originally published June 3, 2011 on Open Salon. This explains why Israel feels vulnerable in geographical terms an American should be able to understand.
Let's try a geographic exercise. Picture Israel's neighborhood in the Middle East as if it were on the East Coast of the US. Israel is about the size of New Jersey, so we'll put it where New Jersey is. The Mediterranean is west of Israel and the Atlantic is east of New Jersey so, to make the model work better without resorting to mirror imaging, when we move the neighborhood we're rotating it by 180 degrees. This reverses compass directions (so we now go east to the water) but keeps most things in similar relative positions. Atlantic City is standing in for Haifa.
Also imagine you live in New Jersey.
For our purposes, we're altering the Middle Atlantic landscape in one way: the Delaware River now originates a little north of Philadelphia and flows northward. The Delaware is standing in for the Jordan River. This means that Southeastern Pennsylvania and the State of Delaware are no longer separated from New Jersey by water.
Delaware is standing in for Lebanon. Hezbollah is there and they don't have to cross the Delaware Memorial Bridge to reach New Jersey. Syria takes up Southeastern Pennsylvania, including the Brandywine Valley, and the State of Maryland. The Golan Heights are now in New Jersey because New Jersey is actually wider across than Israel is. Jordan is in Pennsylvania, starting at about Philadelphia.
The West Bank is in New Jersey; in fact, a lot of the New Jersey Turnpike and 295 are in the West Bank, as is most of Rt. 1. Trenton, standing in for Jerusalem (appropriate both in terms of being capital cities and in terms of geographic position), is partially surrounded by the West Bank.
Gaza is being played by southeastern New York State, roughly where Rockland County is. For years on end, missiles were launched daily from Haverstraw and landed in Paramus. The Rocklanders don't believe that the New Jerseyans should be allowed to live in New Jersey and they're trying to form a new state with their brethren who live in Princeton and other places on the East Bank of the Delaware. Egypt starts about where NYC is and encompasses Long Island, Westchester, and a big chunk of New England, plus another piece of New York. West Point would be in the Sinai.
As you travel westward in the US, or northward, you're in other Arab nations, then Muslim nations. Saudi Arabia would start in upstate New York and continue into Canada. Iran is probably about where Iowa is, with Iraq starting in Western Pennsylvania or Ohio. (I haven't measured mileage precisely.)
Turkey is where Virginia is. Turkey was friendly to Israel. That's not so true these days.
When your State was founded, it was under immediate attack from Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York. In 1967, after New York blockaded one of your cities, your State went to war with these three states again, the result being that you now controlled further westward, all the way to the Delaware River, and northward, into a desert region that extended into New York State. In 1973, your State endured a surprise attack from New York launched on the one religious holiday where no adults in your State eat or drink anything (including water). This was completely intentional. A few years later, in a peace treaty with New York, New Jersey gave back the desert area which, incidentally, included a functioning oil well. The Governor of New York who negotiated the treaty was subsequently assassinated for his trouble, as was a later Governor of New Jersey who was also guilty of trying to achieve peace.
Now, picture being in New Jersey. You aren't really even in all of New Jersey as a lot of the western portion of the State is the East Bank of the Delaware, standing in for the West Bank of the Jordan. You can't really drive in any direction from there with the exception of into parts of New York State, standing in for Egypt. That's sort of safe but growing more hostile - most of the population of that part of New York and New England has been quoted in a recent survey as saying they don't approve of the peace treaty with your State. In the event of an emergency, an extremely possible occurrence given the hostility that the surrounding countries have had for you since your foundation, your closest reliable ally isn't in your hemisphere, though it has bases in your hemisphere.
By the way, New Jersey and Israel are of course not actually identical. Israel, particularly without the West Bank, is skinnier than New Jersey. In other words, the distance from potentially (historically) hostile forces across the entire width of the country to the Sea is less in Israel than in my New Jersey model. Most territorial disputes involve the skinniest parts of Israel.
Your State has a strong military. Feel safe?