from picking a fight with Israel.
• Related to the above, the Kurdish peoples, perhaps one of the more pro-Israeli Muslim groups in the Middle East, have established their own quasi-states in Iraq and now Syria, and have become a force to reckon with wherever they live. They are a big threat to the Islamist government of Turkey, which is also facing its own economic problems and a decline in the birthrate of the native Turkish population. The Turkish Kurds, in contrast, are still growing demographically.
• Israel has discovered a vast amount of natural gas – and oil as well – off shore, which should make it energy independent soon, and might even make it a net exporter of energy. Beginning in 2009, discoveries were made in: 1) the Tamar field, with 8-9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas; 2) the Dalit field, with 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas; and 3) Leviathan, with 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Some estimate that Leviathan alone could provide Israel with all the natural gas it would need for the next 100 years. Also, Israel may have shale oil reserves totaling 250 billion barrels. Simultaneously, some of the oil producing Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, may be running low of their own oil supplies for export. Coupling these changes with the rising price of and demand for oil/gas, other energy discoveries in non-Arab/Muslim nations, and the advent of new technologies to extract energy supplies that have been developed in the West, a huge shift may occur in the field of energy, with Israel and the West gaining ground vis-à-vis the traditional Arab/Muslim OPEC Bloc. This, in turn, could lead to a reevaluation by many other nations of their relations with Israel. Money talks, as we all know.
• Continuing problems integrating its Muslim minorities into a secular society are prompting some Europeans to reevaluate their respective relations with the Arabs and the Israelis. Remember the old saying – the enemy of my enemy is my friend? This is indeed happening in Europe. Look at the new “Right” that is springing up all over Europe and is, in many cases, shockingly, pro-Israel. Geert Wilders is one prime example.
• The Palestinian leadership – in both the PA and Hamas – while being corrupt, undemocratic, and genocidal, is also just plain dumb. For example, a bad actor should be able to, and willing to, tell a lie to advance one’s overall position. Thus, when dealing with the West, it would behoove the Palestinian leadership to talk nice and seem reasonable, while secretly planning to murder the Israelis (and the Jews). Yet time after time, Palestinian leaders blurt out (see here) that they don’t want any sort of compromise with the Jewish state but want all the land, that the Jews have weak ties to the land, and that Palestinians (and other Arabs) must kill all of the Jews, including the women and children. They can’t seem to control their emotions, even when doing so would help them achieve their purposes. Such vicious stupidity is a huge weakness.
In the coming year, Israel does have some big challenges facing it, most especially dealing with the threat of Iranian nukes from a genocidal and desperate – for economic and religious reasons – regime. But, it also has a lot of positive factors coming into play that should help it weather the tide.
So, next time some opinionated anti-Zionist gives you a hard time about Israel, and your support of that nation’s desire to stay alive, I hope you quote some of the above listed positive factors to him. And be sure to smile. They really hate that.
Adam Turner serves as staff counsel to the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) and the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum. He is a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee where he focused on national security law. This column was originally written for EMET.
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