Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei first claimed back in 2015 that Israel won’t see the next 25 years, “Firstly, you [Israel] will not see the next 25 years,” Khamenei said. “God willing, there will be no such thing as a Zionist regime in 25 years. Until then, struggling, heroic and jihadi morale will leave no moment of serenity for Zionists.”
This was stated in relation to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which was signed earlier that year between Tehran and the P5+1 which in theory was to expire in 25 years’ time. It was in this context that the remarks were made.
Such rhetoric has been made in the past by the Islamic Republic, for instance, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said 10 years prior that, “This regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” This was popularly mistranslated and misquoted in Western media at the time to “Israel must be wiped off the map.” The original quote itself was attributed to the Islamic Republic’s founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The “25 years” has in some ways become a mantra, it was reposted officially on Khamenei’s website the following year in 2016 and the head of Iran’s army, Major-General Abdolrahim Mousavi repeated the claim in 2017 during an event commemorating the fallen during the Iran-Iraq War.
Mousavi was also quoted as recently as yesterday by Iranian news outlets, commenting on the unrest in occupied Palestine that “the signs of downfall of the child-killing and illegitimate Zionist regime has become evident.”
“There are also promising indications of a change in the balance of power in favour of Palestine,” he added. “These all show the truth of the prediction that the Zionist regime will not see the next 25 years.”
However, in light of the current political situation between Israel and the Palestinians, centred on the state’s assault and desecration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the forced evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and the conflict verging ever closer to a third intifada (uprising), it seems that Khamenei’s prediction might actually materialise, rhetoric aside.
In fact, Iran’s head of state wouldn’t be the first to foretell the future fall of the State of Israel. Veteran American statesman Henry Kissinger, who is of Jewish origin and almost a centenarian, was less generous in his own prediction about the fate of the Jewish state. He is alleged to have stated in 2012 that “In 10 years there will be no more Israel.” Although this was even acknowledged by Haaretz, the Times of Israel quoting a staffer of Kissinger denied he ever made the statement.
Presupposing the former secretary of state did make the statement, then his projection of Israel’s collapse would be sometime next year.
Such ideas of the state’s ability to survive are closer to home than Israel and its supporters would like to believe. In a February opinion piece on Yedioth Ahronot former chief of Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, lamented that Israel won’t remain for the next generation. He was not speaking figuratively.
Diskin elaborated, “I am not talking about the Iranian nuclear threat, Hezbollah missiles, or extremist fundamentalist Islam. I am talking about the demographic, social and economic trends that are already changing the essence of the state and are destined to endanger its existence in one generation.”
“In about 40 years, about half of the country’s citizens will be ultra-Orthodox and Arabs,” he wrote. This is an obvious security concern for the state, especially as both are exempt from the military and as Diskin acknowledged, “both are prevalent in anti-Zionist tendencies.”The demographic time bomb theory has been discussed aplenty over the years, particularly when one takes into consideration the combined populations of Gaza and the occupied West Bank, together with the so-called Arab Israeli population, who account for some 20 per cent of the country. Therefore Israel cannot be both a Jewish-majority state and a democracy at the same time, “if it can’t be both, the Zionist dream on which Israel is founded will end,” so argued journalist Michael Petrou back in 2008.
As the latest images and footage spreading rapidly online have shown, the Arab Israeli youth joining in unprecedented protests across northern and central Israeli cities have embraced their unfiltered Palestinian national identities in unity with their brethren in the occupied territories.
Withstanding the argument of demographics, the immediate threat to Israel does indeed come in the form of armed conflict. The realisation of Palestinian, or in fact any statehood, ultimately rests on a military solution preceding a political one, just as Israel was established in 1948.
As part of his nine-step plan to “eliminate” Israel, following the 2014 War against Gaza, Khamenei theorised that in the likely absence of a referendum by the native inhabitants to resolve the conflict, “powerful confrontation and resolute and armed resistance” is the only viable option available. This echoes the sentiments of African-American civil rights activist, Malcolm X who explained in 1963 that any real revolution inevitably involves “bloodshed,” pitting the landless against the landlord.
