Thursday, May 01, 2008

Another Reason for Israel to be Larger—The Global Rice Shortage


As Israel prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday, the drumbeat of war grows louder from Iranian backed Hamas and Hezbollah. This is a clear and present danger to Israel.

It is indisputable that militarily, a larger Israel would have an easier time defending itself. Yet many argue that when there is peace, Israel’s size—i.e., back to its approximate pre-1967 borders—won’t matter.

But size does matter. There are many reasons other than military ones that require Israel to be larger. One such reason is adequate territory for growing the food necessary to feed its people.

Today’s headlines are splashed with news of a global rice shortage. Rice is even being rationed at the big box stores in the United States.

The U.S. housing crisis has given rise to a global credit crunch and forced institutional deleveraging. Oil prices have soared. Prices of potash and other products necessary in food production are going through the roof. And food prices are rising rapidly.

There are protests and riots around the world stemming from a lack of food availability and high prices. Poorer countries in Asia and Africa are erecting new export barriers because of the food crisis.

India’s finance minister P. Chidambaram was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying “There is no place in the world that grows the food we need if we’re forced to import.” Therefore we have to be nearly self-sufficient.”

What about Israel?

If a country the size of India demands itself to be self-sufficient, Israel too must demand itself be self-sufficient.

There is a rise in Nationalism. Countries are reasserting control over their people and their borders. Globalization has created a great deal of new wealth but the wealth is unevenly distributed so its wisdom is being challenged more forcefully in many corners of the world. Israel has been a beneficiary of globalization, and even a modest return of national fervor will take a toll on Israel.

Israel, the sole Jewish majority state in the world, must be self-sufficient in good global economic times and in bad. Bad economic times may isolate Israel.

Israel must not only be self-sufficient in its ability to defend itself and supply its own energy needs, it must also be self-sufficient in its ability to feed its growing population. Israel is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

In a region that has more than enough land for all its inhabitants, Israel is deprived of sufficient land to take care of itself. It sits on much less than one percent of the land in its vastly under-inhabited region.

Global rice shortages and national export barriers? What about bread? Israel today imports 85% of its milling wheat.

What would happen to Israel if it were cut off?

When the world spirals out of control, as it may be doing now, and as history shows it will from time to time, being a good global trading partner is not enough.

An undersized Israel is at risk of withering one day. It would then survive, if it survives, merely as a failed nuclear state. This is not a proper future for Israel. Israel must be encouraged to thrive, not only for its citizens, but also for all the good that Israeli agriscience brings to the world.

For example, water-saving drip irrigation used throughout the world was perfected in Israel. When the future needs of the yet unborn around the globe become even greater, a thriving Israel will be in much better shape to stand with other countries in the creation of new methods and techniques to feed the hungry.

Israel must insist that it live on territory large enough to be self-sufficient in all respects. The international community should encourage peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors such that Israel winds up larger, and Palestinian Arabs are put on a path to better lives rather than being condemned to live in a failed mini-state.

In a world that will face increasing difficult agricultural issues, a larger Israel will be a strong global partner in the effort to ensure that our children, and our children’s children have enough water to drink, and bread and rice to eat. A larger, thriving, self-sufficient Israel is in humanity’s interest.

--David Naggar