Self-reliance should be our ultimate goal

Self-reliance should be

This is a bad time to be claustrophobic in Israel. One can almost feel the walls closing in as we are barraged from all sides by condemnations, critiques and curses. Making matters worse, some of the harshest diatribes are coming from people and places previously regarded as our friends, or at least our allies. London courts have made many of our most important political and military leaders persona non grata, causing them to cancel visits and speaking engagements in the UK. In the United States, more Jews are engaging in "soul-searching" over Israel's moral conduct and wondering how long they can continue to defend us in the face of a media onslaught. Speakers coming to America to define and defend Israel's position - most recently former prime minister Ehud Olmert - are routinely heckled and harangued before they can utter a single syllable. Most galling of all, perhaps, is the behavior of Turkey. Once, we considered Turkey our most reliable partner in the Middle East, a bulwark against Syria and a model of non-radical Islam with which we could peacefully coexist. Not anymore. Moving ever closer to Iran and the rejectionists, Turkey has unleashed a series of insults at us that would make a longshoreman blush. THE HEIGHT of hypocrisy came when the Turks accused us of committing genocide against the Palestinians. True, the Turks do know whereof they speak when it comes to genocide. Virtually all the historians agree that the Turks engaged in the systematic destruction of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were said to have been exterminated by the Turks, who are "credited" with introducing the phenomena of mass shootings, deportations and forced marches that would later be emulated by Hitler. The New York Times, reporting almost daily on the mass murder of the Armenian people, described the process as "systematic, authorized and organized by the government." American president Teddy Roosevelt characterized the Turkish atrocities as "the single greatest crime of the first World War." What makes this even more appalling is that, for years, Israel refrained from openly criticizing Turkey's World War I massacres, due to Ankara's hypersensitivity over the issue. Sadly, despite our own tragic experience with holocausts, we suppressed our ethical responsibility to condemn the Turks, and at times even lobbied other countries to downplay the issue. It didn't get us all that far; we scratched Turkey's back, but they didn't scratch our's. So it seems to me that we ought to think about spending less time, energy and effort courting the outside world, and concentrating more on our own well-being. We ought to be seeking ways to make our own country stronger, safer and more self-reliant. To the extent that we can depend more on our own resources, we will not only be less susceptible to boycotts and blackmail, but may even gain greater respect - however grudging - in the eyes of the world community. We can start by making sure our military is as strong as it absolutely can be. Defense spending should be increased, not slashed, even if it means painful cuts elsewhere in the budget. Draft-dodging, which has reached frightening proportions - as many as 30 percent-40% of those eligible for army service now manage to evade the IDF - should be drastically reduced, if not eliminated. Every school child should be educated early on as to the vital role the military plays in our lives, and the necessity of each and every citizen to sacrifice his personal needs to that of the community. Internal tourism should become a top priority, promoted at the highest levels of government, and not assigned to the low minister on the totem pole. We have an amazing, diversely beautiful country, and most Israelis have never seen it. Tel Avivians needs to walk the ancient and modern streets of Jerusalem, soaking in its history and character, while Jerusalemites should experience the vibrancy and culture of Tel Aviv. Why do 5,000 Israelis each week need to visit Turkey, when gorgeous, world-class resorts can be found right here, from Eilat to the Golan? And our economy, vibrant and resilient as it is, could be even stronger, if we put the nation to work improving our infrastructure. We need better roads, a national mass-transit system, more universities and the cultivation of more agricultural land. With the exception of a few commodities, we lack for nothing in this country. Even the absence - so far - of oil under our land can be significantly alleviated by the promotion of alternative energy sources. So you will tell me that we live in a global village, where the fate of every country is inextricably connected to that of every other nation, that we cannot "go it alone" without diplomatic, economic and military cooperation and support from those around us. But while I am not suggesting that we adopt a completely isolationist policy - we ought to seek friends wherever we can find them, forge alliances and develop markets whenever possible - engagement cannot come at the cost of our own national pride. To the extent that we can stand on our own two feet and fend for ourselves, we will actualize our potential, enhance our survival and restore the feeling that once was taken for granted here: Israel is the greatest country on Earth in which to live. The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra'anana.