I hope our readers have watched the most recent video of Scott interviewing Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In this installment, Ms. Hirsi Ali offers her observations about Israel.
Her first observation pertains to Israel’s vibrant, flouishing economy, which has continuously transformed the country since she began visiting 15 years ago. My wife, who attended college in Israel in the early 1970s and who visits every few years, says the same thing. She tells me that, not having been to Israel in almost 20 years, I would scarcely recognize the place.
Hirsi Ali’s observation has policy implications. Most importantly, the fact that Israel is flourishing, even in the context of worldwide economic downturn, means that Israel should not “take risks for peace.” One takes risks in order to obtain things one needs, not things that, in theory, might be nice to have.
Israel does not need to reach a settlement with the Palestinians; it thrives under current security arrangements that have negated the Palestinian threat to its way of life. Even asuuming that a viable settlement were possible, it would be a luxury rather than a necessity. And in reality, a settlement would, at a minimum, chip away at the current, satsifactory security arrangements.
This ties in with Hirsi Ali’s second observation — that those warnings about the dangers of travel to Israel have no merit. When folks like President Obama push Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians, they claim to be acting in Israel’s interest. This claim depends in part on the view that Israel is a beleaguered, unsafe nation, held back in its development by having to devote so many resources to fending off the Palestinians. But in fact, Israel is prospering mightily and its streets are among the safest in the world. An honest assessment of Israel’s situation is incompatible with Obama’s claim that, in pushing for “peace,” he is doing Israel a favor.
Israel does face two important threats, however, and Hirsi Ali mentions both of them. The first, of course, is a nuclear attack by Iran, once that country develops nuclear weapons. This threat has nothing to do with Palestinians. Iran hates Israel for religious, cultural, and geo-political reasons. There is no sound basis for believing that a settlement with the Palestinians would lessen the threat Iran poses to Israel.
The other threat to Israel is the one Hirsi Ali mentions at the end of Scott’s interview — Israel’s intense desire to be well-regarded by the so-called international community. Two experts in international law, John Yoo and Peter Berkowitz, have both recently noted the same phenomenon.
Hirsi Ali considers this an admirable sentiment. It is, in the abstract. As she recognizes, however, in the world in which Israel finds itself, prudence requires that Israel ignore world opinion when determining its policies and actions on world opinion.
Israel’s safe streets and vibrant economy aren’t accidents. They were hard-won through policies the international community denounced. If Israel pays serious heed to world opinion, they might very well be lost.
Accordingly, Israelis should generally ignore world opinion, continue enjoying their vibrant lives, and figure out how best to deal with Iran.