Israel may be surrounded by Islamic fundamentalists on all of its land borders and face threats to its destruction from Iran. Meanwhile, President Obama is upset with Israel and the prospect of a possible rightward shift in next Tuesday’s Knesset elections. According to columnist Jeffrey Goldberg writing in Bloomberg.com, President Obama allegedly expressed the opinion privately “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu “is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.” The President was referring to PM Netanyahu’s announcement to proceed with the construction of housing in the E-1 project in Judea, a rebuke of the UN vote granting the Palestinian Authority non-observer status.
Given the looming January Knesset election, less than a week away, Israel’s electorate may be moving towards what Carolyn Glick has called the “Second Zionist Revolution” She noted in a blog post:
Next week we’re going to vote and it is already clear that Israel is in the midst of the Second Zionist Revolution. The first Zionist revolution was a socialist revolution. The second Zionist revolution is Jewish. Israel is coming into its own. Judaism is flourishing, changing, living and breathing here like it never has anywhere since the destruction of the Second Commonwealth.
Perhaps Israel’s critics haven’t gotten the word of what is about to occur in the Jewish nation.
Notwithstanding, 2013 could augur well for a good year in Israel. Here are four reasons why.
The Demographic Time Bomb in Israel is a Myth. According to estimates from the Central Bureau of Statistics Israel’s population reached 8 million in 2012. Israel Hayom noted that over 75.4 percent are Jewish, 20 percent are Arab and four percent are defined as “other.” For the first time Israel’s 6.0 Million Jews equals or surpasses the Jewish population in the US. Fertility for Jewish women of child bearing age now surpasses that of Arab women in Israel which is in decline. Former Ambassador Yoram Ettinger noted the underlying demographic changes in an Ettinger Report article in October 2012:
In 2012, Israel’s Jewish fertility rate (three births per woman) is trending upward, boding well for Israel’s economy and national security.
In 2012, the Israeli Arab-Jewish fertility gap is half a birth per woman, compared with a six birth gap in 1969. Moreover, young Jewish and Arab Israeli women have converged at three births, with Arab women trending below – and Jewish women trending above – three births.
That wasn’t the only good news; Israelis are living longer and have amongst the highest life expectancies in the world. Israel Hayom reported:
Israelis have among the highest life expectancies on the globe, with an overall life expectancy of 81.7 years, according to a new study released by the Central Bureau for Statistics. The study, which covered Israeli demographic trends from 2011, found that although Israeli men can expect to live shorter lives than Israeli women, when compared to other men around the world they come in second only to Switzerland.
According to the study, the overall Israeli life expectancy of 81.7 years puts Israel in fifth place out of all OECD countries, and is two years more than the average OECD life expectancy of 79.7.
Israel Starts Energy Independence. Remember the hoary joke about ancient Jews who left Egypt and crossed into the Sinai making a wrong turning left instead of right when they could have had all of Saudi Arabia’s oil. The mainstream media has not emphasized Ha Shem’s great gift to Israel, the huge offshore natural gas fields, estimated at over 30 trillion cubic feet. These fields are about to begin production along with the pilot tests of in situ oil extraction from the shale formation in the Shefla basin in 2013. Israel oil shale reserves might even rival those of Saudi Arabia perhaps exceeding more than 250 billion barrels.
The development of these energy resources may enable Israel within this decade to become energy independent.
Those offshore gas and on-shore oil shale developments have the potential of making Israel an energy independent political power in the Middle East and player in the world energy markets. The energy developments could pour billions of royalty revenues into a newly authorized Sovereign Wealth Fund that might significantly enhance the country’s high tech driven growth. Most importantly it would also provide the funds to enable the IDF to meet the threats arrayed against it.
Dr. Uzi Landau, Minister of Energy and Water Resources, said at the inauguration of the offshore Tamar natural gas platform production, “The Tamar project is the greatest production platform in Israeli history”. Prof. Stanley Fisher head of the Bank of Israel has adjusted upwards Israel’s Gross Domestic Product for 2013 due to the Tamar production. Landau went on to say:
Natural gas will not only make electricity production more efficient, cleaner, and cheaper, it is a giant step toward freeing us from dependence on foreign energy sources, especially Arab oil. Although the reservoirs are located thousands of meters below the seabed, as far as the possibility of exploiting them is concerned, the sky’s the limit.
