This article was written by a veteran American correspondent based in Israel who asked that his name not be used.

Israeli politicians love to talk and the rhetoric during the current campaign for Knesset elections contains all the dirt and smoke you’d expect in a democratic elections.

But Israeli politicians have reached a consensus not to discuss the most important topic for the nation’s future: Israel’s nearly total dependence on the United States. It’s a subject that silences the toughest politicians, who don’t want to say anything that might upset their friends in Washington.

Today, there is little feeling of real friendship with the United States.

Instead, it is a relationship built on fear. The United States provides Israel with nearly US-$3 billion in economic and military aid, as well as the most advanced military aircraft. And now, Israel has asked for another $10 billion in loan guarantees.

Is such dependency dangerous to a sovereign state at war with countries that in some cases are allies of the United States? Does this reliance ensure that Israel will never launch the strategic steps necessary to end the more than two-year-old war with the Palestinians, and instead accept the kind of settlement that destroyed other U.S. allies such as South Vietnam?

Neither Israeli officials nor politicians want to answer that question. Instead the government plans to increase its dependency on Washington.

The new request for loan guarantees is very different from a similar request to Washington a decade ago. Then, the money was invested largely in infrastructure projects and help for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Today, any loan guarantees are simply meant to keep Israel alive amid the termination of tourism, foreign investments as well as rising security costs. Officials said the government needs the billions of dollars for its state budget. That means ensuring salaries of public sector employees and the continuation of basic social welfare programs.

The issue of the loan guarantees is purely bipartisan. Whoever wins the January 28 election wants to ensure that the government can keep running for the next few years. The result has been an election campaign in which candidates have intentionally neglected to focus on the issue of Israel’s need for independence. At one point, former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, seeking to topple the incumbent Ariel Sharon, decided he would not talk about the Palestinian war to avoid angering the United States.

Quietly, Israeli officials are concerned over what could be the sharp increase in dependence on the United States. A Foreign Ministry report warned that the United States plans to pressure Israel into allowing the establishment of a Palestinian state within the next few months regardless of whether it supports terrorism. The report said that despite its promises, Washington, in cooperation with its international partners, have essentially ignored previous conditions to ensure that the Palestinians implement democratic reforms and end terrorism.

The U.S. demand for unconditional approval for a Palestinian state is part of the revision of the so-called roadmap drafted by Washington, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The new draft of the roadmap, completed on November 14, calls for Israel’s unconditional endorsement of a Palestinian state with interim borders in 2003. This would be followed by a Palestinian state with permanent borders in 2005.

The United States and its partners have asked that Palestinians end their war against Israel immediately and endorse a Jewish state. But officials said the demands relayed to Israel and the Palestinians were not linked.

In addition, officials said, the United States and its partners have demanded an immediate halt to all construction in Judea, Samaria, the Gaza Strip and part of Jerusalem captured in the 1967 war. They said the construction freeze comprised the first stage of the roadmap and would include projects to help protect the city from terror attacks.

A previous version of the roadmap appeared to have linked a Palestinian state to a democratically elected leadership. But the official said such a link has disappeared amid the revisions in the document.

In early December, the quartet plans to convene to place the finishing touches on the roadmap. Israel has urged that the plan be delayed until after national elections scheduled for January 28. U.S. officials said the Bush administration has already pledged to Arab allies that it will achieve a construction freeze within the next few weeks. In addition, Washington has pledged to ensure that Israel transfer $425 million in revenue for the P.A. being held by Israel.

That’s where the $10 billion in loan guarantees come in. It is a sweetener for a series of steps being demanded by the U.S. for the establishment of a terrorist PLO state. Bush might have called for the replacement of P.A. Chairman Yasser Arafat, but State Department officials said this is no longer a priority in the current planning.

For Israel, the roadmap is the ultimate of ironies. It represents a U.S. effort to enable, let alone tolerate, terrorist regimes inside and around Israel while Washington seeks to destroy Iraq and Al Qaida. Last week, the United States was rebuffed in a half-hearted effort to close the offices of terrorist organizations in Syria. Damascus rejected a U.S. request to expel Islamic Jihad. A Syrian Foreign Ministry statement said Islamic Jihad offices in Damascus are not involved in insurgency operations against Israel. The statement said the Jihad, which killed 12 Israelis in Hebron earlier this month, confines its activities in Syria to the disseminating of information.

The U.S. response was tepid. No condemnation of Syria or its support for terrorism. Instead, the State Department sought to help what it defined as Syrian interests.

“We will continue to make our point, as we have for some time, that there is no place for support for this type of organization,” State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker said. “It is in the Syrian’s best interests to get with the mainstream of the international community and reject this type of organization that conducts this type of violence that does not produce anything except more pain and suffering for people on all sides of the Middle East peace process.”

The question of Israel’s dependence on the United States is not an issue of left versus right. It cuts to the survival of the Jewish state. Israel’s strategic independence allowed the Jewish people to declare a state in 1948 in the face of U.S. warnings. Israel retained that independence to launch a preemptive strike and win the 1967 war in six days. This independence allowed Israel to destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 and roll back Baghdad’s nuclear weapons programs by nearly a decade.

Today, Israel’s military is exhausted. Mobilization of the reserves is a must but this costs money and will further drain the economy. Government coffers are running on empty and Israeli defense contractors have not been pain in months. The military is being asked to cut 8 billion shekels, or 1.7 billion dollars, in fiscal 2003, which defense officials say is impossible.

The choice for Israel is clear:

Continue its dependence on the United States and accept a strategic nightmare of a PLO state in 2003 protected by the international community.

That PLO state will have a military that will launch missile attacks over even the highest wall promised by Israeli politicians.

The alternative is an Israeli decision to take a strategic risk. That risk is to inform the U.S. that Israel will defend its vital interests in a way that might not be in accordance with Washington’s plans. This would mean the destruction of the Arafat regime and its terrorist allies. It also would mean the destruction of Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, where the U.S. has urged Israel to end military overflights.

The Israeli decision might dash hopes for the U.S. loan guarantees and could even threaten the annual military aid. But the alternative is a slow death for a Jewish people brainwashed into believeing that only the United States can save them.

Think of a patient visiting two different doctors for an unidentified ailment. The first physician tells the patient that his situation is hopeless and prescribes intravenous feeding and pain killers to prolong his life. The second doctor urges the patient tp throw away the IV and the pills and instead diet, exercise and adopt a new and positive thinking toward life.

In the first case, the doctor assumes that the patient wants to be passive.

In the second case, the doctor urges the patient to take responsibility for his own survival and battle for his life.

No Israeli politician – let alone the candidates for prime minister – is discussing the nation’s dependence on the United States. Because, like the patient who visits the second doctor, life requires faith. And faith requires courage. And our dependence on the United States is the exact opposite of these qualities.