Author's Own Story
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|Mitchel Bard||January 11th 2008|
I gave my new book the provocative title “Will Israel Survive?” because Israel faces so many challenges today that it is a legitimate question. In fact, a little more than a year ago, nearly one-fourth of Israelis said they were not certain if Israel would exist in the long run and 54% feared for the existence of the state.
Israelis have good reason to be concerned. Consider the threat of Islamic jihadism that appears to be gaining strength along its borders following the Hamas takeover of Gaza, and also the war with Hezbollah. Radical Islamists cannot accept Jews ruling over Muslims or any territory that belongs to the past or perceived future Islamic empires. They will wage war so long as Israel exists so it does not matter where the borders are drawn.
Israel can live with terrorism, but what happens if Iran acquires a nuclear bomb? Can Israel risk the threat of annihilation? If not, what can it do? Should it rely on the international community or the United States to prevent Iran from acquiring the bomb or deterring it from using one? Does it have the capability to act unilaterally to stop Iran and what are the consequences of a military strike?
Israel can decide how to react to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it can do much less about the demographic bomb. The Palestinian Arab birth rate is double that of the Jews, which means that the Jewish majority in Israel is slowly declining. Today, it is 76%, by 2025 it is expected to drop to 70%, which means Israeli Arabs will have greater political clout. If Israel were to keep the West Bank, the situation would be even worse, with projections suggesting the Jews could become a minority in less than 15 years. The demographic reality prompted the disengagement from Gaza and ultimately will lead to a withdrawal from the West Bank. The Gaza experience showed however that reducing the demographic threat does not mean Israel will not face other dangers when it gives up territory.
One largely overlooked threat to Israel’s survival is the need for water. As Israel’s population grows and its economy prospers, the need for water also expands. Roughly 50% of its water supply could be threatened by territorial compromises. One quarter of Israel’s water comes from mountain aquifers that lie in areas of the West Bank that may be controlled in the future by the Palestinians. Similarly, if Israel were to withdraw from the Golan Heights, another quarter of its supply provided by the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) would be endangered. Neither the Palestinians nor the Syrians have to take hostile steps to threaten Israel’s fresh water. Overpumping, pollution and other civilian activities unrelated to enmity toward Israel could severely affect the availability of water in Israel.
Another threat to Israel’s existence would be abandonment by the United States. How will support for Israel be affected, for example, as the face of Congress changes with increasing representation by Hispanics? What if the Jimmy Carter school of thought becomes more prevalent? Imagine how the United Nations would treat Israel without the threat of an American veto.
My book deals with these and other dangers that Israel faces and argues that they can be overcome. After all, the history of the Jewish people is a story of survival. It took more than 2,000 years for the Jews to regain power in their homeland, but Israel is now a prosperous nation of more than seven million citizens, while the mighty Assyrians, Babylonians and other ancient powers that once dominated the region have been relegated to an illustrious dustbin of history.
For people of faith, Israel will survive because that is God’s will. I believe that Israel will endure because of the strength of its people, the support of Diaspora Jewry and the belief of non-Jewish friends that the Jewish people are entitled to a state in their homeland. Even though my book outlines great obstacles, I am confident Israel will also achieve peace, perhaps not the perfect peace we all hope for, but the treaties with Egypt and Jordan have proved coexistence is possible.
Will Israel Survive? Ask me again in a hundred years.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is the Director of the Jewish Virtual Library and author of the recently released book Will Israel Survive? (Palgrave 2007).