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2010 Annual Assessment

  1. The Arab Israel Conflict
    1. Breakdown of direct talks between Israel and Palestinian Authority in September 2010.
    2. Palestinian appeal to the international community to recognize Palestinian state within borders of June 4, 1967. This course of action represents a Palestinian move away from bi-lateral negotiations conducted between Israel and the Palestinians in favor of a solution imposed from outside.
    3. Publication by Al Jazeera of papers concerning the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations of 2006-2007 demonstrates the seriousness of negotiations during the Olmert administration. Publication was conceived as an attempt to damage, by the Palestinian opposition, Mahmud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. The papers also show that despite the progress that was made in the negotiations, disparities still remained between the two sides.
  2. The Campaign to de-legitimize Israel
  3. The Gaza Flotilla incident along with the Goldstone Report gives new impetus to de-legitimization campaign against Israel. This campaign goes way beyond the immediate parameters of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It involves numerous geographical locations and many arenas, including legal and economic attacks (Boycott, Disinvestment, Sanctions). Potentially, it could develop into a serious strategic threat for Israel.

    Policy Directions

    The de-legitimization phenomenon, which aims to challenge/subvert the Jewish people’s right to sovereignty in the Middle East, is damaging not only to Israel but also to Jewish identification, the support of friends of the Jewish people, and the Israel-Diaspora relationship. Israel and the Jewish people should develop a comprehensive strategy vis-à-vis this phenomenon, as well as establish networks and collaborations among the plethora of bodies involved in this area. The Israeli government should re-examine its policies in order to locate elements which facilitate the de-legitimization of Israel, and consider revising such elements.
    Better use should be made of actively Israel-attached young adults (the “New Zionists”) who have knowledge and experience in global civil society, in combating Israel’s de-legitimization. Younger elements especially should be encouraged to take a larger role in combating de-legitimization because of their expertise in social media.

  4. The Middle Eastern Regional Complex
    1. Popular uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In Egypt the military takes over and confirms adherence to all international treaties and obligations, including Peace Agreement with Israel. Arab youth demonstrates commitment to democratic values and ability to utilize information technology and social media. These new developments challenge the stability of Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen and Syria, and perhaps encourage the opposition in Iran.
    2. These developments signify the potential for significant change in the region. “There [is] … a pervasive sense that a shared system of poor governance by one party, one family or one clique of military officers backed by brutal secret police was collapsing.”2 Israel could benefit from the democratization of Arab countries in the long run; however, in the short term, the expression of popular sentiment could lead to the crystallization of negative policies towards Israel, especially if it leads to the adoption of an Islamist direction by Arab regimes.

    3. Policy Directions

      Following the civilian uprising in Egypt and the ongoing upheavals in other Arab countries. Israel and the Jewish people must prepare for a new Middle-Eastern reality, which embodies both threats and opportunities. The considerations made heretofore regarding various strategic issues must be re-examined and updated in light of the changing reality: the relationship with Egypt, the connection with the US, the peace process, Hamas, Turkey, and more.

    4. Iran continues to make progress towards acquiring nuclear weapons despite the stuxnet worm and attacks on major nuclear scientists. Planned US withdrawal in Iraq leaves Iran with enhanced power in the Persian Gulf while asserting its influence in Lebanon and other parts of the region.
    5. Turkey emerges as a regional influential power. It adopts a new Islamic and Middle Eastern orientation which entails increased coldness and even hostility toward Israel.
  5. The Global Arena
    1. Continued perceived erosion of American power and international standing. The US emerges slowly from Great Recession but still with high unemployment and record budget deficit.
    2. Rise of China and new Chinese assertiveness in economic, foreign policy and military arenas. India also enjoys growing political and economic clout in the regional and international arenas. China and India have increased their presence and importance in the Middle East. Increased economic and political importance of other emerging market states – Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia etc.

    3. Policy Directions

      Israel and the Jewish people should reach out to Asia, focusing on cultural policies and information exchanges, science and technology policies, Judaism and Israel studies in Asia, Asian studies in Israel and more. Israel and world Jewry can and should find ways to help Asia’s rising powers to address their most urgent challenges, including, in particular, energy security, fighting poverty and rural development.
      Israel and the the Jewish people should monitor closely such countries as Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia which are gaining economic and political importance. The Jewish people (including the State of Israel) should devote resources to empowering the Jewish communities of these countries to become bridges to the surrounding societies and governments and centers of local influence.

