A Gloomy Assessment


Published February 25, 2009, issue of March 06, 2009.
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The crisis in the world economy and the decline of America’s global dominance could be paving the way to a new, multi-polar world order in which powers like Russia, China and India share control with the United States — or compete for it in a global free-for-all. It would be a world in which human rights and democracy are less valued, and the security and prosperity of the Jewish people and Israel are far from guaranteed.

That, at least, is the gloomy view of a leading Israeli think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, which just published its fifth-annual assessment of the state of Jewish life. It is a distressing, compelling, angry, essential document.

“The severe economic crisis currently plaguing the U.S. and undermining the global economy is causing serious damage to the wealth and international standing of the U.S., Israel’s ally and home to nearly half of world Jewry,” the report says. The damage is “spurred by the failure to curb Iran’s nuclearization efforts, the Iraq imbroglio, the war in Afghanistan, and the intractable challenge of Islamic terror in Pakistan” — a combination of outside threats and American folly.

That is not the entirety of the 96-page report. A separate section features a gloomy assessment of global antisemitism. Yet another offers a gloomy look at Jewish demographic trends. Fully half the document reviews the status of women in the Jewish community — apparently a response to a barrage of criticism three years ago when the institute convened an international consultation with no women.

Still, it is the strategic assessment that leaps from the pages. For all its alarm, the document offers few answers. Most of its recommendations are variations on a call for better public relations and more communication among Jews. It calls, for the fifth time, for some sort of ongoing strategic dialogue between Israel and Diaspora communities. And, in a swipe at both Diaspora and Israeli leaders, it urges better “quality and flow of information,” in the “hope of promoting more evidence-influenced and informed decision-making.”

Though harsh, the report bears heeding, given its source. The institute was formerly chaired by American foreign-policy don Dennis Ross. It was directed until recently by one of Israel’s most respected political scientists, Yehezkel Dror. Its yearly reports are handed directly to Israel’s prime minister at a special Cabinet meeting.

The pedigree only makes this year’s report more depressing. It foresees “a new world order emerging, less accommodating to Israel and the Jewish people.” In this new world, the “emerging superpowers (China, India) need the energy sources in the Middle East and may be expected — along with Russia — to become less sensitive to Israel’s interests.” Efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear project will slacken, as will the fight against terrorism and Islamic extremism. Pressures will mount for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement on terms Israel won’t like, and a diminished America won’t be able to fend them off. That will lead to tensions between Israel and America.

Those tensions, in turn, “could put the American Jewish community in an uneasy situation.” When will it all come down? “The year ahead will reveal the extent of the damage these processes are causing the Jewish people,” the report says. Watch for next year’s report, and hope for the best.

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