Saturday, June 9, 2007

A Really Big Mistake

A most appalling aspect of Israel's attack on Lebanon was the fundamental irrationality. One of the world's great trading peoples attacking one of the world's oldest entrepots- what's wrong with this picture?

What the Israelis needed to do, from the beginning, was to make Lebanon their best friend in the region. They needed to provide aid to raise the per capita income of the Lebanese to that of the Israelis, surely a modest enough goal. This would have provided a buffer state to the north, expanded the overall size of the Israeli market economy, and given them a much better card to play with Syria.

In a broader sense, the Israelis needed to tell the people of the region, "We have become one of you". Perceiving themselves as an island of western modernity in a sea of sub-standard peoples was, in retrospect a mistake.

It took no crystal ball to predict that the mid-east would face serious problems, internally, in integrating with an industrialized west- an integration that could not be evaded, due to the oil. If it was necessary to the establishment of Israel to dispossess the Palestinians, the first acts of the new state should have been directed to making that right for the Palestinians. A vigorous program of relocation payments and co-optation would have gone far to alleviate this now-bleeding sore.

Historically, the Jews have combined awesome commercial abilities with an inward-turning sociology of faith. They have secured many footholds in important markets that they subsequently lost. Let us hope this is not so for modern Israel.

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