What the Elections to the World Zionist Congress Reveal about American Jewry

March 25 2020

In October, the 38th World Zionist Congress (WZC)—an institution founded by Theodor Herzl himself in 1897—will take place in Jerusalem. About one-third of those who attend will be Americans. The organization’s American branch recently held elections, which are open to any U.S. Jew willing to pay a nominal fee and agree to a bare-bones platform. The results, released on Monday, show that among the 123,629 who participated there is much support for Orthodox and right-leaning slates, and little for Hatikvah, the “progressive” slate backed by such organizations as J Street, the New Israel Fund, and Americans for Peace Now. Jonathan Tobin comments:

The number of voters [in the election] was more than double the number who took part in [the most recent Congress in] 2015 and far more than even the 75,686 who took part in 1997, the last time there was a significant shift in the preferences of the participants. The slates representing the Reform and Conservative movements amassed roughly 60 percent of the vote in 1997. In 2015, the two movements combined to get 56 percent. But this year, their share declined to only 37 percent.

The combined vote of slates that are linked to right-wing and religious parties in Israel won a clear majority of the votes cast in the election. That’s an astonishing turnaround when you consider the non-Orthodox movements and other liberal groups have won strong majorities in the past. [Moreover], while all of the slates turned out many more voters than in 2015, the greatest growth was among the Orthodox slates. Hatikvah, which sought to demonstrate the appeal of J Street and other liberal and left-wing groups, flopped.

The Congress vote demonstrates exactly what many observers of the demographic implosion of non-Orthodox Jewry have long worried about. Those who are still deeply involved in the Jewish community are more likely to be Orthodox and to sympathize with the right. Yet most surveys show the Orthodox making up only about 10 to 12 percent of American Jewry, far less than the total [percentage] won by the Orthodox slates. Still, Americans with Jewish ties who are less likely to identify with any of the denominations—let alone a secular Zionist party—clearly had little interest in the election.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Israel and the Diaspora, J Street, Religious Zionism, World Zionist Organization

Strengthening the Abraham Accords at Sea

In an age of jet planes, high-speed trains, electric cars, and instant communication, it’s easy to forget that maritime trade is, according to Yuval Eylon, more important than ever. As a result, maritime security is also more important than ever. Eylon examines the threats, and opportunities, these realities present to Israel:

Freedom of navigation in the Middle East is challenged by Iran and its proxies, which operate in the Red Sea, the Arabian Sea, and the Persian Gulf, and recently in the Mediterranean Sea as well. . . . A bill submitted to the U.S. Congress calls for the formulation of a naval strategy that includes an alliance to combat naval terrorism in the Middle East. This proposal suggests the formation of a regional alliance in the Middle East in which the member states will support the realization of U.S. interests—even while the United States focuses its attention on other regions of the world, mainly the Far East.

Israel could play a significant role in the execution of this strategy. The Abraham Accords, along with the transition of U.S.-Israeli military cooperation from the European Command (EUCOM) to Central Command (CENTCOM), position Israel to be a key player in the establishment of a naval alliance, led by the U.S. Fifth Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain.

Collaborative maritime diplomacy and coalition building will convey a message of unity among the members of the alliance, while strengthening state commitments. The advantage of naval operations is that they enable collaboration without actually threatening the territory of any sovereign state, but rather using international waters, enhancing trust among all members.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Abraham Accords, Iran, Israeli Security, Naval strategy, U.S. Foreign policy