[Update at end]
In post-religious, secularized Western countries, the answer to the title question tends to devolve to "nothing" beyond the self and its interests. Western elites are fond of instructing their inferiors to sacrifice for their Utopian ideal of the moment but sacrificing one's life for the "life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" for others is typically seen as the province of less well educated, less sophisticated, non-members of the elite. America still has enough young people who value what this country has to offer that they are willing to put their lives on the line for us, but Europe has long since surrendered to the progressive forces of history and eschews self-defence of their ideals. For Western elites, people who are motivated by religious beliefs, usually overlapping with those too ignorant to avoid the military, are essentially the equivalent of cannon fodder, ie, they do not count. Our elites pride themselves on their functional atheism. Politicians may from time to time profess their deep religious convictions but most often on the left this is a rather transparent attempt to appeal tot he rubes and when a politician appears to have genuine religious convictions, as for example Sarah Palin, they are savaged by the elites in media and academia.
Because religious belief has been so discredited by our elites, they tend to see anyone who believes as either a charlatan (using their beliefs to scam people) or as at best ignorant if not overtly intellectually limited. The idea that there exist people whose religious beliefs motivate them to kill and die for their deity does not reach the threshold of consciousness for our elites. They may occasionally give lip service to the idea (though less often since we are no longer at war with Islamic terrorists) and may admit that the Islamic foot soldiers of Iran, al Qaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah are religious radicals, but they insist that the leaders of such groups can be approached as rational actors. Greg Sheridan, in the Australian, points out how we fool ourselves by imagining our enemies to be rationally motivated:
Iran has been determined to acquire nuclear weapons for a long time. It is, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton describes it, something of a military dictatorship, with the Revolutionary Guard assuming more and more power. It is still also, however, a theocratic dictatorship. The purpose of the state is to serve theological ends.
Most Western analysts refuse to take Islamic religion seriously as a factor in geopolitics, assuming there must always be a rational national-interest explanation for any state's behaviour.
The truth is that history is littered with states behaving irrationally and pursuing irrational ends, and doing so in often self-destructive ways. In Mao's China tens of millions of people died in famines directly caused by state policy. North Korea has driven its people into starvation. Pol Pot not only committed genocide on his own people, he then attacked Vietnam so that it would destroy him. Saddam Hussein was such a canny, realist calculator of the odds that his regime ended up gone and he ended up dead.
It is intensely ahistorical to believe political regimes will always act according to Western conceptions of enlightened self-interest.
Melanie Philips' comment on Greg Sheridan's article is apt:
It is striking, to this British observer at least, how very unlikely it would be to encounter anywhere in the British media such a well-informed, realistic and intelligent analysis of the Iranian crisis and the paralysis of the west.
Even among seasoned and reasonable observers who have been involved in thinking about the Middle East for a very long time, there is an implicit assumption that the belief structure of the enemy can be approached using rationality. In the course of an article about Andrew Sullivan's antipathy to Israel* and himself, Jeffery Goldberg notes that he has for a long time worried about Israel becoming complicit in its own destruction:
I've been writing since 2004 that Israel will one day be considered an apartheid state if it continues to rule over a population of Arabs that doesn't want to be ruled by Israelis. That is why it is vital for Israel to establish permanent, internationally-recognized borders that more-or-less adhere to the 1967 border. Unlike Andrew, I believe that Israel has tried to free itself from ruling these Palestinians (the pull-out from Gaza is an example, as is Ehud Olmert's recent, unanswered offer to the Palestinians to pull out from virtually 100 percent of the West Bank). But the reality remains: It will be very dangerous for Israel to engineer this pull-back, but it will be, over time, fatal for it to stay in the West Bank. Anyway, more to come, eventually.
According to this fairly common point of view, Israel has the choice of continuing to "oppress and occupy" West bank Palestinians, which will inevitably lead to the delegitimization of the Jewish state or they must engineer a (unilateral) Peace agreement which would be tantamount to Israeli suicide. There has never been any indication that any Palestinian leader, no matter how "moderate" would be willing to accept a Jewish state. The current favored Moderates of the PA insist upon an unlimited right of return and indefensible borders for Israel.
It is sophistry to pronounce that a Peace can be accomplished in which the Palestinians accept some financial inducements and a token right of return in exchange for permanent Peace. There is no evidence, zero, that any Palestinian could cede the right of return and survive, let alone continue to rule. To believe otherwise is delusional, an invention of the Western, rational mind.
