Israelis are concerned about Iran's nuclear programme, which they believe is an existential threat. Supporting this argument they misquote the Iranian president as saying he wants to wipe Israel off the map.

They are right to be worried but their concerns are misplaced. Israel's continued existence as a Jewish state may be in the balance but this has nothing to do with Iran.

Let's be practical. Even if Iran did develop a nuclear weapon - and there is no evidence it intends doing so - its leaders would have to be suicidal to send it Israel's way. Israelis should quit hyping a non-existent Iranian threat and concentrate, instead, on real hazards that menace their future. What are they?

First of all, as reported by Bar Ilan University, non-Jews in Israel constitute 28 per cent of the population and this percentage is increasing year-on-year with the admittance of foreign labour and non-Jewish immigrants from former Soviet Union countries who immigrate on the strength of a Jewish ancestor.

Members of the latter group are usually economic migrants who feel little loyalty to their new home and are strangers to the concept of Zionism. In September, eight young Israelis were arrested for engaging in neo-Nazi activities triggering calls for an overhaul of right-of-return laws.

Arnon Sofer, a professor at the University of Haifa, made this prediction in 2002: By the year 2020 Jews will become a minority in Israel due to the influx of non-Jewish immigrants and the high Arab Israeli birthrate.

At the same time, Jewish immigration is down with Russian Jewish emigrants preferring to move to Germany rather than to Israel, while Jews in Eastern Europe are generally staying put so as to enjoy the fruits of vibrant, open economies.

Israel is also experiencing a Jewish brain drain according to Barr Hayoun writing in Ha'aretz, who says 700,000 Israelis are living abroad, while every year some 18,000 emigrate.

Out of these, between 2,000 and 5,000 eventually return but only half "liked the outcome of their return" and a "whopping 73 per cent said they had been satisfied with life abroad".

This shift in demographics has been referred to as "a time bomb" but there is another, just as important, factor to consider.

Israel's puissance and security within the region is arguably dependent on support from Washington in terms of billions of dollars in aid, loans and weapons. Instrumental in securing such support is the powerful pro-Israel lobby, which can make or break an American politician's career. But what if American Jewry decides the lobby no longer serves its interests?

American Jews are assimilating as never before with two out of three refraining from identifying themselves in terms of being Jewish and more than one-third living in non-Jewish households, according to the Council of Jewish Federations.


More than half of all American Jews are marrying outside the faith and the American Jewish birthrate is lower than that of non-Jews, which means the Jewish population in the US is shrinking and ageing. Moreover, a recent headline in Ha'aretz reads "Study: Young US Jews more comfortable when surrounded by non-Jews".

You get the picture. It's clear that if this trend continues over the next decades, American Jewish support for the lobby and for the Jewish state could dwindle to the extent organisations such as AIPAC could eventually be shunned as representatives of a foreign nation attempting to influence US foreign policy.

Based on the above projections, if Jews within Israel become a minority and the numbers of Jews in the US supporting a Jewish state - both financially and ideologically - decline, then Israel will be increasingly vulnerable.

There is also the possibility that the US public could one day decide it no longer wants its country to involve in Middle East wars waged primarily for the benefit of Israel's regional hegemony.

And Israelis themselves are wakening up to the fact that support from US Evangelical Christians is not altruistic but rather based on self-interest as the right-wing pundit Ann Coulter illuminated when she declared on TV that Jews need to be perfected by becoming Christians.

Nothing is forever and the tide could easily turn against Israel. If that were to happen in the US the rest of the world would likely follow suit.

The only way that Israel can secure its future is to seriously forge peace with the entire Arab world entailing its withdrawal behind 1967 lines so that a viable and contiguous Palestinian state can be formed with its capital Jerusalem.

Fixed borders and regional recognition will ensure long term peace and prosperity, and Israel's legitimate place in the world not as a feared pariah but as a respected nation that abides by international laws and treaties.

Peace may be crucial to the wellbeing of the Palestinians but, if they only knew it, it's just as vital for Israelis; perhaps even more so.

Linda S. Heard is a specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She can be contacted at