Update on Israel: Three Key Areas to Watch in the Months Ahead
“In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.” — Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, 1956
Israel is an ongoing miracle. Its birth was miraculous — facilitated as it was in the aftermaths of two world wars and humanity’s collective horror at the realities of the Holocaust.
Its survival these last 66 years is miraculous as well. Against incalculable odds, this tiny island of Western Civilization set in a sea of hostile Arab states and Islamic extremism has emerged victorious from four wars, two intifadas and persistent global hostility — all the while prospering economically and culturally.
As a frequent visitor to Israel with many close contacts in the country, I am often asked by our friends and partners about the latest developments there. They want to know how the little but mighty nation is doing. In the paragraphs that follow, I offer a brief overview of my answer to this question — touching on three key areas that hold challenges, opportunities, or threats for Israel in the immediate days ahead.
The recent apparent reconciliation of Hamas and Fatah in the Palestinian Territories — if it holds—represents a major shift in the strategic and diplomatic equation in Israel. It completely derailed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to broker some sort of agreement between Israel and Palestinians that would lead to the ever-elusive “two-state solution.”
This collapse of the so-called peace process resulted from the April announcement that the ruling Palestinian Fatah Party was reconciling with its bitter rival, the terrorist organization Hamas, and was planning to form a unified government.
Israel will not negotiate with the extremist terror group, Hamas. It would be pointless and suicidal to do so.
Another area of concern for Israel includes the ongoing civil war in Syria, which has become a magnet for jihadists from throughout the Islamic world.
For months now, a horrific civil war has engulfed Syria on Israel’s northeastern border — leaving countless Syrian civilian casualties in its wake. What is not widely understood is that this bloody conflict is essentially a war-by-proxy between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.
The Sunni rebels fighting to overthrow the Assad regime have attracted thousands of jihadi fighters from points across the globe, including the United States. At the same time, Western intelligence sources report that roughly 10,000 foreign Shia fighters are currently operating in support of the Assad regime.
This build up of zealous, militarized fighters in Syria has coincided with a series of escalating attacks and incidents along Israel’s border with Syria in the Golan Heights in recent months.
Most troubling of all is the emerging nuclear threat posed by Iran. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly and emphatically stated that Israel will not allow Iran to acquire the capacity to produce a nuclear weapon. You can be sure that he means what he says.
Israel continues to be a hotbed of innovation and development in the area of technology. According to the Wall Street Journal, Israeli technology companies fetched $6.6 billion in acquisitions and initial public offerings last year and startups raised $2.3 billion in venture funding — a ten-year high.
At only 5.4 percent, the unemployment rate in Israel is far below that of other Western democracies. But the country faces severe challenges in elevating the poorest of its citizens, particularly Jewish immigrants from places like Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union and new olim (immigrants) from the Bnei Menashe community of Manipur, India.
The biggest threat to this story of progress and prosperity is the growing “BDS Movement.” BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and it is a worldwide effort to isolate, marginalize, ostracize, and delegitimize Israel as a nation-state.
The primary strategy of the movement is to pressure institutions to stop investing in Israeli companies or companies with a significant Israeli presence, and to encourage consumer boycotts of such companies’ products. Sadly, the nearly two million-member Presbyterian U.S.A. denomination in the United States just decided to adopt this anti-Israel policy.
Earlier this year, the entire economy of Israel was targeted for Internet attacks by hacker groups like “Anonymous” on a designated day.
Finding oil or natural gas within Israel’s sovereign territory has long been a dream of Israeli people. But until very recently, it was only a dream.
Former Prime Minister Golda Meir famously quipped, “Let me tell you something we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!”
Recently, significant natural gas fields have been discovered in Israel’s territorial waters in the Mediterranean. Today, Israel’s known gas reserves are 30 trillion cubic feet (tcf), and the United States Geological Survey says there’s at least twice that amount still to be discovered in Israeli waters. That exceeds Israel’s energy needs for the next 30 to 50 years. Moreover, the USGS predicts there are 1.7 billion barrels of oil and gas in the basins as well.
My good friend John Brown, founder and CEO of Zion Oil and Gas, Inc. has been drilling for oil in the Jezreel Valley (near the area known as Armageddon) for several years now and is confident they are close to discovering a huge oil reserve deep under the earth’s surface that may be larger than any known in the Middle East, including Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The new energy industry holds the potential to revolutionize Israel’s economy, as well as provide the country with greater strategic and political clout.
Here at Jewish Voice, we will continue to monitor developments in Israel and interpret them in the clear light of prophetic Scripture. We also partner with dozens of ministries in the Land that are reaching out with the Good News and providing for those in need. Your partnership with us means you are playing a role in this.
And, of course, we will continue to encourage all Believers to “pray regularly for the peace of Jerusalem,” remembering that God promises, “they shall prosper who love thee” (Psalm 122:6 KJV).