Unfortunately, this is the current choice; there can be no compromise with people who believe that compromise, and the continued existence of the state of Israel is an anathema to their deity. They are certainly willing to kill for their beliefs, more significantly, they are willing to die for their beliefs.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can not end until the Palestinians, and their Arab backers, accept the legitimacy of Israel, yet they cannot do so and remain loyal to their religion. Islam believes that it is the superior faith, that the Koran is the final, perfect word of Allah. An independent Jewish state, especially one that has repeatedly humiliated the Arab world (in War and in Peace) threatens to destroy Islam merely by its continued existence. After all, how can Allah be supreme when the hated Jews, who proclaim their G-d the one true G-d, remain victorious over Islam? Islam, in its current form, cannot survive and adapt to he modern world; the very religious foundations of the faith are at risk every day that Israel persists. The struggle to eradicate Israel and the Jews can only accommodate Peace if it temporary and in the service of the final solution. This is not something I am simply making up out of whole cloth, it is what our enemies say on a daily basis, if we only choose to listen.
Of course, for the West to accept this truth would be a deeply unsettling recognition. Yet once we come to understand the reality, the solution becomes clearer, albeit one that makes our elites most uncomfortable. A long term minimization of violence with occasional reminders by the West/Israel to the violent ones that we know where they live (ie, the current status quo) is the only way to keep the forces of destruction under control. Allowing the Muslim world's most extreme variants to gain power and strength is a path to disaster.
* The question of whether or not Andrew Sullivan is an anti-Semite is a non-starter. Andrew Sullivan has been increasingly using language which is indistinguishable from classical anti-Semitic tropes as filtered through the post-modern lens; after a while whether or not he entertains any particular antipathy to Jews is immaterial. Others may disagree but ultimately it hardly matters. The mainstreaming of anti-Semitic tropes is ongoing.
Update: In an excellent article today Barry Rubin points out that the complementary (mirror image?) of the ubiquitous blindness to the reality of radical Islamic religious ideology occurs in the views that "Moderates" have of Israel:
Among Palestinians, as more broadly with almost all of the public in the Muslim-majority world and a lot of the elite classes in Europe, there exists a mythical Israel, reminiscent of the fabricated antisemitic stereotypes of the past, that has little to do with reality. They believe Israel isn't interested in peace, doesn't offer the Palestinians anything, opposes any real Palestinian state, intends to keep the West Bank (until Israel's withdrawal from all of the Gaza Strip they would have added that territory as well), and is led by intransigent hardliners. Such a conception was comprehensible--if not fully accurate--describing the situation in parts of the 1980s but has nothing to do with the last 20 years.
In 2010 they have no idea what Israel actually offered in the 1990s' peace process, or at the Camp David summit in 2000, or what President Bill Clinton offered with Israel's agreement in December 2000, or what Prime Minister Ehud Olmert proffered in 2008, or what is in the current Israeli government's peace offer in 2010. All proposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state, the first three in close to 100 percent and the last three as equivalent to 100 percent (with some small, equal land swaps) in size to the pre-1967 West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Lacking any knowledge of these offers, or at least knowing only very distorted ones, they can maintain that Israel has offered "nothing" and that therefore the continuation of the conflict is not due to Palestinian intransigence but Israel's alleged opposition to the creation of a real independent Palestinian state. This reminds me of how Mahmoud Abbas, today leader of the Palestinian Authority, responded to some reasonably accurate descriptions in the Palestinian media of what Israel offered in 2000 at Camp David. It is better, he said at the time, not to talk about these things at all, presumably lest some Palestinians might think that it was a reasonable deal.
Anyone who actually lives in Israel knows that--whether they like it or not--Israel is ready to make big conessions and take reasonable risks to achieve peace. They know, whether or not they agree, that the overwhelming majority is ready to accept an independent Palestinian state as long as it is willing to end the conflict and live side by side in peace.
Outside Israel, far fewer people than should do so understand this reality. And that includes journalists,academics, and politicians. If they address the issue at all, they presume that Israel is asking the Palestinians to make some huge or unreasonable concession. Often, as noted above, their understanding of Israeli views is more than 20 years out of date.
Read the whole thing. The complementary blind spots of our elites toward Israel and the Palestinians (and in a larger sense, toward ourselves and the Islamic radicals) has important Psychological dimensions; elaboration to follow.