HomeDecember 2013Talking Reality

Talking Reality

For those who have never been to Israel or who may not realize how close the center of Israel is to a lot of hostile activity, Col. Miri Eisen’s talk on “The Changing Neighborhood in the Middle East and Implications for Israel” had to be an eye opener.  The area’s complex geopolitics and their potential effect on Israel are truly sobering.
Eisen, former Israeli government spokesperson and international media adviser to the prime minister of Israel, spoke about dramatic changes in the Middle East as power shifts threaten to alter the political landscape.  Her recent talk at Temple Beth El of South Orange County, sponsored by that congregation and the Rose Project of Jewish Federation & Family Services, also addressed changes inside of Israel.
Eisen talked about four events and how they impact the domestic, regional and international scene.  October 16 marked 18 years on the Hebrew calendar since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.  It was also 40 years since the Yom Kippur War.  A week prior to Eisen’s visit was the funeral of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel and founder of the Shas political party.  The funeral was attended by 750,000 people; Shas, which now represents 11 of 120 members of the Knesset, had had 18 Knesset members at one time.  Finally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke at the United Nations about the plight of Israel.
“In Israel, when you wake up in the morning, you have to think of the implications of everything and know why you’re going into the shelters,” Eisen said.
Eisen cited “an enormous demographic change in Israelis.”  In 1979 there were 3.5 million Israeli citizens.  There are 8 million now.  There have been two mass immigrations of 1 million Russians and 150,000 Ethiopians.  One-sixth of Israeli citizens have a native tongue of Russian, including one-quarter of the military forces.
Israel has lots of children, with a high birth rate in certain segments of the population.  Forty-six percent of the first graders are in the Arab or ultra-Orthodox school systems.  Recent elections in Israel have been about domestic issues, rather than about the peace process.
January will mark three years since the beginning of the Arab upheaval, Eisen pointed out.  “There is a triangle of strength in Middle Eastern states – the state (the president), the military and the mosque,” she said.  “The Muslim Brotherhood is the only one that delivers consistently.  With the lack of education and jobs, young people are frustrated that they can’t get married and get on with their lives.”
Eisen went on to describe the brutality in the countries surrounding Israel.  Since the uprising in Tahrir Square in Cairo, there is no rule of law in the Sinai Peninsula.  In Syria more than 110,000 people have been killed in the last 2 years.  Two million have left Syria (700,000 to Lebanon and 1.3 million to Jordan), and Eisen wondered out loud about how that would affect the Israel-Jordan relationship.  “And who feeds these people?” she asked.
Iran, as described by Netanyahu at the UN, is an “existential threat” as opposed to a “credible threat.”  What it means is that Iran is willing to settle for no less than the “annihilation of the Zionist entity.”
“Sadly, Israel has failed to persuade the world that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to the whole world,” Eisen concluded.  “It’s our biggest failure.”

Previous article
Next article


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

The Art of Vacation

Barbeque Bonanza

Playing With Fire