Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Shifting U.S. Public Opinion on Free Trade and the Disastrous Consequences for Israel


“By a nearly two-to-one margin, Republican voters believe free trade is bad for the U.S. economy, a shift in opinion that mirrors Democratic views and suggests trade deals could face high hurdles under a new president.” By John Harwood, The Wall Street Journal, October 4, 2007.

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With the Turkish troop buildup on the Iraqi border, and U.S. Secretary of State Rice announcing new sanctions against Iran this morning, it is easy to lose sight of dangers to Israel other than military.

The shift in U.S. public opinion regarding free trade is one such danger that is easily obscured by war headlines.

Free trade has lead to global prosperity. It has taken hundreds of millions of people out of poverty in China and India alone.

Israel is a prime beneficiary. Its standard of living has risen appreciably because of free trade with Europe and the U.S. Its standard of living would fall dramatically if free trade were curtailed.

Today we live in dangerous times.

Nearly 80 years ago, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act was enacted in the U.S. to help it out of recession. Instead, the Act exacerbated the economic downturn by inviting retaliatory tariffs worldwide. Smoot-Hawley helped push the globe deeper into recession, and ultimately toward World War II.

What happens if the U.S. housing and credit crisis causes its economy to stall next year as many expect? What happens in the likely event that Democrats—the political party that traditionally is more wary of free trade—win control of the Presidency and both Legislative branches of government next year?

Legislation limiting free trade could very well be enacted into U.S. law.

The U.S. must look after U.S. interests, but if political pressure causes it to adopt a mistaken policy, it’s not only the U.S. that will pay the price.

Anti-free trade legislation in the U.S. would almost certainly trigger worldwide retaliatory measures. The consequences would be most painful in the emerging countries where, at the very least, millions will be thrown back into poverty. Political instability would increase worldwide.

For Israel, a country that needs to import water, oil and grain, and has very limited natural resources, limiting free trade would be a disaster. Beyond the economic pain, curtailed free trade would be disastrous for Israel because a weakened economy leaves Israel more vulnerable to enemies that wish it destroyed.

The upshot is this: Israel needs to be large enough to be independently viable so that it does not suffer too dearly when a foreign power makes a mistake.

Israel must not be so tiny and insignificant that it risks withering. It is ironic that "success" in Annapolis will greatly expose Israel to serious dangers in the long run.

Through technological, medical and scientific achievements, Israel massively contributes to the well being of all people on the planet. It must have a fair chance to survive and thrive in all economies, not just global good times.

The risk to Israel’s long term well being would be significantly lower if it had geography enough to make it self-sufficient in an age where trade may become more limited, and ensuing international calamities occur.

Please read The Case for a Larger Israel and then make up your mind.

--David Naggar

Friday, October 05, 2007

It's Time to Align U.S. Vital Interests in the Middle-East with Bettering the Planet


“U.S. President George W. Bush said in comments aired on Friday he was "very optimistic" a Palestinian state could be set up alongside Israel and that next month's Middle East conference could lead towards peace in the region.

Israeli sources say November 26 is the date set for the U.S.-led Mideast peace conference to be held in Annapolis. The United States has yet to confirm the date.

"I am very optimistic that we can achieve a two-state solution," Bush said in comments on Al Arabiya television that were dubbed in Arabic.” From Haaretz, by Barak Ravid, Avi Issacharoff and Aluf Benn, October 5th, 2007.

* * *

President Bush wants stability throughout the Middle-East. He wants to make sure there is no interruption in oil supplies that would devastate the U.S. and world economy. He wants to make sure that so-called terrorists—Islamists who wish to cause mass harm to the U.S. and the American ideal of live and let live—aren’t given the weapons to do so by any “rogue state.”

His motivations are the motivations of Republicans and Democrats alike in the U.S. Setting aside the quest for power, the fight between the two major parties is about strategy, not goals. Iraq, for all the noise, is nothing more than a strategy question. There is little disagreement about American “vital interests.”

Where does this leave Israel?

Because Israel’s one true ally (that is, its current political ally in the ever shifting sands of allies and enemies) has what it deems to be larger interests to consider, Israel is left on the perpetual verge of being forced to return to the 1967 borders (give or take).

These borders will not work for Israel in the long run. Nor will a fractured mini-state work to achieve the well-being of Palestinian Arabs. But the vital interests of Israel and Palestinian Arabs cannot be expected to be the focus of the U.S. except as they coincide with U.S. vital interests, as those interests are understood in Washington.

It is in Israeli, Palestinian and world interest that the present-day understanding of U.S. vital interests be reexamined to take a longer view.

Middle-East oil is unlikely to be critically important in 50 years. And the present borders of Arab States, imposed by outside forces, are unlikely to be the same. Sects within the larger Arab population will choose to relocate if freely allowed to do so.

But the future mind-set of Islamic clerics in the Middle-East and beyond will likely be critical. Muslims of the Middle-East will either participate in a more prosperous world, or they will fight modernity and cause potentially catastrophic global problems.

So what can the U.S. do today? For starters, back off the unworkable two-state solution.

The U.S. and the world are best served if the U.S. promotes freedom in Middle-East States so that moderate clerics may speak up without fear of assassination.

The U.S. and the world are best served if the U.S. promotes that the only Jewish majority state be larger than Vermont. This will help diminish the ongoing threat of Israel’s annihilation, and ensuing regional carnage.

The U.S. and the world are best served if the U.S. promotes that Israel be large enough to be self-sufficient and prosperous without subsidy. The technological discoveries and innovation from within the Jewish state will spread and make the planet better in many, many ways.

It's time to align U.S. vital interests in the Middle-East with bettering the planet.

--David Naggar