By George Gilder
America’s enemies understand deeply and intuitively that nothing at stake in the Middle East–no U.S. war aims or resources anywhere in the region–is remotely as important as Israel. Why can’t American leaders figure this out?
With its ever growing panoply of technical, economic, moral and military assets, Israel cruised through the recent global slump with scarcely a down quarter, no deficit or stimulus and an ascendant shekel. It increased its global supremacy, behind only the U.S., in an array of leading-edge technologies, from microchip design, network algorithms, medical instruments, and water recycling to missile defense, robotic warfare, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Meanwhile, contrary to all the floods of mendacious propaganda in an ever gullible mainstream media, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s bold economic and humanitarian policies in the West Bank and Gaza have succeeded in fostering a brisk economic revival in the territories, with a growth rate of near 10 percent in Gaza. As George Will ascerbically commented in a brilliant column, “Turkey was claiming to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, a land with higher incomes and longevity than Turkey itself.”
Accomplished in close collaboration with the U.S. and vital to the U.S. economy and military capabilities, tiny Israel’s unparalleled achievements in industry and intellect have conjured up the familiar anti-Semitic frenzies among all the necrophilic failed societies of the socialist and Islamist Third World, from Iran to Venezuela. Joined in the UN, they all imagine that by delegitimizing, demoralizing, defeating or even destroying Israel, they could take a vast step toward bringing down the entire capitalist West.
To most sophisticated Westerners, the Jihadist focus on Israel seems bizarre. From Third Worldly President Obama to isolationist Republican Ron Paul, from Secretary Hilary Clinton in her gimpy two-way diplomacy to General David Petraeus in his critique of Israel’s defense as somehow a burden on his Mid East surges, many American leaders suppose that support of Israel is somehow a distraction or liability.
But on the centrality of Israel the Jihadists have it right. Unmoored from the paramount goal of deterring attack on Israel or defending it against the common enemy, U.S. strategy slides into incoherence, drifting from a futile tightrope walk among the tribes of Afghanistan to propping up the Lebanese Army with sophisticated night fighting gear and enhancing the Palestinian police forces with a hundred million dollars worth of new equipment and training assistance, all the while speciously guaranteeing military superiority to Israel.
This schizoid and self-defeating policy is sure to boomerang in the case of a new war that such strategic confusion makes both more likely and more lethal.
At the same time, the Administration undermines the U.S. accomplishments in Iraq through a duplicitous doctrine upholding Afghanistan as somehow the “good war” while deeming Iraq as a “trillion dollar mistake.” But a perspective based on the centrality of Israel reveals this stance as strategic nonsense.
During a recent trip to Israel with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), consulting some 35 Israeli military and national security leaders, I found that by contrast the view from the trenches was quite different. The Iraq campaign removed a formidable regime that had launched a nuclear program, released Scud missile attacks on Tel Aviv, dispatched into Israeli cities scores of suicide bombers with $25 thousand rewards for their families, and commanded sizable wealth and military forces devoted to the destruction of Israel. Question the Israeli military about the Afghanistan campaign, however, and you get much eye-rolling and perplexity. One eminent Israeli sighed and observed that Afghanistan is a poor and backward country that poses no threat. In Afghanistan, he commented, “The U.S. will ultimately do the right thing…after exhausting all the alternatives.”
Stultifying all U.S. policy is a delusional belief in the validity and significance of the moral claims of the Palestinians and their supposed right to a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. Such an outcome was achievable between 1948 and 1967 when the two territories were ruled by Jordan and Egypt (though at the time neither of these Arab countries made the slightest move toward Palestinian statehood). Palestinian statehood might also have been feasible after 1967 when Israeli settlers spurred a wide ranging economic boom in both territories, tripling Palestinian incomes and raising longevity from 46 years to 73 years over two decades.
Statehood was also conceivable during the turbulent 1980s and early 1990s when Israel itself remained a sluggish socialist economy. It was yet to be revived by venture capital and a million anti-communist Russian immigrants fueling a turn to the right and spurring a technological miracle.
But history moves on. Today in the entire world almost no ethnic group is less deserving of a state of its own. When the U.S. and the UN endorsed and financed Yassir Arafat’s return from Tunisia and delivered the terrorities into the sanguinary hands of a Jihadist cult led by this fervent admirer of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the “two state solution” became a suicide pact for Israel.
When the PLO launched two murderous Intifadas within a little over a decade, responded to withdrawals from southern Lebanon and from Gaza with scores of thousands of rockets on Israeli towns, spurned every sacrificial offer of “Land for Peace” from Oslo through Camp David, reversed many of the huge economic gains fostered by Israel in the Territories between 1967 and 1990, and allowed the ascendancy of the nihilist anti-Semites of Hamas in Gaza and Hizbollah in Lebanon, the die was cast.
As current Palestinian leaders continue to name city squares after the most murderous suicide bombers, continue to indoctrinate generations of Palestinian youth in school with a genocidal ideology that reduces Jews to a subhuman status of “rodents and vermin”, we can finally say “enough already.” It is over. Regardless of what Netanyahu may say in an attempt to placate Obama, Israel cannot allow a festering Palestinian state to be embedded in its heart.
If the Palestine Authority wants to make a deal, it should try negotiating with Jordan, already a dominantly Palestinian state four times larger than Israel, or with Syria or Egypt. The Israelis are moving on. We should follow.
In Washington,though, the dominant belief seems to be that the source of all the tensions in the Middle East is that this tiny sliver of a country has “too much land.” It can gain peace only by giving away surplus land to its enemies. A visit to Israel will quickly disabuse this belief. A booming economy still absorbing overseas investment and a substantial net inflow of immigrants, hemmed in by enemies on three sides in a space the size of New Jersey, with 60 thousand Hizbollah and Hamas rockets at the ready, and Iran lurking with nuclear ambitions and genocidal intent over the horizon, Israel is obviously not too big but too small. Despite its huge technological advances, its survival continues to rely on peremptory policing of the West Bank, on readiness to reoccupy Gaza, on an ever advancing shield of antimissile technology, and on the unswerving commitment of the U.S.
But this is no one way street. At a time of acute recession and debt overhang and increasing US vulnerability to missile attack, US defense and prosperity increasingly depend on the ever growing economic and technological power of Israel. As much as we needed Jewish scientists to build the atomic bomb to end World War II, today we need Israel to defeat the Jihad. Together we stand and we can deter or defeat every foe. Separately both will slide into inexorable decline.
This choice sums up our Israel Test today. Our enemies understand it well. Why cannot Obama, Clinton and Petraeus?