For one week a year for the past eleven years, Herzliya in Israel has hosted a coming together of Israel’s most powerful supporters. Herzliya 2011 began yesterday and will go on for the rest of the week.
But this is no amateur occasion for fans of the Zionist state. Herzliya offers a chance for senior security experts, academics, military officials, corporate and media players and politicans from around the world to gather and discuss how to respond to Israel’s challenges. A series of roundtable discussions, closed to the public and employing Chatham House rules, allow the elite of the pro-Zionist elite to share their thoughts without fear of scrutiny or accountability.
As the organisers themselves say:
Early 2011 is likely to be a critical juncture of game-changing developments requiring international decision-making regarding a broad and daunting array of issues to include strategic directions of the key regional actors, the Middle East Peace Process, the future of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, domestic political stability in the Middle East, energy and natural resource security and geopolitics, regional and global economic governance, as well as new forms of cyber and missile warfare and the attempts to curb nuclear proliferation. Shaping regional and international policy debates, the deliberations at Herzliya will also address Israeli responses to these challenges and strategies to pro-actively confront the “soft war” launched against the legitimacy of Israel’s right to self-defense, its inherent obligation to vigorously pursue its national interests, and even its very existence as a Jewish state.
Themes range from domestic matters of energy or water supply to the rise of the Asian economies, by way of a large chunk examining all aspects of Israel’s military, diplomatic and economic strength. Be in no illusion that the occupation of Palestine and more than 60-year subjugation of the Palestinian people runs through the conference agenda like a tapeworm.
This year, however, things seem slightly different. A large proportion of the agenda is given to the increasingly uncertain international landscape that confronts Israel. Plenary session titles include:
- The New Global Balance of Power: The Shift to the East
- All the Eggs in One Basket? America’s Place in Israel’s Foreign Policy
- The Broader Middle East Game: The US, Europe and Regional Stability
- Is Israel Losing Europe?
- New Media as a Strategic Weapon
- Turkey – Cause for Concern?
- On Criticism and Prejudice: The Arab-Israeli Conflict and the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy
- Dilemmas in US Policy in the Middle East: Stability vs. Democracy?
- Streets Rule? Middle East Domestic Instability and Regional Implications
- Taking a Toll? International Sanctions and Iran’s Domestic Arena
- Concluding Session: A New Middle East?
Topics of the roundtable discussions include:
- Radicalization and Counter – Radicalization in the Muslim World
- The Iranian Challenge – Political Alternatives and Beyond
- Addressing the Assault on Israel’s Legitimacy in Europe
- Not a Sealed Fate, nor Preordained: Israel’s Online Image
If you think you can stomach it, the full agenda can be found here.
It’s really no exaggeration to say that all the big beasts are there. Speakers this year include Shimon Peres; Tzipi Livni; Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Efraim Halevy, former Mossad chief; Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, IDF Chief of General Staff; and Israeli Ambassador to Britain Ron Prosor. Add to this a number of US members of Congress and lobbyists and parliamentarians from around the world.
Keeping the British end up are Minister of Defence Liam Fox; Lorna Fitzsimmons of BICOM; Labour’s John Spellar MP; and ITV Middle East correspondent John Ray (‘Biased? Moi?’).
From what I can gather (sadly the Friendly Lefty was not invited), the uprisings in Tunisia and in particular Egypt have featured heavily in discussions. As well they might. I’d like to be a fly on the wall in some of those meetings. I like to think there are a good deal more worried faces than at previous conferences. It’s been obvious for a number of years that Israeli strategists are concerned about Europe’s growing movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Concern has especially focused on London, where a relatively successful alliance between the Muslim community and the left has been constructed and maintained which has become an example to other progressives and anti-imperialists across the continent.
Let’s hope sessions for Herzliya 2012 include ‘How do we deal with the new democratic Egypt’, ‘After the Gaza siege’ and ‘Have we lost European popular opinion for good?’