Middle East conflict: Israel has no way out

Middle East conflict allows no superficial morality

Passionate (one might say, neurotic) Jews are neither cold politicians like the British[11] nor disciplined soldiers like the Germans nor fearless like the Spanish. The typical Israeli is no statesman. So why should Israel make the Middle East conflict worse by revealing her weaknesses and exacerbating them with Jewish soul-searching and reluctance to admit the most evident things about the way states are created?

Often misunderstood, Machiavelli, one of the greatest humanists of the Renaissance, left a message to future generations which fully applies to the Middle East conflict. He disdained government force and war; he admired just, wise rulers. He considered murder and deceit distasteful but natural, but like a good surgeon, he saw the need to do repulsive and painful things quickly and effectively. It is better to live and let live, but if you decide on territorial expansion and war, at least do it knowledgeably. Strategists as far removed in time as Sun Tzu and Clauzewitz shared that attitude. Politics is a cold-blooded game with no place for moralizing and hesitation, not for victors at any rate. Be coherent and single-minded; smother the weakness of humanism, and weaken the enemy by inducing him to act according to moral rules while you disregard them as fiction, inapplicable in crises. Israel has yet to accept and adopt the truth of warfare to prevail in the Middle East conflict. Right now Israel rolls down the dangerous road recently traveled by Germany, hysterically imposing unrealizable political objectives on a strong army.

There is no way to end the Middle East conflict except to gain the enemy’s respect. Bernard Lewis relates a legend about an Arab ruler who said, “Among my people, I aroused respect untainted with fear and love untainted with disrespect.” Perhaps possible in an enlightened monarchy, democracy’s policy swings preclude such politics. Israelis, hated European aliens among Middle Eastern peoples, cannot arouse such feelings and might hope at best for respect engendered by force and fear. And Arabs,[13] who equate strength with arrogance and hauteur, understand that and would take any other policy for weakness. While few Arabs hated Jews a century ago, they despise them now, because the Israelis combine weakness with anti-Arab ambitions, the worst mix possible in the Middle East.

The Middle East conflict in inescapable

Hard lines often repel people who have lived all their lives in democratic countries and prefer indecision and tolerance, expecting the legal system to work, the citizenry to behave reasonably, the courts to be just, and the police to protect and serve. That does not happen in the Middle East. The hard-liners in Israel who argue against compromise with perceived evil and for harsh action against Arabs, are not extremists but rather realists who realize that civility will not solve the problem.

I lived in the former Soviet Union and also in the Middle East, all ugly dictatorships. Many Palestinians I know still have the Bedouin respect for the strong and disdain for the weak. When Jordan killed eight thousand Palestinians in a short conflict, it aroused little concern among the Middle East neighbors; indeed, Palestine has good relations with Jordan. But the Middle East continually carps at Israel, specifically because it has unconsciously found a weak spot, namely Israel’s rhetoric of morality and Israel's attempt to wage a moral war. Quick, cruel Israeli action would stop the Middle East conflict and save lives as actually happened in Dir Yassin, the Arab village destroyed during the War for Independence by a joint Irgun-Lehi-Haganah operation. Israeli soldiers shot down between sixty and two hundred people in heavy urban combat, saving scores of thousands of lives by stopping the conflict and causing the Arab civilians — misinformed by their mass media which reported the fight as a massacre — to flee. That was not good, but it was necessary. Statehood, war, and conquest are ugly, but if there is a national resolve to end the Middle East conflict, it should be done efficiently[15] without inflicting prolonged sufferings on one’s own or the subdued. Crush the Arabs' will to fight, drive them away, and live peacefully.

[11] Or cynical like the Arabs. I cannot forget the photo of the first President Bush, not exactly a peasant, standing before the Saudi King Fahd, supposedly because he was ill, though hardly to the extent that he could not even make an attempt to rise to greet Bush. The posture of many Middle East politicians is stunning compared with the groveling of their Israeli counterparts.

[13] Sephardic Jews, who both think like Arabs and understand how Arabs think, vote for the right-wing Likud, traditionally associated with strong attitude in the Middle East conflict.

[15] Popular opinion is not always right. It is duty of Israelis to argue and otherwise work against wrong and immoral policy of Israeli government at every stage of its implementation. As long, however, as such policy, not outright criminal, is carried into action, it makes every sense to hone it to the utmost effectiveness (lack of moral restraints) in order to end the Middle East conflict faster and with less suffering.