Tom Friedman had a good column on Israel’s fundamental strengths vis-à-vis Iran, it’s leading regional rival: “Iran’s economic and military clout today is largely dependent on extracting oil from the ground. Israel’s economic and military power today is entirely dependent on extracting intelligence from its people. Israel’s economic power is endlessly renewable. Iran’s is a dwindling resource based on fossil fuels made from dead dinosaurs.”
To me, though, the natural followup to this is consideration of Israel’s real strategic vulnerability — the country is ruling over a population of several million Arabs to whom it refuses to grant either independence or citizenship. That’s a recipe for big trouble, and it’s trouble that economic dynamism and technological prowess can’t overcome. Independence for these Arabs, by contrast, would pose some direct security risks but as Friedman argues Israel is a very successful country and society that gives every indication of being able to whether the security challenges of a very difficult region. But how long can Israel persist as a successful country while contravening basic democratic norms and denying rights and electoral participation to a huge proportion of its de facto population? There are good and obvious reasons for Israelis to want to resist incorporating millions of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians into their country, but the only realistic alternative to doing that is create a viable state on those lands for the Palestinians. On one level, this is well understood, but on another level it’s often hard to detect any understanding of it at all when you look at the policies of Israel and “pro-Israel” groups in the United States.