Israel's next challenge: making the cities bloom?
I groaned upon reading travel writer Paul Theroux’s supportive portrayal of young Vietnamese "getting rich selling rice" now that the Americans have long gone, in his “Ghost Train to the Eastern Star". You don’t get rich selling rice I smirked; you get rich selling Samsungs and Kias like another Asian country where we Americans managed to hang on.
Suddenly I caught the parallel between the ignorantly satisfied Vietnamese rice peddlers and every bit as foolishly joyous Israeli olive grove purloiners – said groves purloined at a national cost of pain and strain which could have produced one of earth’s leading industrial and technological lights just as easily as it has produced one of the world's ever more despised military powers, ever more challenged to hold on to those olive groves.
WWII Germany at the height of its menace never possessed the like of 3000 Merkva and M-60 tanks (built 1350 Tigers), 400 F-15s and F-16s and reputedly 400 (!) nuclear bombs. How much world class industrial strain does it take to produce even one such explosive? Ask Iran – a giant nation compared to Israel – which may now be straining with all it's might to produce a single one. It took the US's vast postwar nuclear electric power industry to supply material needed to produce its many weapons.
"Made the desert bloom!" Really new immigrant stuff: compares to the joy of owning your very own taxi cab in a free Western city. Israel’s native born would have appreciated much more an economic/technological miracle in their cities. Had Israel gone the "legit" economic route when the UN ceded 55% of Palestine to the Jews, its kids might have afforded to BUY all the olive groves they wanted anywhere in the world by now – and everyone including the Palestinians would be sanely happy.
A billion Arabs supposedly long to drive Israel into the sea – so Israel must maintain a world class military anyway – with half the population of the city of Buenos Aires? Even that won't be enough once Israel’s Mid-East neighborhood goes nuclear – not if the Arabs really do want to push Israel into the sea. Just one unexploded nuke left to be discovered in a Tel Aviv alley could be enough to empty all of Israel on the quick (click here for further explanation) under its present inadequate defense arrangements with the US (visions of delirious Palestinians dancing in Tel Aviv’s streets).
Only major US military bases on Israel’s soil in the context of a mutual defense treaty such as the US has with Japan or in the context of a “compact of free association” such as the US has with Micronesia can make Israel secure against conventional powers without Israel forever using up the last of its capital, human and otherwise, just to keep breathing or against hostile nuclear powers against whom Israel can have no defense of its own. No one tells the 800 pound gorilla to "move over."
But, the US will no way base the smallest military force in Israel for as long as Israel maintains a single controversial settlement in the West Bank or even in East Jerusalem – or ever more successfully mounts its starve-em-out siege of Gaza (see details of the latter below *). More and more Americans are waking to the realization that on 9/11 the US essentially traded skyscrapers for settlements – especially in the ruthless lights of Lebanon II and Operation Cast Lead.
What would be in an ethical (and just incidentally more prosperous) Israel for the US? Not trading any more skyscrapers for settlements is a good start. Not living with the potential of a nuclear blow out in the Middle-East finding its way to Manhattan is even better. Just shutting down Israel’s abominable ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as Al Quaeda's chief recruiting magnet would be worth the price of admission for US military basing in Israel alone.
[ * Check out Egypt finalizing its end of the tunnel-proof "iron wall" to forever seal off Gaza's 1.5 million already half-starved Palestinians from the earth at http://avnery-news.co.il/english/index.html.]
[ For an Israeli "psychological check up" check out http://ontodayspage.blogspot.com/2010/01/in-david-brooks-ny-times-column-he.html.]