The more things change, the more they remain the same. For anyone who can still think clearly, the Annapolis “Peace Conference” in November was merely the latest hallucinatory rendition of a very troubled sleep. It’s not that this carefully scripted assembly actually confirmed a catastrophic outcome for Israel. Rather, it underscored America’s perilous and persistent preoccupation with a determinably wrongheaded foreign policy.
For Israel, the “Road Map to Peace in the Middle East” remains an unambiguously lethal cartography. Should it still be taken seriously, it could transport Israel from bad dream to nightmare.
Nightmare. According to the etymologists, the root of the word is niht mare or niht maere, the demon of the night. Dr. Johnson’s dictionary says this corresponds to Nordic mythology – which saw nightmares as the product of demons. This would make it a play on, or translation of, the Greek ephialtes or the Latin incubus. In all interpretations of nightmare, the idea of demonic origin is central.
Israel’s demons are of a different form. Their mien is not directly frightful (one reason that they are so dangerous), but hidden and ordinary. If they are sinister, it is not because they are hideous but because they are commonplace. Their evil is not always readily identifiable, but the demons that stalk the Jewish State are unmistakably palpable and ultimately final.
Israel’s demons are those of a Jewish people who have become accustomed to strive and exist without any serious meanings. These demons prey easily upon a Jewish state without any real direction, an ingathered nation that has largely forgotten its essential and everlasting Jewish purpose in the world. Reducing itself to a “thing” at Annapolis, a tiny, banal and negotiable object in a vast sea of enemies, Israel effectively announced that it was now willing to become a corpse. This unfathomably cadaverous assessment would surely be disputed by the Prime Minister and by the U.S. Secretary of State, but the incontestable facts would certainly suggest otherwise.
Irony of ironies. In matters of war and peace, Israel may take vital lessons in pathos from ancient Troy as well as from ancient Jerusalem. The Prime Minister should recall the solicitous visit of Trojan King Priam to the battle tent of Achilles. Even though Mr. Olmert stopped short of clasping George Bush’s knees and kissing the U.S. President’s hands, the Palestinians and their allies knew that Israel had already lost. If the 23rd Arab state is born sometime in the next year, virtually the entire world will hail its explosive appearance as a triumph of human rights and “national self-determination.”
Irony of ironies. Israeli novelist Aharon Megged once noted, “We have witnessed a phenomenon which probably has no parallel in history; an emotional and moral identification by the majority of Israel’s intelligentsia with people openly committed to our annihilation.” Whatever the psychiatric origins of such an unprecedented identification, it is a disgusting behavior, a behavior so completely vile and inexcusable that it easily blocks out several thousand years of Jewish wisdom and whole oceans of sacred poetry. Left uncorrected, this grotesque identification could even destroy Israel even before the wreckage generated by state and sub-state enemy attacks.
But not every important lesson for Israel is laced with irony. Some are straightforward and readily apparent. To survive in its always-imperiled neighborhood, Israel cannot continue to treat international relations and diplomacy apart from the essential Jewish fabric of its national existence. From one administration to the next, from Rabin to Olmert, Israel’s leaders have remained ordinary and without vision because Israel’s people themselves have largely abandoned what is true and meaningful.
The German philosopher Nietzsche understood that “When the throne sits on mud, mud sits on the throne.” Israel cannot endure as “mud.” Not a thousand Annapolis promises from Washington can ever compensate for a single act of Israeli auto-destruction. There will be no Arab quid pro quos for hundreds of Israeli concessions, none at all, and absolutely no rewards for millions of deliberately drifting Jewish souls.
Recently, The New Jewish Congress was launched in Israel. Professor Hillel Weiss of Bar Ilan University chaired the plenary session. Dr. Gadi Eshel, an indefatigable and heroic fighter for Israel, read aloud from the Congress Charter: “The Eternal People in an Eternal Covenant in the Land of Israel.” Said Dr. Eshel, “Every community that we plant throughout the land strengthens the roots of the Eternal Nation’s Eternal Covenant here – while at the same time preventing it from being bound by ‘Auschwitz borders.’ Let us not fool ourselves. ‘Auschwitz borders’ invite Auschwitz – not only for the Jews in Israel, but for Jews everywhere, and for all of humanity.”
In The New Jewish Congress and such related movements as Moshe Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit (The Jewish Leadership Movement) lies Israel’s best hope. To champion the indissoluble integrity of the Land of Israel and the Nation of Israel is what Israel must pursue now, immediately, and at all costs. As regular readers of The Jewish Press will easily understand, it is time to finally heed Dr. Eshel’s recollection of Joshua and Caleb, when Moses sent them out to reconnoiter: “Let us ascend and inherit the Land, for we can overcome it.” The only probable alternative to such a purposeful final acknowledgment would be another final solution.
Copyright ©, The Jewish Press, January 11, 2008. All rights reserved.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). He is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli defense matters. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press. He was Chair of Project Daniel.