Israel at 68: Flourishing Despite Everything

In honor of Israel’s Independence Day, celebrated last Thursday, Boaz Levi reflects on the Jewish state’s accomplishments: rising immigration, declining emigration, a robust birthrate, and high wages. And that’s not all:

Although there are people who want us to think otherwise, it turns out we just have it good here. Israelis are happy with life. The world happiness index recently placed Israel at eleventh. An internal CBS survey had 86 percent of Israelis saying they were satisfied with their lives, as opposed to 83 percent in the beginning of the 2000s. It’s therefore no surprise that according to a new report, Israel has a suicide rate lower than that of every European country but one.

Israelis’ happiness finds expression in other impressive statistics as well. According to the data, Israeli life expectancy is 1.5 years higher than the average for the developed world. . . .

Our national challenges have not ended, and probably never will. But still, . . . Israel has done the impossible in the 68 years of its existence. Starting off with many difficulties and unending obstacles, Israelis have managed to build a model society: a society that grants the long-suffering Jewish people cultural prosperity, a thriving economy, and damn it—the strongest army in the Middle East.

Read more at Mida

More about: Demography, Israel, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Israeli Independence Day


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy