In speech to hawkish US Jews, Netanyahu omits major threats

Wednesday, February 29 2012|Mairav Zonszein | 972 Magazine


Attention American Jewish leaders: In outlining the major threats facing Israel, the prime minister patronized you by leaving a few out, which I’m sure you must be well aware of.

Last week on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed leaders of the hawkishly-led Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations, who were on a visit as part of their Annual Leadership mission. In making his diplomatic and primarily fundraising bid to this acquiescent crowd, Netanyahu pointed to four chief challenges that Israel faces (Entire transcript of Netanyahu’s speech can be found here.)

We face four great challenges. They’re a lot. They’re more challenges than any other country faces on the face of this earth.

First of all, really? Israel faces more challenges than Syria right now? Than Sudan? Than Haiti? Than Greece? I can’t stand this philosemitic, Israel-centric, ghetto perspective. Isn’t it enough to say that we face challenges? Of course he does leave the option that aliens may face more challenges than we do.

The first is nuclear. There’s so much talk about it that I’m not going to bore you with more details, so I’ll move on to the next one.

Um, isn’t the nuclear challenge that he doesn’t want to bore the crowd with the most critical and central issue that his government claims Israel, the region and the world is currently facing? Shouldn’t he at least elaborate on it a little?

The second one is the missile threat or to be more precise, missile and rocket threats against Israel. We have many tens of thousands of missiles and rockets that are aimed at our cities…We’re a tiny country. We are smaller than Belgium and as I said the good news is that we’re bigger than Rhode Island, but roughly the size of New Jersey.

Should Rhode Islanders be offended?

We had the entire country put on alert. Now we’re able to pinpoint where the missiles are aimed at and we can give – if I said individualized alert through cell phones, I’d be exaggerating, but only a little. So we have both a passive defense and an active missile defense. The most effective is the active missile defense. That costs money but I think it serves the interests of Israel and the United States and its allies. I think it’s a very important development.

From the efficiency of the defense system Netanyahu describes, one could be persuaded to think its no longer such a humungous challenge.

The third threat that we face is cyber. Now you may not be aware of it, but everyone of the countries in the world can be hobbled by cyber attacks. You hear a little about it in the press. It’s not even the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg. This is an era that we’re entering into where entire societies can be paralyzed by cyber attack and Israel is no different. We are committed to being one of the three leading cyber powers of the world.

Why isn’t it sufficient to say Israel needs to be prepared to deal with cyber attacks? Why must Israel be one of the three leading cyber powers in the world – so it can dish out what it gets?

And the fourth threat that we have is the threat of having our borders penetrated. I don’t mean just by terrorism. We’re pretty adapted preventing that, but the possibility just of engulfment by illegal job immigrants.

Oh, OK, so we’re pretty good at preventing terrorism, but our real challenge is people fleeing poverty-stricken and war-torn countries in search of gainful employment?

So we’ve got four big challenges. There are many more, but the four big ones: nuclear, missile, cyber, the integrity of our borders.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, if you had an ounce of integrity in you, you would have at least mentioned these challenges as among the most flagrant ones threatening this country:

1. Car Accidents

Anyone who lives in Israel is all too familiar with the frightening rate of car accidents in this country. More Israelis (over 30,000) have died in road-related accidents than in all of Israel’s wars put together. In 2011, the number of those killed in car accidents was 399 (Hebrew), higher than the year before and significantly higher than 2009.

2. Poverty levels

Despite having a strong GDP, Israel has one of the largest gaps between rich and poor in the Western world, with nearly a quarter of the population under the poverty line. According to the IMF, Israel’s overall poverty levels are of the worst in the OECD countries.

3. Democratic Integrity

A) De facto rule over around 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem who are not citizens, cannot vote in national elections and are thus entirely disenfranchised.

B) Lack of separation between church and state enabling the Orthodox monopoly on civil institutions and a reality in which women’s rights are systematically violated.

4. Jewish Racism/Vigilantism

I’m not talking just about “price tag” attacks, or about racism against Ethiopians and Jews of Arab descent, that many can relegate to extremism, but about government legislation that anchors racism and segregation in law.

There are more, such as corruption at the highest levels of government, human trafficking for forced labor, specifically of women forced into prostitution, and organized crime.

While I don’t like to put challenges into hierarchical systems, the biggest threat to Israel for a very long time now, is not any outside force, but its very own self.

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