Monday, August 16, 2004

essential reading

two fundamental issues tie the United States inexorably to the Middle East right now, and you'll read a lot about them both here in the Thunderdome. Economically, its obviously oil. But politically, the essential attachments involve Israel, and neither issue has crept even inches towards resolution in recent years. Whereas our relationship to Middle East oil has deteriorated steadily since the beginnings of the Reagan administration, the history of the US/Israel interface has followed a jagged trajectory of intersection and diversion of interests. And at times, both directions simultaneously.

Ariel Sharon's present policies embody the complexity of this relationship. Reasonable thinkers of all political persuasions may find fault or hope in the Gaza pull-out plan AND the separation wall/barrier. But the most important understanding is a grasp of what Sharon's overarching philosophy and vision means for the future of Israel, and by extension the United States.

James Bennett's piece in the NYT Magazine is utterly brilliant. Summarized in a final graf:

Because it scorns negotiation and agreement, Sharon's long-term interim arrangement is an acceptance of, and maybe a goad to, enduring conflict -- almost surely at a lower level, but sustained. As this conflict grinds on, Israel will no doubt remain morally alert -- morally conflicted, as demonstrated by the soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories -- but it will also remain morally compromised in the eyes of the world. Its back to the rest of the Middle East, its face to the Mediterranean, Israel could become ''the largest ghetto in modern Jewish history,'' in the words of Ezrahi.
Sharon may be right. This could be the only way to secure Israel's survival as a Jewish haven. But it may mean a poignant legacy for this indomitable, secular Jew born into the Middle East: an Israel that is increasingly religious, walled off from its neighbors, simultaneously yearning after and fearing a Western community of nations that sees it as more and more foreign.

It's long, it's well-written, and it's utterly essential to understanding how Israel will face the future as long as Ariel Sharon commands the stage.

- LH


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