The Tamar and Leviathan gas fields are the product of a joint venture between Noble Energy of Houston, Texas (NBL-NYSE) and the Delek Partners listed on the Tel Aviv Exchange. The Tamar well alone cost over $3 billion to develop.
The offshore gas potential is so large that Gazprom, Russia’s energy giant and an Australian concern have jumped on board angling to obtain minority interest investments in the larger Leviathan offshore gas field. In December, 2012, RT.com reported that Gazprom lost out to Australian Woodside Energy, Ltd in the competition for a minority interest in the Leviathan gas field project.
Israeli High Court decisions in late December 2012 have cleared the way for pilot tests of the on-shore shale oil production to begin in 2013 with hopes of producing more than 50,000 barrels a day by the end of this decade. The offshore natural gas production will provide the fuel to the heat the in-situ production of oil from shale formations in the Shefla Basin. Should you want to gauge the economic value of this fascinating energy development using advanced technology look up a NYSE-listed stock, Genie Energy, Ltd. (GNE).
High Technology Drives Israel’s Economic Growth. Israel ranks 17th among 187 world nations on the UN’s Human Development Index, which places it in the category of “Very Highly Developed”. In 2011, the latest year of date available, the World Bank estimated Israel’s GDP at over 242 Billion dollars. GDP growth was 4.7% in 2011. Nominal Per capita GDP for Israel is over $32,298, 27th in world rank among industrial economies. Israel’s public debt to GDP is less than 74%. More than 64.7% of Israel’s GDP is created by its high tech driven services sector. “Israel is a world leader in software, telecommunication and semiconductors development. The concentration of high-tech industries in Israel is backed by a strong venture capital industry. It has been given the nickname “Silicon Wadi”, which is considered second in importance only to its Californian counterpart.”
The secret behind Israeli entrepreneurship is its graduates from super secret electronic intelligence Unit 8200 who end up being backed by leading Israeli and American venture capital firms. In our interview with American Israeli venture capitalist Jon Medved, we noted:
One of the hidden secrets of why Israel is so successful in this high tech environment is its military. You were quoted in a Foreign Policy article entitled “Boot Camp for Billionaires,” as saying that “everybody who matters in high tech here, meaning Israel, is ex- Unit 8200. I salivate over these guys.” Most Americans don’t realize that the IDF reaches down to the high school level to build competition and selectivity in getting these young, talented Israelis into the military and ultimately onto a track where they become high tech entrepreneurs.
High Technology Shields Israeli Citizens from Harm. Despite the propaganda from the Arabs, Iran and naysayers in the West, Israel won the recent eight day rocket war in November 2012, Operation Pillar of Defense. The iron Dome batteries fired anti-rocket missiles that intercepted and destroyed more than 425 rockets, including the longer range Fajr-5 supplied by Iran via the Sudan and smuggled across the Sinai to Gaza. Thwarting the ability of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to terrorize Israel’s citizens and save lives. Iron Dome is part of a three layer anti-missile umbrella that includes the Arrow 3 missile system, jointly developed with Boeing, and the David Sling. The Arrow 3 anti-missile has successfully knocked out ICBMs in tests in the US. David’s Sling is scheduled to be deployed in 2014. US Congressional fundingwill enable Israel to complete the deployment of more than 14 Iron Dome batteries covering the country. This high tech umbrella of protection will assure Israel’s citizens that it can contend with the rocket and missile threats from Jihadists in Gaza, the terrorist army of Hezbollah and Iran.
But don’t overlook Israel’s drones, its unmanned aerial vehicles. Israel has been the leader in development of UAVs. Salon.com noted Israeli dominance in drone developments:
The Israeli influence is not visible but it is real, documented and extremely relevant to the future of drones in America. If you want to know how drones may change American airspace in coming years, just look to Israel, where the unmanned aerial vehicle market is thriving and drones are considered a reliable instrument of “homeland security.”
