Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
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Create a credible threat against Israel's enemies

Paper agreements are broken as often as they are signed—unless they are enforced. Lebanon revoked the peace agreement with Israel it signed in 1983 a year later. Arabs are notoriously flexible about promises and generally have little respect for agreements. Peace is established on the battlefield and sustained by threat. Defense is a tactical device, ineffective long-term. The threat required may be small when people are tired of war, as in the case of Alsace-Lorraine after World War II, but the threat must be strong and credible, especially with poor but aggressive people like the Arabs who are highly tolerant of suffering.

Defense hardly ever wins peace; the threat of offense does. Arabs will not make peace with Israel unless they fear Israeli attack. They are comfortable thinking Israel will not attack them and have no reason to negotiate with Israel, especially when certain concessions are involved. Arab disinterest in peace means changes in Israeli military doctrine.

Among the reasons countries make peace are economic benefits (there are none in the present case) or fear. Present Israeli policies give Arabs nothing to fear. Even when they attack first, Israel wages war humanely without inflicting unbearable loss of life or destruction of property. Even in 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the Arabs nightmare, Israel took only non-essential land.

Every offensive war—and Israel’s wars are technically offensive, since they aim to settle Israelis on land the Arabs held before 1948—succeeds only when important enemy territory is conquered or threatened. Modern warfare enables territorial control by air force and tank divisions, two Israeli specialties. Thus, Israel need not overextend herself conquering vast tracts of land.

The negotiations with Syria over the Golan Heights showed how little bargaining power Israel has. Israel offered to return most of the Golan Heights, keeping only the ridges needed to maintain first-warning stations and to prevent Syria from firing directly on the Israeli valley below. Predictably, Syria demanded all the Heights. Why would it do otherwise? Syria does not need peace or economic relations with Israel. On the contrary, Syria blackmails the United States by threatening Israel. What does it take to make a country cede conquered territory? The threat of continued economic loss or war. A disadvantageous status quo can be accepted de jure only if things threaten to get worse, that is, only if peace prevents further aggression. If Israel wants to retain the Golan Heights, Israel should take or threaten to occupy a much larger territory and then offer a trade.

Israel may force Arabs to seek peace by other measures as well. Arabs should be advised that Israel will annex any territory occupied in retaliation for Islamic terrorist attacks permanently—including the Palestinian autonomous regions. And Israel may have not much time to advance on that path, since only Egypt maintains current Middle Eastern stability, and that will change as soon as Islamic radicals succeed the current leadership—and 94% of Egyptians polled supported the 9/11 attacks. In fact, 40% of Arab Britons cheered the attacks. The percentage was probably higher if the truth were known, since many British Arabs were uncomfortable expressing admiration for the nation’s enemy.