The New Immigrants to Israel Aren’t Fleeing Persecution but Seeking Opportunity

While Zionism’s founders certainly sought to create a state where Jews could live without the threat of anti-Semitism, they also embraced a positive vision of a place that would be far more than a refuge for the persecuted—and this was as true of Theodor Herzl as it was of Ahad Ha’am. This latter part of the Zionist vision, perhaps, is being realized by a recent wave of immigrants from prosperous North America, where anti-Semitism is far less of a threat than in Europe or elsewhere. Emily Benedek writes:

[These] immigrants to Israel . . . are going not out of personal fear, nor only to protect an embattled homeland, but because they see Israel (and IDF service) as a way to improve and expand their lives. Many of these new olim do not fit the earlier picture of vulnerable Jews from countries like France or the former Soviet Union, fleeing imminent threats or declining fortunes at home. Nor are they primarily motivated by religious belief. [Rather], they’re moving to Israel because they believe it can offer a unique place to unlock their human potential and create a robust future in a vital and growing society.

In fact, COVID-19 unleashed an unprecedented jump in interest in aliyah from all ages around the world. In July, the Jewish Agency’s chairman, Isaac Herzog, announced that he expected a startling 250,000 immigrants over the next five years, 15,000 more per year than pre-pandemic numbers—a 42-percent increase. But what surprised the Jewish Agency even more was the unexpected jump in calls requesting information about aliyah from residents of Western countries in particular, up 31 percent. The next step in the immigration process, actually opening a file with the Jewish Agency, saw a 91-percent increase from Western countries, and a 400-percent increase from North America, mainly driven by interest from residents of New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Ontario.

Yael Katsman, vice president for public relations at Nefesh b’Nefesh, which facilitates aliyah from the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, said in an interview that . . . the massive disruptions caused by the pandemic are providing a new freedom. Katsman said people tell her they are finally doing what they always knew they wanted to do. “Basically, COVID-19 has readjusted people’s priorities and plans—and working remotely and keeping up with family via Zoom has shifted their ideas of where they need to live.”

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Aliyah, American Jewry, Coronavirus, IDF

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

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