“There are three explanations for Israel’s success in becoming a world leader in development and production of UAVs,” a top Israeli official explained to the Jerusalem Post last year. “We have unbelievable people and innovation, combat experience that helps us understand what we need and immediate operational use since we are always in a conflict which allows us to perfect our systems.”
Israel’s drone expertise goes back to at least 1970, according to the UAV page of the Israeli Air Force.
Israeli company Elbit Ltd. has developed the heavy lift Hermes 900 UAV capable of loitering at high altitudes for more than 40 hours. UAVs were the reason behind the IDFs success in the recent Gaza conflict. They played an important role in long range missions in the Sudan intercepting and destroying Iranian weapons convoys bound for Hamas and the PIJ. There is reason to believe that Israeli drones might be used in possible actions against Iranian nuclear sites.
Then there are the German built Dolphin submarines equipped with Israeli designed Popeye tube launched cruise missiles. They are on rotation cruising offshore In the Gulf of Oman keeping a watching brief on Iran’s intentions in the Persian Gulf. Finally, there is Israel’s network of spy satellites providing early warning intelligence to IDF planners in Tel Aviv on Iran’s shipments of longer range rockets and missiles.
The Knesset Elections may produce a surprise. Two state solution rhetoric you hear from the White House in Washington, Whitehall in London, the EU in Brussels and the UN comes up empty. The Oslo Process is virtually dead.
Recent polls by the Peace Index in Israel at year end in 2012 revealed that two thirds or 67% of Israeli respondents agreed with the statement that regardless of which party wins in the January 22nd Knesset general elections that peace was impossible to achieve with the Palestinians. As noted by Israel National News (Arutz Sheva):
The poll found that 55% of Israel’s Jews define themselves as right-wing, while 21% define themselves as center and 17% as left. The same holds true for voting intentions: about 50% of Jewish respondents report that they intend to vote for secular right-wing and religious right-wing parties, and 30% for parties of the center and the left, while the rest of the respondents have not yet decided or did not respond.
The Peace Index survey result may reflect a spike in Knesset election polls for the Jewish Home party. The Jewish Home party is headed by 40 year old Naftali Bennett, a resident of the American style suburb of Ra’anana north of Tel Aviv. The charismatic Bennett is the son of American Olim from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a former IDF Sayeret Matkal officer, reserve Major and multi-millionaire software entrepreneur who sold his company for $145 million in 2005. Bennett then became the former chief of Staff in 2006 to current PM Bibi Netanyahu when he was in opposition in the Knesset prior to his election in 2009. Bennet broke with Netanyahu was briefly Yesha Council head and ultimately took over leadership in the Jewish Home party. His party might claim upwards of 15 seats in the new Knesset if actual voting confirms polls in Israel.
Part of that spike of interest in the Jewish Home party is fueled by Bennett’s call for annexation of 60 percent of Area C in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria with an estimated 350,000 Jews and 48,000 Palestinians. The Palestinians would be offered Israeli citizenship.
Caroline Glick noted what is behind the Jewish Home phenomenon:
The secular Left has been eclipsed by the Jewish Right. I don’t call it the religious Right because that is too limiting. What’s happening isn’t just about religion, it’s about everything and that is why non-observant hipsters in Tel Aviv are voting for the Jewish Home party. Non-observant and observant Jews are joining forces and the anti-religious are being left behind.
Two thirds of the Jewish Home party’s voters are under 40 and the party is polling at 14-18 seats in polls that under-represent their supporters. I don’t pretend to know how the election results are going to look but it is clear that a massive change has occurred in the last few years and it will only become more pronounced in the coming years. Next week’s election will be the first formal expression of this change.
So look for a possible surprise when the January 22nd Knesset general elections occurs. Depending on the outcome Bennett could be a factor in a new ruling coalition with a decided shift to the right in Israel.
These are four reasons why it could be a good year for Israel and Jews around the world.
Watch this Latma TV satiric commentary, “A Day will Come” as to what Glick is predicting might occur next Tuesday in Israel: