created at: 2014-03-27ICYMI spring is here. Didn’t it feel lovely yesterday?

For the third year in a row, as Passover nears, I offer four Israel-related questions that might spark a little more discussion that the usual matzah-maror-dipping-reclining ones.

Question One

Despite another Israel-says-yes, Palestinians-say-no moment of truth this month in Washington, there’s always hope that peace might be achievable. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision of an Israeli-Palestinian peace that would lead to a normalization of ties with the Arab world is one that we should all be behind, especially as he paints a tantalizing and compelling picture of Israeli innovation and technology combined with the entrepreneurship and resources of Gulf nations like the UAE and Qatar. Will this coming year finally see that dream begin to be realized? I sure hope so; wouldn’t it be amazing to fly from Tel Aviv to Dubai for a long weekend?

Question Two

Last year I asked if the situation in Syria would continue to worsen and spill over into the Golan Heights. 12 months later, the answer to the first part of that question is absolutely yes, but the answer to second part of the question is (thankfully) not so much. But with the continued sinking of Syria into a morass of civil war, barbarism, and lawlessness, it’s hard to see any outcome which is going to make Israel feel any better. The survival of Assad will strengthen the hands of both Iran and Hezballah, but the victory of ISIS/al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, or other battle-hardened jihadis would be equally bad. Which choice should Israel prefer? Honestly, neither, so I guess this year’s question is can Israel continue to maintain a strong and secure border with Syria while aggressively responding to cross-border attacks and continuing to bomb weapons convoys headed to Hezballah?

Question Three

Down south, all eyes are on Gaza and the untenable situation that Hamas finds itself in. With Egypt systematically destroying the Sinai-Gaza smuggling tunnels, and the sea and land borders still under the watchful eyes of Israel, Hamas has an ever-dwindling cash supply and nothing to show for seven years of totalitarian rule. Various analysts have indicated that Hamas’ fragile economic situation makes it ripe for the toppling… but just like in Syria, there’s a legitimate fear that whoever comes into power next will be even worse for Israel and much more committed to war and terror. Say what you will about Hamas, but the biggest open secret out there is that Hamas is clamping down on rocket attacks because it knows that the next large-scale campaign of rockets launched into Israel will probably both exhaust their rocket supply and lead to their ouster by Israel. And neither Israel, nor Hamas, wants that to happen right now, so the status quo continues. But the big question we should all have is how much longer will Hamas cling to power?

Question Four

On a lighter note, the World Cup is this summer in Brazil. To no one’s surprise, Israel did an adequate job in the qualifying campaign but came up short. Of the 53 teams who attempted to qualify in the UEFA group, Israel came in 26th. Not the best showing, but not the worst. But as the sands of geopolitics, soccer politics, and Russian expansionism swirl around the recent invasion and annexation of Crimea, two US senators have officially appealed to FIFA to expel Russia from the World Cup. If (and it’s a huge and unlikely if) that somehow happens, do you know what country would automatically get Russia’s spot? Yes, you guessed it… Israel. So here’s the biggest non-doomsday question I’ve got… Will Israel somehow, someway, be playing in Brazil this summer? It’s certainly a long shot, but hey, this is the season of miracles.

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