WASHINGTON - The key term in the prime minister's close circles is "base." This American political term refers to the part of the right-wing population that both set up the Netanyahu government and ensures its survival. The strategy that has guided Benjamin Netanyahu over the past three years is a fundamental strategy of don't lose the base - not to commit any act that will cause the Likud leader to lose the support of the nationalists, the national-religious or the Haredim who got him into the Prime Minister's Office.
The base strategy has proved itself. Even when hostile political legions besieged the government, the stable base ensured Netanyahu a stable administration. No political failure, no social failure and no public storm have undermined the steadfast government of the secular right, religious right and Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) right.
The State of Israel also has a base. Israel's base is the democratic West. Historically, the West created Israel. Politically, the West supported Israel. As for security, the West conferred on Israel its military strength. Economically, the strong connection with the West enabled the formation of a modern and prosperous Israeli economy.
It's the democratic West that set up Israel and ensures its survival. Even when hostile legions besieged us, the stable base of the West's support defended us. The alliance with the United States and Europe has meant that no political failure, no military failure and no regional storm have undermined the Jewish state.
In Washington this week, the picture has grown sharper than ever. Israel is losing the base. The fundamental support of the democratic West for the democratic Jewish state is being undermined. No longer is it a question of U.S. President Barack Obama alone. Nor is it a question of the radical left or self-hating Jews.
Even the best and most enlightened of our friends are at a loss when it comes to us. They don't understand the stubbornness of a once-clever country that now builds in the settlements. They don't understand the stinginess of a country that was once generous toward moderate Palestinians. They don't understand the inflexibility of a country that was once wise regarding Turkey. They don't understand the vile reactionary spirit rising from the parliament of a country that was once progressive and enlightened.
The democratic West now looks at Israel in disbelief and repugnance. It senses that Netanyahu is ridiculing it and that the Netanyahu coalition represents a Haredi-nationalist state it can't identify with. Because the prime minister is clinging to his political base, the State of Israel's strategic base is eroding.
True, the democratic West has weaknesses of its own. It has politically weakened and economically weakened and has lost its way. It doesn't possess the imperial power and wisdom it had in the 20th century. It's naive regarding the Arab awakening, feeble regarding Iran's nuclear program and fixated regarding a solution to the Palestinian problem. But it is what it is. This is our strategic home front. If we lose it, we will not survive.
The years to come will be decisive years. No matter what happens, Iran will present Israel with an unprecedented challenge. No matter what happens, the Islamic revolution in the Arab world will present Israel with a colossal challenge. No matter what happens, the crisis in the global economy will present Israel with a thorny challenge. To contend with these three challenges, Israel will need the stable base of the West's support, more than ever.
But this support will not be given to us as long as Israel's values are the dark values of Netanyahu's Haredi-nationalist base. This means the prime minister's choice is clear: the strategic base or the political base. Washington and New York or Kiryat Arba. If Netanyahu errs in his choice, he will bear heavy historic responsibility. As the moment of truth approaches, an isolated and hated Israel will be all alone.
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