Nobel Winner Doubts Israel's Survival

Nadav Shragai
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Nadav Shragai

Professor Robert (Yisrael) Aumann, the Israeli-American scholar who won the Nobel Prize for economics last year, said this week that Israel may not be capable of continuing to exist in the long-term.

"Too many Jews don't understand why they are here," said Aumann, who moved from the United States to Israel in the 1950s and helped found the Center for Rationality at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an interdisciplinary research body that focuses on game theory.

"If we don't understand why we are here, and that we are not America or just a place in which to live, we will not survive," he said in a speech at the College of Judea and Samaria in Ariel on Sunday. "The desire to live like all the nations will sustain us maybe another 50 years, if we are still here."

Aumann said one of the primary reasons for the recent war in Lebanon was national fatigue and quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert as having said that Israel is tired of wars and sacrifices.

"Fatigue, in the State of Israel's situation, will lead to death, as occurs with mountain climbing," said Aumann. "If a mountain climber is caught on the side of a mountain and it starts to snow, if he falls asleep, he will die. He must remain alert."

Aumann, who lost his son Shlomo in the first Lebanon war, accused Israelis of being overly sensitive to casualties of war.

"We are too sensitive to our losses, and also to the losses of the other side," he said. "In the Yom Kippur War, 3,000 soldiers were killed. It sounds terrible, but that's small change."

In addition, said Aumann, last summer's disengagement from the Gaza Strip was a "tactical and ethical mistake" that gave the Palestinians the wrong message and was another factor leading to this summer's Lebanon war.

"Looking at the other side is an important element of game theory," he said. "The Arabs' understanding in the wake of the expulsion was that they had succeeded, and that they have to continue on the same path. The expulsion, therefore, brought about the launching of Qassams on Israel and the abduction of the soldiers. The expulsion transmitted the message that we can be moved even from Tel Aviv, and not just from Gush Katif."

"Last summer we set back peace and understanding with our neighbors by at least 10 years," said Aumann. "After the expulsion, no words will convince them that we intend to stay here forever."

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