Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Realism on Israel

There is, in principle, a different vision of realism available to Israel, which would not rely on the destruction of rivals and the permanence of American alliance. Israel could reverse 40 years of policy and look for security in withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories, serious negotiations to create a viable Palestinian state, and settlement of the territorial and refugee issues.
However, I would imagine that few Israelis now believe in this possibility, after the acts of terrorism and all the blood that has been shed during the past 60 years, even though many may wish for it.
After the Jewish experience during World War II and since, I would think that little ability survives to trust in the good will of others. Certainly not trust in the Arabs. Certainly not trust in the Europeans. In the case of the Americans, it is not good will that has to be trusted, but American willingness to believe that American and Israeli interests really do coincide - despite the fact that they do not.
The announced American ambition is to make the Arab states into democracies and install a liberal order in the region. Israelis, being realists, understand that this is a fantasy.
Israel's own interests depend on the exercise of power in ways unwelcome to the Arab peoples, and this depends on a permanent American willingness - and ability - to dominate the region on Israel's behalf. And this, as politically perceptive Israelis may grasp, could prove a profoundly unrealistic assumption.
Superpowers can afford the illusion that empires "make" the reality that suits them. Small powers cannot afford such rashness. That seems to me Israel's dilemma. William Pfaff in the IHT(Read)

From one perspective Israel's future is bleak. Not for the first time, a Jewish state has found itself on the vulnerable periphery of someone else's empire: overconfident in its own righteousness, willfully blind to the danger that its indulgent excesses might ultimately provoke its imperial mentor to the point of irritation and beyond, and heedless of its own failure to make any other friends. To be sure, the modern Israeli state has big weapons - very big weapons. But can it do with them except make more enemies? However, modern Israel also has options. Precisely because the country is an object of such universal mistrust and resentment - because people expect so little from Israel today - a truly statesmanlike shift in its policies (dismantling of major settlements, opening unconditional negotiations with Palestinians, calling Hamas' bluff by offering the movement's leaders something serious in return for recognition of Israel and a cease-fire) could have disproportionately beneficial effects.
But such a radical realignment of Israeli strategy would entail a difficult reappraisal of every cliche and illusion under which the country and its political elite have nestled for most of their life. It would entail acknowledging that Israel no longer has any special claim upon international sympathy or indulgence; that the United States won't always be there; that weapons and walls can no more preserve Israel forever than they preserved the German Democratic Republic or white South Africa; that colonies are always doomed unless you are willing to expel or exterminate the indigenous population. Other countries and their leaders have understood this and managed comparable realignments: Charles De Gaulle realized that France's settlement in Algeria, which was far older and better established than Israel's West Bank colonies, was a military and moral disaster for his country. In an exercise of outstanding political courage, he acted upon that insight and withdrew. But when De Gaulle came to that realization he was a mature statesman, nearly 70 years old. Israel cannot afford to wait that long. At the age of 58 the time has come for it to grow up.Tony Judt in Haartez (Read)

In some respects, Israel's ties with the United States are starting to resemble the relationship between the old political and economic elites and the Jewish community in Europe during the 19th century.
As Hannah Arendt pointed out in her classic study of European anti-Semitism, it was the erosion in the power of those elites — and their growing inability to protect the Jews of Europe — that sealed their fate.
The new and angry social classes and political players turned their frustration against the group they associated with the hated status quo — a group that was also very vulnerable.
A similar scenario could take place on an international scale, when a weaker and less confident United States would be under pressure at home and abroad to reduce its global commitments.
This would leave Israel — its weakest link — vulnerable to attacks not only from Arab and Muslim nations, but from other new anti-status quo powers.Leon Hadar,"Israel: American's Weakest Link?" (Read)

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