Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict

The creation of a Palestinian state would not bring Israel peace

No Palestinian state without a pan-Islamic peace agreement with Israel

An end of belligerence with Muslims is imperative for Israel

There is an important political reason for ending the Middle East conflict. The political fragmentation brought about by the departure of the authoritative figures of modern Israel’s early history creates a situation where Israel cannot make quick decisions, especially difficult ones. Israeli indecision impedes war with Arabs, especially preemptive action, so important for a small Israel without much depth of defense in a protracted low-intensity war. Whatever Arab intentions, peaceful or not, tiny Israel is little more than thirty years past a major Middle East conflict, twenty years after a confrontation with Lebanon, and surrounded by large, aggressive Arab neighbors professing a belligerent strain of Islam and uninterested in peace negotiations with Israel. Some of the Arab enemies maintain large standing armies, and all are obtaining modern weaponry, aiming it on Israel. The Israeli government would be crazy not to maintain war readiness—though nothing will be of any effect without depth of defense.

No developed country can sustain the cost of defense in a war of attrition. The minor destruction Israel causes in the conflict hardly bothers Palestinian Arabs. Israel uses significant resources to answer low-cost Islamic terrorist actions. Egypt mobilized repeatedly to exhaust Israel with reciprocal mobilizations.[1] Israeli mass media make every incident significant, raising anxiety levels. Israel should use attrition wherever possible (against the Saudis, for example) and resist it through preemptive destruction of Islamic enemy forces.

Low-level breaches of an armistice are rarely intended to annoy Israel but more often are either wars per se (the war of attrition) or preparation for a larger Middle East conflict. Israel has not profited from armistices and need not limit her response to provocations. Attacking an unprepared Arab enemy upon the first reasonable provocation is better for Israel than waiting for escalation and imminent war. Zero tolerance to truce violations would have prevented the Yom Kippur War. An enemy’s regrouping or rearming signals the end of any Arab-Israeli truce. Israel should have attacked Gaza when the first Hamas troops assembled there.

The creation of a Palestinian state would not bring Israel peace

That Israeli recognition of a Palestinian state will lead to peace with other Arab countries is wishful thinking on part of Israel. Arabs list recognition of Palestine among other prerequisites for peace with Israel. Many Arab groups declare openly that Israeli recognition of Palestine is not enough: Jerusalem must also be partitioned. There will be no end to Arab demands to Israel. Since Arabs do not want Palestinians living among them, they will demand the right of return to Israel for the descendants of Palestinian refugees and, taking a cue from Jewish Holocaust organizations, will demand reparations for refugees. The only peace Israel should consider is a comprehensive agreement settling all Israeli disputes with all Arab states. Unfortunately, no recent Israeli government has insisted on that self-evident requirement.[2]

A settlement would eliminate neither hatred nor the danger to Israel from Islamic terrorist warfare but only make large-scale Arab-Israeli war less plausible—though still possible if Israel punished Muslim terrorist sponsor states. The Middle East conflict would not likely subside, as long as Israel offers an attractive vent for Arab grievances. Perhaps the Islamic terrorists would turn against America instead. Indeed, the terrorists lost interest in Russia after evicting its troops from Afghanistan and returned only when Chechnya offered irresistible provocation. These considerations are, however, irrelevant. Israel should not pursue non-essential policies. Israel should not acquire land she does not need. If there is a good reason for Israel to hold Palestinian territory, it must be held, and the Palestinian terrorists should be dealt with. If Israelis do not want to defend the ex-Palestinian territory, it is not essential and must be shed.

The argument that Islamic terrorists hate the West for what it does to them, not for its values, is tautology. Even if America withdrew from global politics, it would remain a large part of the global economy and culture and always act internationally on its values. While Al Qaeda now concentrates its propaganda on U.S. military presence in the Islamic world, a total American withdrawal would only mean Arabs would find another focal point of hatred: satellite broadcasting, movie content, fast food chains (attacked even in Europe), stock and money markets, and agricultural exports. Military withdrawal from Islamic hot spots would not solve the problem for America.

The story of Tunbs, one of three tiny islands involved in an inter-Arab dispute,[3] shows that Arabs cannot formally accept even minor border adjustments unless they are imposed by some to major power. The islands are rather like Israel: economically insignificant land far from the core territory of Arab rivals not under any threat. Iran and Israel offered significant political concessions and aid. In response, the Arabs stiffened their position as the best strategy of improving their bargaining position and esteem. The Middle East conflict kept them prominent in foreign affairs, and major powers courted them. The emirs involved agreed to Iran’s de facto annexation of the islands, yet objected to save face. They also asked that the British, not the Iranians, expel them. Likewise, Arabs would have no problem if the United States prohibited a Palestinian state, but they protest if Israel, their neighbor and supposed equal, delays Palestinian statehood. The British cared not a whit about the annexation, if only it were done without much fuss, as the Americans likely feel about the Palestinian issue. If the Tunbs dispute among Muslim powers lasted for decades, how much dimmer are the prospects of an Arab peace with Israel?

No Palestinian state without a pan-Islamic peace agreement with Israel

Agreeing to a Palestinian state without Israeli membership in NATO and peace treaties with all Islamic countries is impractical. Otherwise, Jerusalem would be the new stumbling stone in the Arab-Israeli peace process and the new reason for Muslim support of the Islamic terrorists. Having seen the effectiveness of terrorist warfare, Muslims will hardly stop at Jerusalem. Nothing precludes them from demanding the abolition of the State of Israel.

Israel should not let up on the Palestinians until a comprehensive agreement with Islamic world is achieved. A cease-fire is psychologically dangerous, because it is hard to convince Israelis to go back to war after a hiatus. A cease-fire with the Palestinians will not only drive many Israelis to the political left, no longer willing to tread the dangerous path of Israel's expansion, but will also impair the Jewish national resolve to fight, should hostilities reemerge.

[1] Why waste a good mobilization? If the army is assembled, anyway, Israel should strike the unprepared Islamic enemy to discourage repetitions.

[2] Even such an agreement would be worthless unless the Muslims become assimilated into the Western world view and stop seeing Israel as a foreigner in an Islamic land. The Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem believed that all its problems were settled for a century, until the unexpected rise of Islamic consciousness swept it away with Saladin's army.

[3] Iran contested three minuscule islands, Tunbs and Abu Musa, from Ras al Khaimah and Sharjah (now UAE), respectively.