Through a web of events and developments, Israel finds itself at the nexus of unprecedented challenges both foreign and domestic. Rising instability in the West Bank brought a wave of Palestinian violence and terror attacks which left the highest number of casualties since the second Intifada and threatens an even more violent Ramadan season. On the Iran front, recent IAEA reports confirming traces of uranium enriched nearly to the weapon-grade level brings Israel and the entire region closer to the point at which Israel much act against Iran. Finally, the power struggle and political battle over the proposed judicial reform is proving to be grueling and scaring for Israelis at home and for Israel’s support base abroad. For those who care about the present and the future of the Jewish state, the time to support Israel is now.
The Palestinian terror wave in the West Bank seems to be far from over. Last year proved to be one of the most violent years since 2004 as there were over 5000 attacks against Israel in which 31 Israelis, most of whom were civilians, were killed. So far in 2023, 14 Israelis have been killed in tragic terrorist attacks. This wave of terrorism exposes the increasing instability and weakening of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its security system in the West Bank, a system on which Israel depends for security coordination. The growing frustrations of the Palestinian population with the Palestinian leadership comes at a time when many question the future of the leadership in the PA which might be on its way to collapse. Such conditions forced the IDF to initiate a series of urban operations in Palestinian cities aiming at preemptively eliminating terrorist threats. Last year’s operations left 150 Palestinians dead while this year so far left 62 dead, most of whom were members of terrorist organizations. The wave of violence and the IDF operations are approaching the month of Ramadan, an annual religious season known for its heightened tensions, which will begin in the last week of March. While the IDF operations managed to eliminate dozens of terrorist threats, it still came under significant international pressure insisting on scrutinizing Israeli security actions described as “unilateral security measures” threatening the stability of the area.
The rising tensions in the West Bank and the fears of what Ramadan might bring are what led Jordan and the US to host both Israeli and Palestinian officials earlier this week in a meeting in the Jordanian resort town of Aqaba. The meeting, which was joined by Egypt, aimed at easing tensions and avoiding any potential escalation in the coming Ramadan. The meeting concluded with an agreement between both parties to work together to ease the tensions and provide some quality-of-life improvements to West Bank Palestinians. But the security aspect of the meeting, which concluded with an Israeli commitment to limit IDF entry to Palestinian cities and a Palestinian pledge to increase PA security operations, raises many doubts. Such an arrangement presupposes the PA has the capacity to establish its own security parameters and conduct successful security operations capable of halting the terror wave. The current condition of the PA, its internal weakening, financial corruption, old leadership, and lack of Palestinian trust in PA officials leave its capabilities to control tensions significantly limited. This could, and likely will, lead to a continuation of IDF operations, casting doubt on the ability of the PA to eliminate threats, after which, undoubtedly, Israel will be accused of not honoring the Aqaba agreement.
The events which took place in Hawara are an indication that security issues are further getting out of control in the West Bank. On Sunday and following the murder of two Israeli brothers at the hands of a Palestinian gunman from Hawara, groups of angry settlers rampaged through the town seeking revenge. The unrest left one Palestinian killed and significant property damage. This incident constitutes a worrying milestone in the current escalatory trajectory of security events. An outbreak of settlers’ violence is going to significantly increase the burden on the IDF in its efforts to restore calm and may prove to be an overstretch of its threat-management abilities, as well as increasing the political pressures both domestically and internationally. This sort of horrific behavior will only serve to further alienate the international community against the state of Israel, and the perpetrators have to be identified and punished to the full extent of the law.
Internationally, the region seems to be inching closer to an inevitable confrontation with the Iranian regime. Recent reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that near-bomb level enriched uranium particles, at the 83.7% level, were found in the Iranian nuclear facility of Fordow. This is less than 7% short of the 90% enrichment needed to make nuclear bombs. In addition to this, Iran’s stockpile of 60% enriched uranium has nearly tripled in the last year reaching the declared amount of 87.5 kilos. This leaves the amount of time Iran needs to produce weapons-grade fissile material at 12 days. These news reports come after nearly two years of failed efforts by the Biden administration to revive the Iranian nuclear deal. This puts the region significantly closer to the point of time in which Israel must act against the Iranian nuclear program regardless of any other considerations. Such a point will initiate a wider confrontation between Israel and Iran which will most likely include multiple major security events in multiple theaters.
In Israel, such urgent news is currently being overshadowed by major civil unrest and a wave of restless protests against the proposed judicial reform. The power struggle and political battle over the proposal have proven to be grueling and scarring. It is undermining Israel’s most important strategic asset, its national solidarity as well as its most important diplomatic asset, its solidarity with its vital support base in the US. While this is not the first time that Israeli politics faced such a wave of political dissatisfaction–the Gaza disengagement and the Lebanon War are examples– the convergence of the protests with the complex web of events, including the growingly vicious anti-Zionist campaign, make them a great deal more alarming. In the US, political dissatisfaction that is attacking the legitimacy of the judicial overhaul, converged with attacks on the legitimacy of the state of Israel itself, resulting in calls for an economic boycott and predictions of political and economic collapse.
Today, the State of Israel finds itself under growing pressure from various challenges. The growing security threats, both domestic and regional, are challenging Israel’s ability to manage and deter different threats. Internal divisive politics are undermining the social solidarity and cohesion of Israeli society in post-COVID conditions with economic recovery already hampered by global inflation. It is also creating tensions with some of the liberal parts of American Jewry at a time of growing hostility to Israel in American legacy media and ambivalence from its largest political establishment. I believe that this time of crisis calls for more, not less, Zionism. Only a strong and confident state could stand up to the monumental challenges building up on the horizon. Regardless of how one feels about the Israeli government, the only body between the river and the sea that is able to protect Jewish and Arab lives, and stop Palestinian terrorism, potential settler unrest, and Iranian nuclear threats is no other entity than the State of Israel. The solution for all those problems is more, not less, Israel. The most important and unique asset Israel has is the millions of people around the world who believe in and support Israel. This base of international support always contributed to giving Israel international weight and confidence which significantly helped in Israel’s defense. Today, this base of support is a target of a campaign seeking to fragment it and to put daylight between Israel and many American Jews. This is the time for those who support Israel to make their voice heard to ensure that at the end of these troubled times, there will be an even stronger Israel.
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