By all measures, Israel is the strongest nation in the Middle East and the only democracy. This strength, however, is compromised by the fear-mongering of Israel’s right-wing government, continued settlement building in the West Bank, its anti-democratic attack on NGOs and free speech, its growing exclusionary militant Jewish nationalism, and its resistance to all attempts to reach a compromise resulting in a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These trends have not served Israel’s best interests as a democracy and majority Jewish state. Though the Palestinians certainly must share the blame for a lack of progress over the last two plus decades, they are the weaker party. Despite legitimate fear and distrust of both sides towards each other, it is the stronger party that has the least to lose by initiating serious peace proposals.

Here are four important articles describing not only the depth and breadth of Israel’s strength, development and ingenuity, but also the threats against it. These articles offer a sober and clear-sighted view of the reality in which Israel finds itself, as well as showing how President Obama has been one of the greatest friends Israel has ever had in the oval office (item #3 from the NY Times).

1. A Wake-up Call: Celebrating Half a Century of Israeli Occupation – Ari Shavit, Haaretz, April 7, 2016

“At the end of 50 years, it will be clear what our revealed choice has been: We prefer the Land of Israel over the values of Israel. …

Clinging to the places where the prophets walked has caused us to lose touch with the prophets’ vision. The fanatical zeal for mountains, hills and land of Israel has caused us to abandon the precious breastplate of the Jewish heritage. The idolatry of the land cult and the idolatry of power and the idolatry of the tribe have worn away the commitment to universality, which was the foundation stone of our culture. The land has blinded us and has dulled our senses and has caused us to betray what we are. Half a century is a milestone. Half a century is also a wake-up call. There are no more excuses and justifications and there is no more “tomorrow.” The permanency of the occupation is becoming an integral part of our life and our identity. Thus it is endangering the State of Israel, the Jewish people and the Jewish heritage. Before the Palestinians embark on the 50th-year intifada and before the international community imposes the 50th-year sanctions on us, it is incumbent upon us to find the courage to end the 50-year curse by ourselves, for ourselves.”

2. Will Israel Reach age 100? Aaron David Miller (RealClearWorld), April 12, 2016

“Having worked the Israel issue for half a dozen secretaries of state, I’m more convinced than ever that Israel is here to stay….

The region in which Israel lives is melting down at a rate no one would have anticipated. Yet if any states disappear, these may be on the Arab side….

The region’s three non-Arab states – Israel, Turkey, and Iran – are probably the most highly functioning polities in the region. All are domestically stable, have tremendous economic power, and are capable of projecting their power in the region. Of the three, Israel by far has the best balance of military, economic, and technological prowess and brain power. By any significant standard – GDP per capita; educational assets; share of Nobel prizes; even the global happiness index – Israel leads the region, and much of the rest of the world, by wide margins…Compare the situation Israel faces in 2016 with any other period since the founding of the state 68 years ago, and there is little doubt the country is stronger, more secure, and holds a more pronounced qualitative military edge than it ever has. Furthermore, with the exception of Iran, its traditional adversaries are weaker and are falling further behind…

The situation, of course, is far from perfect. Israelis face a rash of attacks by Palestinians, as well as more substantial threats from Hizbullah, Hamas, and ISIS wannabes in Sinai. But these aren’t existential security threats to the state, and Iran’s putative quest for a nuclear weapon has been constrained for now…

Functional cooperation with Jordan, improving ties with Turkey, close relations with Egypt, and an emerging alignment of interests with Saudi Arabia against Iran, all suggest a certain lessening of the Arab state allergy to Israel…

In a region with not a single Arab democracy, a rising Iran, and threats from transnational jihadists, Washington will almost certainly continue to look to Israel as an ally in the region. Indeed, the threat of significant terror attacks on domestic soil from a Middle East in meltdown will provide the best set of talking points for the continuation of the U.S.-Israel special relationship…

Israel is a highly functional state that has powerful agency, extraordinary human resources, a demonstrated capacity to deal with its security challenges, and neighbors who seem to be growing weaker, not stronger.”

3. Israel’s Unsung Protector: Obama – By Lara Friedman, NY Times, April 10, 2016

“With the Obama administration in its final year, several officials have said that the president has grown so frustrated with trying to revive Middle East peace talks that he may lay down his own outline for an Israeli-Palestinian two-state peace agreement, in the form of a resolution in the United Nations Security Council…

If that happens, count on two reactions: Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will oppose it, and a chorus of American politicians and commentators will suggest that it would be unprecedented — even unthinkable — for an American president to support a Security Council resolution that Israel opposed, rather than veto it…

Over seven years, Mr. Obama has not permitted passage of any Security Council resolution specifically critical of Israel. But a careful examination of the record shows that, since 1967, every other American president allowed, or even had America vote for, Security Council resolutions taking Israel to task for actions and policies toward the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors….

President Obama, in contrast with his predecessors, has completely shielded Israel from such resolutions. This fact is all the more striking given that his presidency has overlapped with governments that have been among the most right-wing in Israel’s history — governments that have continually and openly defied American-led peace efforts and American policy opposing settlement expansion.

The two-state solution is the only path to preserving Israel’s security and its character as a Jewish state and a democracy, while delivering freedom, dignity and sovereignty to the Palestinians. We can hope that President Obama may now recognize that preserving this solution for the future is the most important legacy he can leave in this arena. But to accomplish that, he must be willing to resist, rather than court, the anti-peace bullies in Israel and the United States; he must be willing to stand up for American interests in obtaining a Middle East peace, and to stand with America’s allies in the Security Council in supporting a two-state solution.

If he does that, President Obama will not be betraying Israel. He will be Israel’s true friend. And he will walk in the footsteps of all eight other presidents since 1967, Democrat and Republican alike.”

4. Israel School Scraps Death Camp Trips Amid Fears of Right Wing Radicalization, Forward, April 13, 2016

A Tel Aviv high school principal will no longer send pupils on an annual educational trip to former concentration camps in Poland because of its perceived “ultranationalist” influence on the students.

5. Skunk Spray!  – You Tube

A degrading form of abuse – or a safe, ingenious, effective, non-lethal, and non-toxic crowd control method that smells indescribably foul? The Palestinians want it banned. What’s your opinion? An Israeli creation (2 minutes 41 seconds).