George Friedman of Stratfor, the private intelligence firm for the private sector, had a piece today looking at Israel's present strategic environment and possible future trends. Friedman, the company's founder, usually pens the company's articles on Israel. Part of Stratfor's approach is usually to conduct analysis at the nation-state level rather than at the internal party or individual level except when dealing with civil wars/insurgencies.
Thus it isn't surprising that in his analysis of Israel's dilemmas he made no mention of Israel's settlement project on the West Bank that is aimed at the de facto annexation of the territory without the annexation of the people. This is accomplished through apartheid-style legal arrangements in which Israeli Jews living in the territory are treated as if they were living in Israel whereas Palestinian Arabs remain stateless foreigners.
His piece, concentrates on Israel's relationships with its two most powerful neighbors, Egypt to the south and Syria to the north, and its rival for regional military hegemony, Iran. Friedman alleges that Israel is focused on Iran's nuclear threat both because it is so potentially threatening to the Jewish state, but also because it is a good target for Israel's conventional military capability, its prime competitive advantage in business lingo. He then faults Israel's parties for worrying about such "petty" concerns as relations between the secular and religious populations rather than conducting an audit of Israel's strategic environment.
But Israel's growing ultra-Orthodox population is at the heart of Israel's strategic problems. Israel's conventional military advantage is not only due to having a motivated conscript army, but also to having a modern technologically advanced industrial sector to provide that military with technological fixes. Both are threatened by the ultra-Orthodox population, which is largely a draft avoiding non-serving and non-educated sector of the population that is growing due to its high birth rate. The males spend their time learning the finer points of Jewish religious law, halakha--which in Arabic is translated as sharia Yehudia. They are supported by their equally non-educated wives and by the state funds that the religious parties manage to siphon off as part of coalition agreements. The two fastest growing segments of Israel's population are the ultra-Orthodox and the Palestinian Arabs, who also don't serve involuntarily in the army due to a perceived conflict of interest. So over time Israel's potential manpower pool is shrinking and the Likud is loath to fix it because of Israel's party system that gives the religious parties extortion powers. And this traditionally non-Zionist sector is becoming gradually indoctrinated with the ideology of the religious Zionist sector. Maybe this should form the subject of one of Friedman's future columns.