The past year Israel went through a number difficult moments, while at the same time 2018 saw historical developments which brought hope, excitement and positive change to the Jewish state and in its relations with other countries in the Middle East.
Let’s begin with the positive developments.
Without a doubt, President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and to recognize all of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was the most important event from a historical and diplomatic point of view.
The importance of Trump’s decision was second only to the decision of former US President Harry Truman to recognize the State of Israel only 11 minutes after Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion declared its establishment in early May 1948.
Another positive development on the diplomatic front was that the US and some other Western countries finally decided to act against the so-called ‘pay for slay’ policy of the Palestinian Authority.
The PA spends some $355 million annually on payments to jailed Palestinian terrorists and their families.
The US decided to withhold roughly $215 million in aid to the PA under the Taylor Force Act, named after an American tourist who was stabbed to death in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian terrorist.
The Trump Administration also stopped funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The UN body provides aid and education to millions of Palestinian refugees and all their decendents who live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the so-called “West Bank” (Judea and Samaria).
Then there was the United Nations, which has proved to be one of the most anti-Israel international organizations in the world and denounces Israel on virtually every possible occasion.
However, at the beginning of December, the UN General Assembly, where the anti-Israel front has an automatic majority because of the Muslim countries, 87 countries voted in favor of a resolution condemning Hamas, while 57 other nations opposed the resolution.
The motion was submitted by Nikki Haley, the US ambassador who has worked tirelessly to fight the anti-Israel bias of the UN and who devised a new strategy aimed at exposing the hypocrisy of the organization when it comes to human rights and Israel’s alleged ‘war crimes’.
Also in 2018, relations between Israel and the Sunni Arab countries took a turn for the better with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman making pro-Israel comments and other Gulf countries, such as Oman, coming out of the closet regarding their relations with the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu also visited majority Muslim states such as Chad and Azerbajjan, where he said the country was a beacon of Muslim-Jewish coexistence.
Netanyahu also made a very successful visit to India, where he was received warmly. He is currently in Brazil, where a pro-Israel government has been elected.
Another positive development in 2018 was that the European Union finally began to take action against rising anti-Semitism, which according to the latest studies has reached worrying levels.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz submitted a series of proposals to the European Council in order to combat the oldest form of racial hatred.
On the security front, the year began with a huge Israeli success when a 100-man strong Mossad team succeeded in stealing a large part of the secret Iranian nuclear archive under the noses of the mullahs in Tehran. The more than 11,000 documents and disks that the Mossad smuggled to Israel indicated that Iran has never abandoned its plan to obtain a nuclear weapon.
The Mossad operation was revealed by Netanyahu at the beginning of May, shortly before President Trump decided to cancel US participation in the JCPOA, the nuclear deal between Iran and six-world powers, and to re-introduce a biting sanctions regime against the Islamic Republic.
Except for the American decision to leave the JCPOA, the revelation didn’t lead to a real change in the international approach towards Iran, which is trying to entrench itself in a number of important Arab countries like Iraq and Syria, and is increasingly threatening Israel’s security.
The increasing Iranian threat from Syria–where the civil war turned into a regional conflict involving Turkey, Russia, Iran, Israel, Iraq and the US–led Israel to launch a series of daunting military actions aimed at destroying the Iranian military infrastructure in the country.
On May 10, for example, the Israel Air Force (IAF) launched ‘Operation Chess’ during which a large number of Israeli warplanes destroyed more than 50 Iranian bases and missile facilities in Syria.
The operation became necessary after Iran attempted to take over the border region with Israel on the Syrian Golan Heights and was on the verge of completing a land bridge from Tehran via northern Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea.
Iran later tried to ignite a multi-front war with Israel when it ordered the Palestinian terror groups in Gaza to launch an unprecedented number of missiles at the south of Israel on November 13.
When the IAF reacted with 150 airstrikes that decimated the military capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza a (temporary?) halt in the rocket terror was achieved.
Iranian funded terror along the Gazan border in southern Israel as well as in Judea and Samaria continues unabated, however, and has led to renewed calls for annexation of the West Bank, as the “two-state solution” has proved to be a pipe dream.
Then there is the front along the Lebanese border, where the IDF exposed a network of Hezbollah attack tunnels at the beginning of December.
Operation Northern Shield, as the detection and destruction of the tunnel network was dubbed by the IDF, is still ongoing.
The discovery of the Hezbollah attack tunnels shows that the so-called ‘resistance front’ of Iranian-backed terror groups and Shiite militias is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the effort to destroy Israel.
It’s hard to predict what 2019 will bring, but one thing is certain: Israel’s enemies will continue their struggle against what they see as a ‘foreign implant’ in the Middle East, while Israel will continue to thrive as we witnessed in the now 70-year-old history of the Jewish State.