Clouds Loom on Horizon in New Year


With hurricanes and earthquakes, protest marches and the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas dominating the headlines, four recent news developments affecting Israel and Jews worldwide have attracted little notice. But as the new year 5778 begins, they deserve more attention.

• Once again, another year has passed with no real progress made in the seemingly endless efforts toward reaching a two-state peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Neither side seems willing to budge, despite three trips to the region by Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and designated Mideast envoy.  

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did appear to move in a positive direction when he explicitly endorsed a two-state solution in his address to the UN General Assembly last month. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains adamant in his insistence that Israel hold on to all of the Arab territories, though Netanyahu’s desire to please Trump, who wants Netanyahu to be more flexible, could prompt the Israeli leader to be more accommodating on the issue.

Meanwhile the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) has reported that Interpol, the international organization of police and security organizations, has admitted the “State of Palestine” as a full member.

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This development comes despite intense lobbying by U.S. representatives to the United Nations against conferring legitimacy on the Palestine Liberation Organization, which remains listed as a “terrorist organization” by the U.S. State Department and the European Union.

Israel’s concern, JTA reports, is that “as a member of Interpol, the Palestinians will issue warrants for Israeli military and political officials, as well as gain access to sensitive, classified information.”

• In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union won a narrower than expected victory over the far right Alternative for Germany party, which gained representation in the parliament. Merkel will take office for an unprecedented fourth term as chancellor, but she will no longer have the comfortable cushion of her partnership with the Christian Socialist Union, which lost significant clout in the balloting.  

Merkel has shown an ability to reinvent herself. She has been a reliable ally within NATO, but she suffered a major electoral backlash over her liberal immigration policies that allowed 1 million refugees from the Middle East to come to Germany during her current term.  

The rise of the Alternative for Germany party has alarmed not only political observers in Germany but German business leaders as well. The Wall Street Journaldescribed them as having warned that the rise of a nationalist, anti-immigration party could hurt the nation’s export-driven economy.

• Finally, there has been a disturbing spike in the number of anti-Semitic incidents throughout Europe, with large protest marches by neo-Nazis even in countries including  Denmark, Norway and Sweden that have long histories of bravely opposing the hatred of Jews.  

These incidents, along with similar boldness on the part of neo-Nazi, KKK and white supremacist groups in the United States, are deeply troubling.

Individually, these developments may turn out to be isolated incidents and lead to few real problems. But in a world that seems increasingly unstable, from domestic politics to worldwide alliances to the unsettled climate that asserts its power on a regular basis, no one has the luxury of ignoring possible threats that loom on the horizon. Turning away and pretending that everything will turn out fine commits the sin of silence.

The familiar words from the High Holiday prayer book are needed now more than ever:  

“Grant us Peace, Thy most Precious Gift, O Thou, Eternal Source of Peace.”

And let us say, “Amen.”