Israel at a Turning Point

The news today about Israel is often negative. While 135 nations have recognized a Palestinian state, the PLO has gained admission to the International Criminal Court where it wants Israel to be found guilty of war crimes in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A recent study found that the State Department has cited Israel as the #4 state in the world for "unacceptable behavior." Already one of the most hated countries in the world, Israel faces a new wave of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe and is surrounded by radical Islamic fundamentalist groups including Hamas (Gaza), Hizbollah (Lebanon), ISIS (Syria and Iraq) and Al Nusra (former Syrian Golan Heights).

The threat to Israel is at a level not seen since 1948 and 1967. The highest level of existential threat is posed by Iran and a "soft" nuclear deal that would leave it on the threshold of having nuclear weapons. With most Israelis living in 3,400 square miles, only two atomic bombs could kill nearly one million Israelis. Iranian bases, 700 miles from Israel, would need only 11 minutes to fire missiles that could hit Tel Aviv.

The second moderate level of threat is the 100,000 missiles and rockets that Hizbollah possesses in Lebanon. Several thousand rockets could hit any target in Israel with more accuracy than Hamas' weapons. In war Ben Gurion International Airport would likely be shut down, thousands of Israelis might be killed and Hizbollah might try an invasion of the northern Galilee.

The lowest level of threat would come from the radical Islamic groups near Israel's border who could kill dozens or hundreds of Israelis.

Yet, perhaps surprisingly, there has also been much positive news about Israel. This year 15,000 French Jews are likely moving to Israel and 50,000 could come in the next five years. In a region lacking any Arab democratic states, Israel is holding its 20th democratic election since its founding in 1948.

Egypt has closed 80% of its tunnels with Hamas-ruled Gaza. General Al Sisi has called for a "religious revolution" among Moslems and repeatedly ordered attacks on 2,000 jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula. The Syrian civil war has driven one million Sunnis into Lebanon, thereby decreasing the power of Shiite Hizbollah already mired down in fighting in Syria. The Syrian civil war has lessened any Syrian threat as the country has fractured into feuding Alawite, Kurdish and radical jihadist areas. Saudi Arabia and the UAE see Israel as a counterweight to Shiite Iran. The Saudi cleric, Iyad Madani, Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, just paid an unprecedented visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jordan has turned even closer to Israel from fear of ISIS.

Israel has developed strong relations with three BRIC countries. India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to develop closer relations with Israel, especially in the development and military arenas. Sino-Israeli trade is moving towards 10 billion dollars. Russian President Vladimir Putin recently denounced anti-Semitism and compared the importance of Crimea to Russians to the Temple Mount's importance to Moslems and Jews.

Despite its small size, Israel has emerged as a top 5 high tech nation in the world with over 20 billion dollars of high tech exports. A MIT-Skolkovo study found Technion to be sixth among 120 universities in high tech entrepreneurship and innovation. The Global Cleantech Index named Israel as the #1 innovator globally in clean technology. The United States (Roosevelt Island), Russia (Skolkovo) and China (Shantou) have asked Israel and Technion to partner in developing hi-tech zones and universities. Tel Aviv is #2, after Silicon Valley, as the best place in the world to bring out a start-up in high tech.

Israel exports seven billion dollars of weapons a year. This provides futuristic defense systems ranging from the relatively simple Iron Dome to the highly complex Arrow 3 anti-missile system under development. Its military intelligence, as seen by its successful attack on Hizbollah leaders in Syria this week, is excellent.

Even unexpected events -- the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Israel and the massive fall of oil prices costing the Iranians tens of billions of dollars -- show there is hope for Israel. Israel today faces great dangers -- and also great opportunities.