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worth a read from -jeruslam post

  1. Snooker

    5,748 Posts.

    Why does Israel consistently attract so large a share of the Western world's interest? It is not a matter of religion, really: Jerusalem is unique, but other countries, too, have their share of holy sites. Nor does it have to do with the fate of Jews, toward whom indifference, condescension and hostility were once, and to a large extent are again, the norm. Nor, finally, is it about the country's global strategic importance, for Israel, with no natural resources, an economy smaller than Portugal's and a population roughly half Belgium's, is not strategically important in any ordinary sense.

    But Israel is interesting because enough people in the West understand that where Israel goes, so do they, in two senses. First, because Israel is at the vanguard in the war on Islamism and terror, just as it was for decades in the war against Soviet expansion and a politically radicalized third world. And second, because the idea of the West and the reality of Israel are twinned. Should Israel fall, the former would be considerably harder to justify and sustain.

    For these reasons alone, the third annual Herzliya conference taking place this week deserves attention. (It can be watched via streaming video at www.herzliyaconference.org.) Organized by the Institute of Policy and Strategy of the Interdisciplinary Center, the conference brings together the cream of Israel's political, military and economic establishments - Sharon, Netanyahu, Mofaz, Klein, Mitzna, and Ya'alon, among others, will be present along with leading opinion makers in Europe and the US. In twelve sessions, they address everything from trends in the Jewish world to the future of the economy to the balance of Israel's national security.

    This is remarkable, particularly for a country whose time horizons rarely stretch beyond the coming week. It is also essential. At no point in recent memory have Israel's long-range prospects seemed more in doubt. In Europe, the process of Israel's moral and diplomatic delegitimization is well underway; Israelis consider themselves lucky to have so far escaped EU economic sanctions. The always hostile Arab world has been stirred to genocidal frenzy. If it is dangerous for Jews to live in Israel, the recent attacks in Kenya underscore the peril we face wherever we travel overseas.

    Most seriously, the nature of the terrorist threat, once considered a nuisance in the overall strategic picture, has been transformed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. This year's unsuccessful strike on the nearby Pi Glilot fuel depot might well have wiped out Herzliya altogether. Eventually - inevitably - such near-misses will give way to a devastating blow.
    In previous years, many in the West thought that Israel's troubles were sui generis and largely divorced from their own. Today that conceit is impossible to sustain. Not only is the type of threat identical, so too are the motives, ideologies and ambitions of those who pose the threat. Just as Israelis know that Palestinian ambitions do not end at the '67 lines, the West finally understands that Islamist ambitions do not end with Israel.

    No less important, it has become plain that the dilemmas that confront Israel in responding to terror are the same confronting other countries. Should the West pursue a strategy of negotiation, accommodation and retreat? Much of Europe appears to think so, and prescribes as much for Israel. Or should the West take a more aggressive approach, fighting the terrorists themselves and quashing the states that give them sanctuary? The Bush administration does, which is why, both tactically and rhetorically, it is so much more in step with the Sharon government - witness the recent targeted assassination of al-Qaida operatives in Yemen.

    Yet beyond this there are larger things. In no material way does the prosperity of the Western states hinge on Israel's survival. Just as the Crusader kingdoms lasted less than a century, Israel too could easily vanish in the next half-century or so. Our Jewish population might be annihilated, exiled or absorbed; Europe and America would carry on. The world would then account Israel a historical incident, an experiment in Jewish nationalism that never had much chance of success to begin with.

    Contained within that loss, however, would be a loss for West as well: the loss of Western will to defend its own its own ally, its own values, its own heritage. It would signal a victory of fatalism over moral purpose, of matter over spirit. If the conference at Herzliya serves one purpose, it is to help illuminate our way through.


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