War Conference in Israel
It sounds like the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of. In a coastal resort near Tel Aviv, senior Israeli politicians and generals confer with top officials and politicians from Washington to discuss the threat of a nuclear Iran. In any good conspiracy theory, however, these talks would be going on in secret – preferably in an underground bunker. In fact the Herzliya conference on “Israel’s national security” is taking place perfectly openly in a smart hotel. And I am in the audience.
The Israel participation is, as one would expect, high level. The conference is scheduled to close with a speech from Ehud Olmert, the prime minister. The lunch-time speaker yesterday was Benjamin Netanyahu, the Likud leader, and maybe the next prime minister. We’re hearing from the foreign minister, the defence minister and a string of present and former generals.
But what has really struck me is the number of top Americans who have bothered to come over for the conference. The speaker at dinner last night was Gordon England, America’s deputy defence secretary; earlier in the day we heard from Nick Burns, the number three at the State Department. Several contenders for the presidency in 2008 have also felt obliged to tip their hat to Herzliya. Mitt Romney, who is probably second favourite for the Republican nomination, is turning up in person. John McCain, the GOP front-runner is appearing by satellite, so is Rudy Giuliani. For the Democrats, John Edwards is also scheduled to make a satellite address. I cannot think of any other country in the world that could summon up this level of American participation for a conference like this. Certainly not Britain.
Neither can I.