Once again, the boundless dissembling of Dennis Ross… The anecdote in Roger Cohen’s piece about his meeting with the Saudi King ought to give pause to those who’d have us believe Ross is some kind of strategic genius — plainly, the guy is out of his depth. But more nefarious is Ross’s attempt to convince that Israel may just do something rash like bomb Iran. This, because “Israeli officials have argued that they don’t believe Iran would ever be crazy enough to nuke them but do believe the change in the balance of power with a nuclear or near-nuclear Iran could be so decisive that Jews would begin to leave Israel.” This, too, is misleading. First off, Ross in his book makes clear that an essential part of his strategy for squeezing Iran is to make the Europeans believe that if they don’t implement an economic blockade, Israel will attack Iran — in order to turn the screws on Iran. It needn’t be true, of course.
But this idea that Jews would “begin” to leave Israel should Iran tilt the regional balance of power in its favor also ignores the fact the Jews have been leaving Israel in droves for years, now — about as many as 1 million Israeli Jews now live abroad, which is close to one fifth of Israel’s Jewish population. The economic downturn has prompted some to return from the U.S. and Europe, but last year’s figure was just 11,000 — lower than the annual rate of emigration in recent years.
The reason is nothing to do with Iranian nukes; it’s just a combination of the corrosive impact of the conflict with the Palestinians, the decline of anti Semitism in a world more comfortable than it has ever been for Jews to live wherever they choose, and the cultural globalization that extends the horizons of Israeli kids.
It should be noted, of course, that the question of where Jews choose to live may be of some import to Ross, who recently headed up a Jerusalem-based outfit that claimed for itself the title of “The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute” (as if such a thing were possible!). It was founded in 2002 by the Jewish Agency, the arm of the Israeli government responsible for promoting Jewish immigration to Israel.
Among the Agency’s more notable interventions in recent years was to “aggressively lobby” Germany to pass a new law restricting Jewish immigration from former Soviet territories. The Agency had long complained that German policies welcoming Jewish immigrants had seen Germany surpass Israel as the destination of choice by Jews leaving former Soviet territories, and that this repesented a “threat” to Israel.