Israel’s Challenges in 2015



No country is more advanced than Israel at tracing and breaking up terrorist cells, but this is becoming an older form of terrorism. The lone wolf, not connected to any group, not on any security agency’s radar, but who decides to sacrifice himself for Islam, is an emerging threat in America and throughout the world as well as in Israel.

Kidnappings and traditional terrorism will still occur in the West Bank but west of the Green Line (in 1967 Israel), the worst two terrorist attacks this year were committed by East Jerusalem Palestinians, free to move around Israel, previously innocuous, who decided to kill Jews and drove their cars into crowds. Lone wolf terrorism is extremely hard to predict, identify and prevent.

Diplomatic Isolation

The endemic, eternal European disease of anti-Semitism has returned to pre-Holocaust levels, and Israel has become a pariah across the continent. Left wing political, intellectual and cultural elites have become viciously anti-Israel while Muslim immigrants, darlings of the European left, have replaced the far right thugs of past generations in terms of violence.
The European Union high court has just de-listed Hamas as a terrorist group, a shocking and shameful act that shows us how far the European elite will go. Israel will face lynch mobs at the UN with a real danger of having sanctions imposed on her unless the Obama administration vetoes them.

Political Stability

Israel has a parliamentary system, always messier than our federal system, because governments can fall and Knessets dissolved at any time. Completing a four-year term is a rarity. Compounding this, no party has ever won a Knesset majority and thus been able to govern alone; coalitions are necessary, in which the dominant party makes deals with minority parties to form a joint government, in return for cabinet posts and platform planks. This leads to weak, disjointed governments often in conflict with themselves.

Prime Minister (Benjamin) Netanyahu, in firing two often-dissident cabinet ministers representing center-left parties and causing his own government to fall, is gambling that voters will return Likud to power along with right of center and Orthodox parties who will give him a coalition he prefers. The voters will speak in March.


Iran is regarded as an existential threat. It has spent decades threatening genocide, and in recent years, has begun a nuclear development program that would give it the ability to act. Powerful economic sanctions have been imposed on Iran, and the vilest rhetoric has disappeared in the last two years. Still, negotiations for reliably preventing Iran from developing weapons have stalled. Repeated deadlines have passed and been extended. Obama professes optimism; the Europeans, of course, even more so.

Meanwhile, Israel has three missile-firing subs, not nuclear-powered but otherwise just like the big boys. Surely they’re all stationed in the Persian Gulf, and surely their missiles are all tipped with multiple nuclear weapons that could pepper Iran. It’s not about planes and bunker-buster bombs. President (Barack) Obama doesn’t want Iran nuked and knows he can’t stop Israel from doing it, so hopefully the US will lean even harder on Iran. Hopefully.

Integrating the Haredim

One of Israel’s hardest domestic challenges is the need to bring the ultra-Orthodox Chassidic haredi population closer to the rest of Israeli society. The various sects have historically been very insular, often Yiddish-speaking, remote from or even hostile to the state, refusing to serve in the military, work or pay taxes — while living off the taxpayers’ money of mainstream Israelis they despise.

Despite decades of angry resentment by the mainstream, this status quo was allowed to continue and fester until two years ago. The Netanyahu administration finally launched an ambitious program, aimed at the haredi younger generation, to fundamentally change haredi existence in Israel. The program has two prongs, military and civilian. To keep receiving the government subsidies their communities enjoy, the rebbes must now produce a quota of young men for military service, the quota to get larger each year.

The IDF has helped to ease haredi integration into the military and make service more palatable to their communities, by creating the Eternity of Judah battalion, a formation reserved for very devout young men who must still become fully trained IDFsoldiers. The civilian element, entirely voluntary, is more difficult: to persuade young haredi couples and families to leave their big urban neighborhoods and start satellite communities on their own, physically integrating them into Israel and increasing their daily contact with mainstream Israelis. Haredim are intensely community-oriented: to leave Mama, Papa, the rebbe and the neighborhood is almost unthinkable. Yet this program is ultimately more important than the military side and must be pursued.


Israel is under enormous pressure to do something meaningful for the Palestinians. An Intifada is unlikely in 2015, but so is an all-embracing Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Israel will likely have to come up with something, small but concrete, that the Palestinians can celebrate over and that at least some Israelis will find painful. This will be a difficult balancing job for Netanyahu, but Washington will demand it. An overall settlement is a challenge that is still too difficult to be achieved.

On the Moon

In 2015 the world will be startled when Israel puts a lander on the moon. It won’t do much science; the achievement will be in getting it there. The world will be startled, but you read it here.

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