    4. Beginnings of cultural backlash against multi-culturalism in Europe. Electoral success of right-wing parties in various European countries. Sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone. Rise of economic nationalism alongside attempts to strengthen the Eurozone and its unity.
  6. Political Developments: Washington – Jerusalem – American Jewish Community Triangle
    • Despite efforts by both Washington and Jerusalem to reach an understanding in light of the mid-term congressional elections and the problems of the coalition in Israel, the challenges facing the triangular relationship remain. The American response to the upheaval in Egypt, symbolized by the “cold shoulder” shown to Mubarak, has been a matter of concern to other allies in the Middle East. Yet the new situation may also empower new reformists and progressive regimes and reinforce mutual interests between Israel and the United States which may draw them closer. As such, it is a primary interest of Israel and the Jewish people globally that the status of the US as the leading superpower doesn’t erode.
      Past experience shows that cultural values, democracy, and common interests of Israel and the United States eventually overcome controversies and even severe crises. The most recent events require intensifying efforts to achieve strategic cooperation and coordination between the United States, Israel, and the Jewish community.

      Policy Directions

    • The challenges facing Israel in light of regional changes require its leadership to make a decision as to its direction, to confront the challenge of preserving its Jewish character, take the initiative in areas that require urgent intervention, and be alert to other arenas in order to adapt policy accordingly.
    • Every possible effort should be made to prevent the Middle East conflict from becoming a point of contention between the Republican and Democratic parties in the United States, and to remove Israel and the Jewish community from the American, internal political debate.
    • The concern of a possible erosion in US international status on one hand, and the general support that Israel and the Jewish people enjoy in North American public
      opinion on the other hand, require a continuous effort to reinforce the strength and economic power of the US. Israel and the North American Jewish community should make every effort to strengthen their ally.
    • Israel should be conscious of American global interests without diminishing its own critical security requirements on one hand, and on the other, it should consider a “Buy American” campaign that encourages, for example, purchasing American cars by Israelis and for the fleets of the State of Israel and the IDF and promoting the import and use of US goods and services.
    • With former President Katsav’s conviction, indictments of other leaders and measures taken against other senior figures, Israel may be parting ways with the attempt to grant legitimacy to the improper conduct of public figures. This is the beginning of a welcome process that may eventually improve trust of the young Jewish generation globally and contribute to strengthening the ties between Israel and the Diaspora. This process should be encouraged.
    • The de-legitimization phenomenon aiming to subvert the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty in the Middle East harms not only Israel but also Jewish affiliation, support of friends of the Jewish people, and Israel-Diaspora relations. This phenomenon requires a comprehensive evaluation and treatment in various arenas to minimize damage.
    • Despite the erosion of the standing of new Jewish organizations that attempted to establish a lobby in opposition to the Jewish American establishment and Israel, there is a continuing trend among the young, American generation to organize independently to promote agendas, unrelated to the establishment or Israel. Against this background, Jewish organizations must make a special effort to open their ranks to the young and encourage them to assume key roles in the community. Israel, for its part, must use its resources to increase its investment in the future of the young generation, in education and in expanding the frameworks shared by Israel and the Diaspora.
  7. New initiatives in Israel relating to religion and politics
    1. 1. New conversion law sponsored by Yisrael Beiteinu threatened to place all conversion under the sole control of the Chief Rabbinate. The threat of severe opposition and alienation by American Jewry caused Prime Minister Netanyahu to shelve the law.
      2. Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef confirmed the validity of IDF conversions, then retreated somewhat in the face of severe Ashkenazic Haredi opposition. Yisrael Beiteinu sponsors law recognizing IDF conversions. Shas and Yahadut HaTorah oppose the law.
      3. M.K. Rabbi Chaim Amsalem split from the Shas party. Amsalem’s move could represent the first step in the growth and consolidation of a [Sephardic] Haredi inclusive-pragmatic approach to Halacha and Jewish tradition.
      4. The arrest of a leading member of Women of the Wall also caused severe criticism by many American Jews.
    2. Emergence of illiberal religious and political initiatives in Israel such as the proposal of parliamentary investigation of human rights groups; the initiative regarding loyalty oaths for non-Jews who apply for citizenship; rabbinic prohibition on renting apartments to Arabs and the expulsion of the children of foreign workers; immunity from prosecution according to the Law against Incitement to rabbis claiming to rely on the halacha. Some American Jewish liberals claim that these developments are making Israel into an anti-democratic obscurantist religious ethno-state which is harder to identify with or defend. Support for such initiatives seems to come, at least in part, from widespread insecurity regarding Israel’s identity as a Jewish State due to de-legitimization and post-Zionism.
    3. The recent wave of corruption scandals damages Israel’s image among non-Jews and Jews alike. At the same time, Israel’s ability to deal with these scandals judicially and administratively potentially strengthens its image as a society which strongly adheres to the rule of law.

    Policy Directions

    Israeli policy makers and legislators should take into consideration the effect of illiberal legislation, which casts Israel in undemocratic light, upon the image of Israel in the eyes of Diaspora Jews and Israel supporters abroad. They should also realize that such steps add fuel to the de-legitimatization campaign.
    The Israeli government should consider canceling its decision to expel 400 children of foreign workers who were born and are educated in Israel.
    Israel should strengthen internally its self-identity as both a Jewish and democratic state. In its expanded civics program for students it should stress that national identity and being a nation-state does not contradict democratic and liberal values but rather fulfills them.

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