Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
[ Arab economic development is detrimental ] [ Israeli war strategy ]

Israel should abandon half-measures

A clear understanding of policy make the futility of Israeli half-measures transparent. What is the point of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian areas? Jewish settlements were introduced on the assumption that no Israeli government would abandon so much investment; the restoration of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt showed that is not the case. Yet new Jewish settlements were financed and built on the West Bank. They will not anchor the Palestinian territories for Israel but rather make the territorial question of Palestine worse, as previously useless land becomes investment property. Jewish settlements are of little value for war: after the Arabs built mobile armies, area defense is not viable. Jewish settlements, in need of defense, will become liabilities in a major Middle East conflict.

Arabs and many others argue against territorial acquisitions in principle. The acquisitions would be defensible if they could be maintained under the current democratic political structure. Jewish settlements are no way to acquire Palestinian territory: they are at odds with Israel’s professed desire for peace; they are cowardly means, exactly the opposite of Machiavelli’s prescription. The Jewish settlers are not cowards. They live surrounded by Palestinian enemies, but Israeli government uses the Jewish villages as a pretense for claiming the Palestinian land instead of taking it by war. Other than the biblical justification, the Jewish settlements are indefensible. Israel uprooted a dense network of Arab villages in Israeli territory in 1948 and 1967 and helped the inhabitants leave. If Israel abrogates her biblical claim, refuses to use force, and acquiesces in the establishment of a Palestinian state, what’s to keep the Palestinians from driving Israeli settlers out? In other words, most people object to the Jewish settlements because they undermine the 1948 U.N. territorial mandate. I object to them because they are ineffective and provocative and strengthen support for the U.N. two-state plan.

Israelis need not exterminate the locals as Joshua supposedly did, behavior not readily reconcilable with the tolerance the Torah teaches.[2] Israel has clear guidelines in dealing with Palestinians: the Ten Commandments, which prohibit murder and robbery but not killing in a war for the Promised Land, nor running people off, provided the land and other property is justly compensated. Those who compare Israeli policy with the Nazis should imagine the Germans moving the Jews to Switzerland forcibly but compensating them for their real estate.

If the Israelis intend to keep the Palestinian territories, they should do it the only effective way, by occupying the Palestinian land, annexing it, driving the Arabs out, fencing it off, and facing the international consequences. In all probability, friends and foes alike would let it pass after a brief period of ostentatious antagonism to satisfy their liberals and fundamentalists. Nobody cares about the Palestinians. Everyone wants the issue to go away. If Israel acted illegally and ruthlessly—but quickly and effectively—in a few years, most nations would accept the de facto situation, just as they agreed to Israel’s acquisition of Jerusalem contrary to the U.N. resolution. All modern borders were established by violence, except in artificial ex-colonies like Iraq, where violence still reshapes demarcation lines.

The shock of two world wars was not enough to end warfare. World War I left deep demographic and economic scars on European nations, but only twenty years later they were ready for another war of unprecedented scale. The United States suffered vast human and material losses in World War II, yet jumped into the Korean War in only five years and the Vietnam War only two decades later. World War II had relatively little bearing on Africa, though it exhausted the empires into releasing their colonies, and almost none on Arabs and Latin America. World War II did not change the pattern of state relations. The chemical, biological, and nuclear deterrents are responsible for the current sixty years of relative peace. They do not, however, deter poor, uneducated Muslims ruled by autocrats who kill more of their own than a nuclear attack would.

Many people believe the Americans tend to side with the weak and thus would turn against an Israel that bullies Palestinians. Few other nations behave so, and Israeli actions would likely get the tacit approval of Great Britain at least. American idealism is largely a self-serving myth.[3] Many Americans, feeling safe in trans-Atlantic isolation, resent violence and are prone to compassion, but their support has often been misplaced. They defended Vietnamese against freely supported government, and Iraqis against a dictator voted for in a recent referendum. Acquiescence in Pinochet’s butchery meant to relieve Chileans from Allende’s inflation. The Americans lauded Oliver North for defiantly covering the support of Nicaraguan contras fighting against local socialists who bullied the population with free health care and education. The Americans remained isolationist until Franklin Roosevelt dragged the country into the war by hook and by crook. The United States officials returned at least one ship of Jewish refugees to Europe because of the problems with their immigration documents. So much for compassion for the weak guy. In Yugoslavia, Americans defended one set of scoundrels against the other. Both Muslims and Christians committed atrocities, and the United States entered the conflict against ex-communists. Idealistic—or so wanting to be—U.S. public opinion restrains the government’s antisocialist policy when it leads to supporting odious dictators, and the government even condescends to that opinion when the communist threat in a particular country is eliminated. But economics drive United States foreign policy: an economy open to foreign trade and investment, paying its debts even if to a dictatorship. When neither ideology nor the economy is in question, the United States enters conflicts reluctantly as in Rwanda, only when public pressure forces it to play international gendarme, a role model for realpolitik cases. Political liberalization is a by-product of the American drive for free markets—but not always, as American support of Diem, Trujillo, Pinochet, and other ugly characters shows. Since Israeli annexation would solve the Palestinian problem and advance economic liberalism, the United States would approve Israeli action in that direction. Even without United States support, Israel proved her ability to wage wars with Arabs successfully on her own. Good strategic planning, preemption, and her current technological edge assure Israel’s victory in the unlikely event of an ensuing Middle East conflict, and the Islamic terrorists will hardly balk at detonating an A-bomb in Tel Aviv as soon as they get one. Israel does not need American support to demilitarize the Arabs. A dominant Israel would enjoy United States support like never before. The successful 1967 war led the U.S. government to reevaluate its relation with Israel; the devolution of Sinai prompted it to closer ties with the emerging strong Egypt.

