Jonah Goldberg

HERZLIYA, Israel -- Finally, I can put the rumors to rest: the land of Zion isn't merely an abstraction, it's an actual country.

I am in Israel -- my first time -- to cover the Herzliya Conference, the country's premier national security forum.

(Full disclosure: My trip, as well as that of several other journalists, was underwritten by the Emergency Committee for Israel, which seeks "to educate the public about the serious challenges to Israel's security." The views here are my own.)

One of the few things that critics and friends of Israel can agree on is that Israel is different, a special sort of nation representing a special idea. That's true whether you subscribe to the heroic narrative, popularized by Leon Uris, of Israel's birth or the sadly more familiar anti-colonialist fable so popular among the campus left and the anti-Israel industry.

This is especially so for America's so-called realists. Whether they are sympathetic to Israel or scornful, they are convinced U.S. support for Israel fuels hatred and instability. Hence their obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

For instance, last night here in Herzliya, former Obama National Security Advisor James Jones said that if God were to have visited Barack Obama in 2009 with instructions on how to "make the world a better place and give more people hope and opportunity for the future," it would involve finding a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian issue. In 2009, when Jones was still Obama's NSA advisor, he told "J Street" -- the "pro-Israel" lobby that isn't very pro-Israel -- that if he could just solve one problem in the world, it would be the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the "epicenter" of U.S. foreign policy.

Such thinking falls somewhere between wild exaggeration and dangerous nonsense. Iran's pursuing nuclear weapons. Al-Qaeda remains dedicated to our destruction. Turkey, a once-staunch ally, is Islamifying. Russia is careening toward autocracy and China is on the march. Oh, and the United States is fighting two land wars. But the national security advisor's No. 1 priority was keeping Israelis from building houses in East Jerusalem? Really?

Also, how would a two-state solution bring more hope and opportunity to the world's poor? Or to those dying from AIDS or living under the yoke of dictatorship?

This, too, is the product of treating Israel like an abstraction. Obviously, the Palestinians' plight (real and imagined) contributes to the Middle East's problems. But it's not the source of those problems, and it is not the key to solving them either.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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