As Israel celebrates its 70th birthday as a state, it still faces many challenges to its very existence, and is in many ways still defining it. Of course, in historical terms, Israel is still a very young country, and it is totally understandable that she is still experiencing growing pains. On reflection of this momentous occasion, our sentiments for Israel at this juncture are mixed. We are feeling great pride and inspired hope in Israel’s extraordinary accomplishments and achievements in science, technology, medicine, agriculture, counter-terrorism, and economic prowess, but at the same time there is grave concern and fear that circumstances beyond its control could jeopardize its future.
It has been a long and arduous trek for Israel to reach 70. Wars, terrorist attacks, anti-Semitism, religious pluralism, BDS, and world disdain are but a few of the challenges Israel has had to face, and still faces. Now add to the equation Iran and its nuclear intentions to annihilate her, as well as the disturbing recent developments in Syria.
President Trump has become a ray of hope for Israel, who depends on US friendship and military support to continue its superior position in the region. Prime Minister Netanyahu has expressed publicly his gratitude to our president (compared to the position of the previous one) for his appreciation of Israel’s predicament and the knowledge that he values Israel’s place in the world and recognizes how important she is as an ally. As the Middle East becomes more volatile – especially in Syria, with reports of the killing of hundreds through the use of chemical weapons so close to Israel’s border – Israel has been drawn into the conflict to ensure security and protection of its people living in such close proximity to the atrocity. If Bashar Assad is willing to gas his own people, including women and children, without any compunction, one can only image what he would do to his sworn enemy, Israel.
Democrats are more than four times
as likely than Republicans to say that they sympathize more
with the Palestinians than with Israel
Many argue that US financial and military aid is what allows the Jewish state to maintain a qualitative edge over its enemies and deters existential threats. But the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be a bone of contention. The United States government has continually claimed unjustifiably that if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could be resolved peacefully, the entire Middle East would be a harmonious place. Although it would be a wonderful thing, it is absolute folly to believe that it would reduce hostility between the Arab countries. Despite the initiatives of President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, the “peace process” is still moribund and should cease to be the obsession that America has had since the Six-Day War. As Prime Minister Netanyahu has stated, “Israel has no partner in the peace process.” Mahmoud Abbas and company have no real interest in negotiating. They seem to be playing for time.
The pro-Arab factions are deluding themselves if they think for one minute that the Arab nations with their tumultuous radicalism can be depended upon in the clutch. Palestinian propaganda has resonated among the liberals in this country who feel empathy for what is described as the Palestinians living in “occupied territory” with no rights. Consequently, support for the Palestinians has been growing in America.
According to a recent survey, Democrats are more than four times as likely than Republicans to say that they sympathize more with the Palestinians than with Israel. The Democrats seem to be less in favor of Israel than either Republicans or independents. It shows the “widest-ever gap” between the major political parties on this issue. The positive feelings towards the Arabs come primarily from the younger adults. 27% of the millennials support the Palestinians; 61% of Democrats, as a whole, believe that a two-state solution is possible and that a Palestinian state can co-exist peacefully with Israel as opposed to 38% of Republicans, who seem to have a better understanding of the situation.
Israel at 70 is at an important juncture. It must build partnerships with regional and international entities to suppress Iran’s ambitions to increase its influence and control the entire area, as well as the antics of its sycophant Syria, who does nothing without Iran’s approval. Let’s hope and pray that this birthday will positively change the tide and pave the way for Israel to become truly peaceful and free of hostilities from its neighboring states.
Happy birthday, Israel! Many happy returns!
Cynthia Zalisky is the Executive Director of the Queens Jewish Community. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org