Douthat asks:

What I wonder is whether the trend that Beinart describes the diminishing bond between secular American Jews and the state of Israel was more or less inevitable, no matter what policies were pursued in Israel and what kind of attitudes American Zionist organizations struck. Benjamin Netanyahu and Abe Foxman may have accelerated the process, but it’s hard to imagine that the more secular, more assimilated sections of the Jewish-American population wouldn’t have eventually drifted away from an intense connection with Israel anyway, in much the same way and for many of the same reasons that Italian-Americans are less attached to both Italy and Catholicism than they were in 1940 or so, or that Irish-American are far less interested in the politics of Eire and Northern Ireland than they used to be.

The difference, of course, is that Italy and Ireland are not as dependent on US aid as Israel is, or capable of wielding a lobby as powerful and as wealthy and as ruthless as AIPAC. So you end up with a foreign country supported less by its natural ethnic group (they're busy marrying gentiles and enjoying life) than vast numbers of Christianists whose end-times philo-semitism is not something I'd be too thrilled with if I were an Israeli liberal.

I don't think you can extricate Israel's existential crisis as a Western democracy from the rise of religious fundamentalism in both Israel and the United States. There is a danger of a cosmic clash here, prompting even more upping of the eschatological ante by the Iranian and Iraqi Shiites. This is a religious war we must surely do all we can to avoid. But put a president Palin behind a Netanyahu coalition and an Ahmadi Iran and ... well, do I have to spell out what's potentially at stake here?

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