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A CROW flies past as schoolchildren gather at a look-out point on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem.(Photo by: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Israel’s future looks bright save for the rising Iranian threat
Israel’s military is the most powerful in the Middle East and among the top 10 in the world.
For Israelis today, there is much promise in the future.

On the foreign side, there has been a major change in the attitude of the world’s only superpower toward Israel. No more do the Americans propose a bad deal which could place Israel in serious danger in a few years from a nuclear Iran.

No more is the American president blithely allowing Iran and its allied forces to semi-surround Israel by becoming the dominant power in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and parts of Yemen while it becomes allied with Turkey and Russia in Syria.

Now, after eight years of president Barack Obama, the new president, Donald Trump, has been more pro-Israel than either Obama or the Bushes before him. He is surrounded by such staunchly pro-Israel devotees as Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Nikki Haley and Mike Pence. Trump has repeatedly verbally attacked Iran and called for the capital to be moved to Jerusalem. He has also requested a major expansion of the American military.

The movement of Saudi Arabia under the young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman toward Israel is a major positive factor for Israel in facing Iran. It also brings along the United Arab Emirates and small Arab states in the Arabian Gulf toward Israel and away from Iran.

Then, there is the movement of India, which did not even recognize Israel until 1992, toward Israel under the rule of Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP Hindu Nationalist Party. He visited Israel earlier this year and seeks to work extensively with Israel as a model for Indian development. The two countries are even discussing a possible $15 billion free trade zone.

Russia under President Vladimir Putin has moved significantly toward Israel while also playing with Iran, Turkey and other anti-Israel states in the Middle East. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been to Moscow or Crimea six times in the past two years while Putin has twice visited Israel. While the relationship is far from ideal, it is better than it was in Israel’s earlier years. Israeli and Russian pilots coordinate daily to avoid serious mistakes in the skies over Syria.

There also is the movement of a number of countries in Latin America and Africa toward Israel. Netanyahu has worked extensively to enhance Israel’s image in the Third World.

Economically, the future looks bright. Israel’s GDP/capita has soared from $3,000 in 1948 to almost $39,000 in 2017. Israel’s foreign exchange reserves have soared from less than $1b. in 1960 to $100b. today. Its exports are an impressive $100b.

Its hi-tech industry, in the top five in the world, is home to the R&D work of over 300 foreign companies. One company, Mobileye, was sold to Intel for $15b.

Israeli hi-tech is represented in New York with Cornell-Tech(nion), in Moscow in the suburbs of Skolkovo and in Shantou, China, with Guangdong Technology-Israel Institute of Technology. The figure of 225,000 people working in hi-tech is expected to move toward 500,000 people in the next decade or two.

Israel’s military is the most powerful in the Middle East and among the top 10 in the world. It is reported to have nuclear weapons, ultra modern missile-defense systems, and first-class airplanes and pilots.

Its intelligence forces are also among the best in the world.

Finally, despite problems with the boycott movement in the United States, the 2017 Gallup Poll shows 71% of Americans like Israel compared to 27% that don’t. Israelis, such as “Wonder Woman” Gal Godot, have 22 million followers on the Internet. Israel’s population is steadily growing, from 8.5 million people today to perhaps as many as 20 million people by 2065.

Overall, then, the future seems bright, save for the Iranian threat to some day use nuclear weapons against a country that has only some 20,000 square kilometers, 58% of which is desert. But then Israel has multiple strengths and Iran has serious problems at home and increasingly abroad. There is hope for a bright future.

The author is a full professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.
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