Yossi Alpher, former Mossad agent, and now independent Israeli security expert, spoke to a crowd of concerned Jews in Ottawa on May 2nd. He was talking about the future of Israel, and they were clearly disturbed by what he had to say. Learn more
Around 200 concerned members of Ottawa’s Jewish community gathered at the Temple Israel synagogue on May 3rd, to hear a well known Israeli strategic analyst talk about his very pessimistic assessment of the options facing Israel and the course it is taking.
Alpher’s credentials include: service in the Israeli Defence Forces as an intelligence analyst; 12 years in the Mossad (the Israeli security service); the directorship of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (JCSS) at Tel Aviv University; and the directorship of the American Jewish Committee’s Israel/Middle East Office in Jerusalem.
It was these credentials that perhaps made his pessimistic analysis of Israel’s current situation and trajectory so disconcerting for his Canadian Jewish audience.
As Alpher sees it, there is no peace process on the horizon. The occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has gone on for almost 50 years. A new stage in the violence is underway. Israel and Palestine are sliding down a slippery slope towards a nasty quasi-apartheid reality.
“A slippery slope”
“Israel is on a very slippery slope, as it takes over more and more land in the West Bank“, he argued. Israel is rapidly moving toward a “one state reality”, in which Israel is going to be either Jewish or democratic he told the somber audience.
In Alpher’s view, the liberal Zionist ideal of Israel as a “Jewish and Democratic state” is rapidly disappearing from the public discourse. Faced with a choice, Israel is choosing to become “Jewish” rather than “democratic”.
“You [Jews in the diaspora]” he said, “now have a problem reconciling your Jewish and Zionist ideals with the present State of Israel. We Israelis have created a major problem for you”.
Alpher recognized that he was bringing a “hard” message of realism to his Canadian Jewish audience. “Stop dreaming of a 2 state solution”, he warned. “This is for consumption by the international community. Everybody in Israel is laughing up their sleeves at the peace process,” he continued.
Reaction from the liberal Jews in the audience was worried. One questioner asked what he could tell his children who are being raised with “Jewish values” but who are increasingly uncomfortable with what they see of Israel. Another asked about a possible apartheid scenario in which there would be different laws for Jews and non-Jews. (Alpher responded by indicating that Jews and non Jews already live under different laws in the West Bank, and pointed out that Israel regularly treats “terrorists” very differently depending on whether they are Arab or Jewish.)
Another person asked hopefully whether there was any chance Netanyahu might be replaced by a more “liberal” politician. Alpher’s response was that Netanyahu is not an aberration. He is well positioned because he actually reflects the thinking of a broad majority of Israelis.
Alpher did not offer a “solution” to Israel’s dilemma, other than to try to slow the slide down the “slippery slope”.
Alpher’s speaking tour was sponsored by Canadian Friends of Peace Now, a liberal Zionist organization. He also spoke in Montreal and Toronto.
Questions? Comments? Comments from Canadian Jews are especially welcome. Do you share Alpher’s dark assessment? Or do you think he is wrong? (Or do you think I am misrepresenting his argument?) All comments, respectfully presented, are welcome.