On Demography and Economic Development in Jerusalem

August 21, 2019

Jerusalem is the largest and most complex city in Israel. According to data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (ICBS) at the end of 2017 Jerusalem residents comprised roughly 10% of the total population of the State of Israel (901,302 persons). 62.1% of the city’s population are classified as “Jews and others” (559,849 persons), and 37.9% of its residents are classified as Arab (341,453 persons). At the same time, according to ICBS figures, approximately 72,600 residents left Jerusalem between the years 2007-2017. In 2017 for example, Jerusalem’s population was reduced by 6,000 people as a result of negative internal migration (of which, 5,800 were “Jews and others” and 200 were Arabs).

Is a New Wind Blowing through the State Comptroller’s Office?

August 19, 2019

The State Comptroller’s Office is the only institution outside of the defense establishment that conducts comprehensive and independent audits of security matters; hence its importance to national security. In the view of newly-appointed State Comptroller and Ombudsman Matanyahu Englman, an audit is meant to be a constructive process that addresses issues of national value; the audit process is a tool that supports the government and prime minister; audits that are liable to affect real-time decision making should be avoided; and the Comptroller should also report on the success of those audited. By contrast, his predecessor, retired judge Yosef Shapira, stressed that the State Comptroller is not the government’s in-house auditor and that audits do not depend on the good will of any external party.

The Crossroads between Ethics and Technology

August 16, 2019

Imagine a growing Israeli startup whose product is deepfake videos that are based on artificial intelligence and appear to be utterly authentic. The company’s marketing efforts, according to its website, are conducted by two departments — “consulting for corporations” and “consulting for governments and politicians.” In addition, “the company helps its customers uncover their opponents’ weak spots and make them go viral.” Finally, imagine that the company describes its employees as “highly experienced men and women, graduates of elite units of the IDF intelligence branch and Israeli government intelligence agencies,” and that its technology is based on developments by these same security agencies. When you are done imagining this, it’s time to think about the private intelligence firm Black Cube.

Forgotten Heroes: The Jewish Resistance and Exodus 1947

August 14, 2019

Veterans of the Jewish Resistance in France participated in the rescue of tens of thousands of Jews during WWII. They provided emissaries from the Land of Israel with vital infrastructure for clandestine Zionist activities in France, including money, manpower, forged documents, accommodation, and contacts among the French authorities. In July-August 1947, they were significantly involved in the dramatic story of the Exodus 1947, the ship full of Holocaust survivors turned back by the British. It is regrettable that their contribution to the creation of the State of Israel is almost entirely absent from the collective memory.

Overwhelming Support for Retaining Judicial Review Among Right Wing-Voters

August 12, 2019

The Israel Democracy Institute published on August 12th a special survey examining attitudes of right wing voters on a number of issues related to September’s election including. These include the possibility of a unity government and recent proposals that would limit judicial review and oversight of Knesset and government decisions. The poll reveals that 42% of right-wing voters support a unity government and that 43% oppose additional political power for elected officials at the expense of the Judicial Branch of government.

A Port Rush: Competition for Control of Trade Routes

August 9, 2019

In the Arabian Sea, competition has been building for the past few years over control of the strategic ports adjacent to major trade routes. Power struggles have developed in the context of China’s efforts to consolidate its hold on key ports in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and Red Sea, as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). From Israel’s perspective, the competition over the Red Sea shipping lane allows the consolidation of the presence of different actors along the southern access routes to the Gulf of Eilat and to the Suez Canal, creating a new space of challenges, and maybe also opportunities for (low profile) Israeli involvement in some of the initiatives.

Towards the Elections: Prime Minister Netanyahu gets Mixed Grades

August 7, 2019

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is awarded high grades for improving Israel’s international standing (60%), enhancing the country’s military strength (56%), and successfully contending with the Iranian threat (50.5%) but poor grades for failing to increase solidarity between Israel’s different segments of society (51%) and on the question of personal integrity (49%).

Is the BDS Movement on the Rise?

August 5, 2019

According to the BDS movement’s Palestinian branch, the impact of the movement “is increasing substantially.” Many pro-Israel sites and organizations agree with that assessment. But how accurate is this prognosis?

The Nation-State Law, One Year Later: What has Changed?

August 2, 2019

From a practical standpoint, the Nation State law’s ramifications are not yet clear. Neither its opponents nor its supporters ever claimed that it would immediately create a totally new situation in Israel. By its nature, a constitutional amendment of this sort, at the vaguest and most general level possible of the definition of the state, years will go by before all its provisions have been interpreted and before they trickle down to substantive changes on the ground.

The Kushner Plan: Economics or politics, which comes first?

July 31, 2019

Until a political plan is announced the economic one is unlikely to progress. Two key issues are whether Israel will cooperate in the creation of a Palestinian state, and can the Palestinians create a unified, democratic and effective government within such a state. These remain very open questions.

Russian Soft Power in the Middle East

July 29, 2019

Russian soft power efforts in the Middle East are bearing fruit, as many young Arabs now view Moscow as an ally and the US as unreliable. Russia wants to build more ties with the Muslim world and views Trump’s presidency as an opportunity in that regard. This ambition is tempered somewhat by the Muslim jihadist threat in Russian areas and, of course, the painful legacy of the war in Afghanistan.

Tectonics, Techno-economics, and National Security: The Strategic Clash between the United States and China, and Implications for Israel

July 26, 2019

A series of “volcanic” eruptions are reported around the world: “trade war,” mutual imposition of tariffs, sanctions on companies, military signaling in the South China Sea, summits between leaders, and temporary “ceasefires.” All are manifestations of the historic clash between the “tectonic plates” of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. Like the processes that shaped the earth, the collision will shape the landscape for future generations: politically, economically and militarily. Israel has a marginal and secondary role in this dynamic, but the shockwaves reach its shores and present complex challenges to its policy and national security.