If Israel decides on annexation, carry it out. Do not weep, offer condolences to Arabs, or blame Israel Defense Forces or Israeli government, and do not allow Palestinian refugee camps in any country to start up as a journalists' Mecca. Israel must be prepared to kill Palestinian protesters, drive refugees far away (Dir Yassin may prove a small exercise in dealing with quasi-armed Arab civilians), and force neighbor countries to absorb them. Major Muslim states may attempt to show solidarity with Palestinians, and Israel must be ready for war. Arab-Israeli war, however, is unlikely, since wealthier Arabs will be relieved of the Palestinian problem, if Israel forces weaker states like Jordan and Lebanon to assimilate them. The Israeli violence is insignificant by Arab standards which disregarded thirty to a hundred thousand Kurds killed[4] by Saddam Hussein in quashing an insurgency and hundreds of thousands Iraqis by Iranians; twenty thousand Muslims, Islamic terrorists along with civilians by Hafiz Al Assad; an estimated 1.5 million dead in Afghanistan civil war and the same number in Sudan; forty thousand in the Algerian Islamist revolt and also in Tajikistan; two hundred Muslim civilians killed by Al Qaeda in bombing two United States embassies; hundreds shot by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s troops in a single demonstration; and eight thousand Palestinians butchered in Jordan and another thousand of them dead in Lebanon; the Islamic government of Iran marched teenage soldiers through minefields, an alternative to sapping.[5] Annexation would bring Israelis the dubious credentials of a strong nation in their Arab neighbors’ eyes.

Israel should establish de jure recognition of the status quo by annexing the land legally without discussions about the future of the Palestinian territories.[6] Treating the matter as settled is the best way to settle it. If, however, Israel intends to give the Palestinian territories away, then leave and forget about it. If Palestinian terrorists come from there, Israel may stop issuing visas to Arabs. Replacing them with Asian and Eastern European Christian Gastarbeiters would reduce the costs of Israeli entrepreneurs: Palestinians in Israel earn higher wages than many Eastern Europeans and Asians. Temporary immigrants, furthermore, do not require pension plans, and the Israeli government would save on security precautions.

The current Israeli policy is stupid. It is not even a policy but rather an absence of policy. Israel spends for three ends without achieving even one. Israel controls the Palestinian territories as if she intended to hold them. Israel gives them away as if she agrees to Palestinian sovereignty. And Israel sponsors further Jewish settlements, so Israelis can somehow cling to the land even if Israel abandons it. The last notion is truly ridiculous. If the Arabs controlled the land, they would drive even the stoutest Jewish settlers away by cutting the roads and harassing them. The United States managed an airlift only with great difficulty when the Soviets cut the land routes to West Berlin. Hundreds of Jewish settlements cannot be supported by airlift, and attempts to secure the roads would restore Israeli possession of Palestine.

Economically impotent, forgotten by all, Palestine would drift into insignificance, another failed state whose best people emigrated. Major Palestinian terrorist groups would join the government and moderate, serious anti-Western terrorists could not hide in Palestine under Israel’s nose, and sporadic violence would be reduced to boring routine. Israelis might start buying land in the West Bank and settling there under nominal Palestinian jurisdiction. If Palestine refused to let religious Jews settle there, Israel would be justified in expelling Israeli Arabs. The Palestinians would likely agree to have Jews as resident aliens, if only to solve the problem of autonomous Jewish settlements. Clashes would ensue, Israel routinely interfering to protect Israeli citizens in Palestine when the local authorities failed. Palestinians would find that the best way to stop clashes and Israeli reprisals is to wall the Jewish villages off and give them administrative autonomy. Such Jewish settlements, only formally under Palestinian jurisdiction, would expand in size and number: the Palestinians might object to foreign Jewish settlements but not to law-abiding, legally immigrated resident aliens who happen to be Israelis. The Jewish settlements would be stable and attract more Israelis to Palestine. The Palestinians could not pursue a similar policy in Israel, because land there is much more expensive, and Jewish owners usually refuse to sell or lease to Arabs. Israel should spread the blame for the Jewish settlements by inviting Christians to settle in the religiously significant areas connected to the Israeli highway system. The Vatican would likely not agree to such provocation, but less scrupulous groups would.

[2]The Torah prescribes restraint toward slaves and help for enemies who are one’s co-religionists. Hatred of idolaters is a divine prerogative, not to be enforced by Jews in some kind of jihad. Killing the Canaanites was a separate commandment precisely because it was hard to justify based on the other commandments. Some archeologists doubt the extermination ever took place.

[3] Unlike Jewish self-awareness as the chosen people, which is passive, the similar American notion is increasingly active. Pushing others in paradise does not work.

[4] About twenty people are wounded per each deadin modern armies with good medical care. Absent of it, wounded-to-casualties ratio in Muslim wars is closer to the ancient 3-4:1 norm, perhaps 8-10 wounded per each casualty.

[5] Muslims do not care for their coreligionists. Hardly any Muslim group thanked the U.S. for stopping the murder of Muslims in Yugoslavia at the expense of détente with Russia and much of Eastern Europe. However, many Islamic groups vociferously condemned some imagined American complacency in the atrocities committed against Yugoslavian Muslims.

[6] The land Israel took in 1967 war, and Palestinians claim for their state. Calling these territories "occupied" tendentiously presupposes that Palestinians have more right to Judea and Samaria than the Israelis.