As those following the conflict unfold in real-time on social media have witnessed, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas has unleashed its largest and most widespread retaliatory attacks to date. Yesterday the Palestinian Information Centre reported that the massive rocket launch saw as many as 137 projectiles being flown towards Israeli cities in just five minutes. Footage has also emerged of strikes targeting Tel Aviv, however following deadly Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, Hamas has vowed that targeting civilian buildings will result in further larger-scale attacks on the city.
What has also come into question is Israel’s famed Iron Dome defence system which has been exposed throughout this campaign; of the very first initial seven rockets fired from Gaza, only one was intercepted. Ilan Goldenberg, the Middle East Security Director at the Washington DC-based CNAS noted yesterday that, “Hamas appears to be having more success than in the past in overwhelming Iron Dome with bigger barrages.”
The Jerusalem Post’s Senior Middle East Correspondent, Seth Frantzman, meanwhile commenting on the escalating “clashes” in the cities was critical of the fact that “most politicians and authorities seem to be just letting this happen, hoping it will just play itself out and go away.”
“No leadership in Israel today on this issue,” he remarked.
What is clear is that Israel is already losing the PR and information war with the workload of the hasbara cut out for them. Even in the build-up to the escalations, videos surfaced of brazen settlers taking over Palestinian homes in Sheikh Jarrah. In one such video a Brooklyn-accented man justified his theft by nonchalantly stating that if he didn’t steal it, someone else would. Such blatant criminal behaviour becomes increasingly difficult to defend and rationalise, especially when the offenders are not in denial.
Most humiliating of all though for the Zionist state, was the suspension of the “Chariots of Fire” military exercise aimed at confronting a hypothetical multi-front war, said to be the biggest drill for the Israeli army in 30 years. A military statement said that it was called off “to focus all efforts on preparations and readiness for escalation scenarios.”
Yet if angry protesters were sufficient to halt the brakes so to speak, it poses serious questions about Israel’s preparedness in handling Hamas rockets, let alone the more powerful and versatile foe on the northern border – Hezbollah, who have thus far yet to become involved, although this could change. Further proof of the coordination and cooperation of the Axis of Resistance has been the announcement by the leader of the Ansarallah movement, Abdulmalik Al-Houthi, that they stand “shoulder to shoulder” with the Palestinians in their struggle and offer their full support.
It is also worth reminding ourselves that despite Israel being a nuclear-armed state, any actual usage of such weapons represents the failure of deterrence, seeing as the use of nuclear weapons are their “non-use.” Interestingly an “errant” Syrian missile landed close to the Dimona nuclear reactor site despite travelling through protected airspace last month.
A side discussion is the economic angle of Israel’s survival, while it has made inroads as a world-leading tech powerhouse, it still relies heavily on the US for its sustained existence as a state. Israel’s very dependence on the US has been described as “existential” by Chuck Freilich, a former deputy Israeli national security adviser: “The bitter truth is that without the United States, the IDF would be an empty shell.”
The US took an enduring special interest in Israel following the impressive and spectacular defeat of the combined Arab armies in the Six-Day War in 1967. Yet faced with its own financial woes, US-taxpayer funded military aid is facing growing scrutiny and calls for this aid to be conditional on adherence to human rights.
However, a bipartisan letter signed last month indicates that the majority of lawmakers nevertheless insist that the $3.8 billion in annual military aid to Israel must remain unconditional based on their perceived strategic benefits. Regardless, the US realising the changing balances of power on the international stage is keen to shift its focus and resources to East Asia at the possible detriment to its interests in the Middle East.
If a generation is defined as roughly 20-30 years, and the first and second Intifada were in the 1980s and 2000s, respectively, then it makes sense that we are witnessing another generation of Palestinians determined to fight for their rights in the form of a third intifada. If this is indeed the case, then as I posited last year, we can expect far greater support from Iran compared to the previous uprising. Signifying this, a video has circulated of a spokesperson for the Al-Quds Brigade, the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad which has closer ties with Tehran compared to Hamas, who has also expressed gratitude to the Islamic Republic for providing them with Badr-3 missiles.
Ahead of Israel’s 73rd anniversary since it was established as a nation-state on 14 May 1948, the predominant Jewish majority of the country is at greater risk than ever before in its relatively short history, as demographics is no longer on the side of the Zionist project. The current political and social unrest amid the prospects of an unsurpassed armed uprising by the Palestinian people also suggests that time isn’t either.
(The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the London Times)