For Israel, 2019 will bring great achievements but also great disappointments.
The achievements will include: continued growth of Israel’s innovation economy; increased tourism; and development of a broad range of new inventions, along with drugs and devices to help people deal with many severe health issues.
The disappointments will include: continued Iranian-induced terrorist attacks; endless hostility from the halls of the United Nations and the European Parliament; and the continued boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that wages asymmetrical economic and cultural warfare on Israel and seeks to demonize, isolate and ultimately eliminate the Jewish state.
President Trump and his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner are working hard to come up with a peace plan acceptable to the Palestinians and Israelis. But unfortunately, they are taking on an impossible task.
Israel is readying for new elections at a time of political upheaval. The Palestinian Authority is run by an aging, corrupt, unrepresentative leadership unwilling to make any compromises to achieve peace and more interested in holding onto power than the welfare of the Palestinian people.
Make no mistake. Israelis yearn for the day when their 18-year-olds no longer have to devote two years of their lives to military service in harm’s way. They want to live in peace with their Arab neighbors.
In fact, Israel today provides its Arab citizens – who comprise nearly 20 percent of the nation’s population – with more rights and a higher living standard than are enjoyed in Arab nations.
But continuing terrorism at Israel’s southern and northern borders and on the West Bank forces Israel to take significant security precautions, as any nation must when faced with serious threats.
President Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is holding out for impossible demands in any peace treaty, including the “right of return” for all Palestinians who left Israel when the Jewish state was created in 1948 – plus all their millions of descendants.
No Israeli government will ever accept the “right of return” poison pill that would create an Arab majority overnight. This would spell the end of the lone Jewish state in the world and the lone true democracy in the Middle East – where it is surrounded by 22 Arab states many times its size and with far larger populations.
Israel, about the size of New Jersey, has a population of only 8.9 million – about the same number of people as New York City. The U.N. reports the population of Arab nations is 359 million – larger than the population of the United States.
The Palestinian Authority demands the return of every square inch of territory Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War. That would leave Israel with what the late Foreign Minister Abba Eban called indefensible “Auschwitz borders” and without much of its historic 3,000-year-old capital of Jerusalem and its holiest sites in the eastern part of the city.
The Hamas and Islamic Jihad Palestinian terrorist groups and their patron state Iran go even further, calling for Israel’s destruction through violence and terrorism.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas operate with a school curriculum that won’t even use the word Israel and teaches children to venerate terrorists and hate Jews. The goal is clear: infect Palestinian children from the earliest age with virulent anti-Semitism so they will grow up to hate Israel and Jews for the rest of their lives.
As a result, there will be no peace breakthrough with the Palestinians in 2019 or likely during the rest of President Trump’s time in the White House, no matter how innovative the president’s peace plan may be.
The central issue preventing Palestinians from making peace it not about money. It’s not even so much about borders. It’s about psychology.
Palestinians – even those who claim to want to live in peace side-by-side with Israel – are opposed to the very concept of a Jewish state. But Jews, inspired by a vision of a return to Zion, founded Israel specifically to be a Jewish state.
Israel was created as a refuge for Jews fleeing anti-Semitism and genocide, and designed as a modern democracy – protecting the rights of all – in the ancient homeland of the Jewish people.
In the year ahead, expect that the continuous Iranian threats to drive greater cooperation between Gulf Arab States and Israel. This could lead one or more of the Gulf nations to finally recognize Israel 70 years after its creation.
Having personally met Bahrain’s King Hamad and hosted two dozen Bahrain interfaith leaders in Jerusalem, my bet, hope and prayer is that the king will lead the way in normalizing relations with Israel.
Other Arab states will follow and so eventually will a new generation of Palestinian leaders – but don’t look for that to happen anytime soon.
Not only does peace seem to be a distant dream. Israel’s raucous political battles have yielded a December surprise that’s not a happy one: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the end of his coalition government and said snap elections will be held in April.
So is the Jewish state, a failing state? Quite the contrary. Indeed, there must be other aspects of Israel’s 2018 that help explain why 89 percent of its 8.9 million citizens have reported that they are happy with their lives.
Here’s some good news about Israel you rarely hear or read about in the U.S. and international media:
First, Israel actually experienced a huge increase in global tourism this year, led by Asia. More than 4 million tourists have visited Israel this year, an increase of 38 percent in the past two years.
Whatever tourists may have been hearing from biased media, there is nothing like experiencing the only Middle East democracy and its holy sites firsthand to debunk the Big Lie that Israel is an “apartheid state.”
Nowhere was the tourist boom more in evidence than Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital. This came as President Trump was true to his word and announced that the United States was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The actual move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem took place in business-like (not diplomatic) speed and I was honored to witness the opening of the embassy on May 14.
Secondly, the “I” in Israel really does stand for innovation. Despite the fact that young Israelis have to serve in the Israel Defense Forces and can be called up for duty in the military reserves for decades – and despite the barbs, hatred, and violence flung their way – Israelis are committed to making a difference in ways that are impacting lives of friends and enemies the world over.
Here’s a tiny sample of the world-changing innovations that emerged from Israel this year:
- To help address how the planet can feed its exploding population: the world’s first 3D- printed vegan steak
- Research to create tissue implants of any kind by using patient’s own cells.
- A new tool to better assess pain that patients experience in hospital intensive care units.
- A new device to detect problems in lesions before cancer develops.
- Promising research on the inner ear that could help address hearing loss.
- And a hoped-for out-of-this world achievement this spring: Israel is expected to land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon in April.
We can all expect to see more spectacular innovation from Israel that will improve our economies, our lives, our health and our iPhones in the near future.
And we can only hope and pray that someday, when the aging Palestinian leaders are no longer in power, a new generation of Palestinian leaders will realize their people are better off cooperating with Israel and living in peace.
Palestinians should stop entrusting their children to corrupt leaders who reward young people not for innovation and education, but for murdering Jews – ensuring a never-ending conflict.
It’s unfortunate that this will not happen in 2019 – unless the Messiah himself intervenes.
To hasten real change on the ground in the new year, nations like Germany, France, and Japan should follow President Trump’s lead by snapping shut their checkbooks to the Palestinians unless the Palestinians can prove that “humanitarian aid” doesn’t go to build terror tunnels or financially reward families whose sons murder and main Jews.
The challenges of 2018 will carry over to 2019 for Israel, but the achievements of the Jewish state will carry over as well. Whatever happens, the strong ties between Israel and the United States are sure to survive, benefitting both nations.