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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776
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Irony and Intuition: Understanding Israel’s Best Philosophy of Survival

For states, as for individuals, fear and reality go together naturally.

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Louis Rene Beres

Louis Rene Beres



Singly or collectively, there is nothing inherently wrong with faith in these particular sources of safety. Still, such sources should never be allowed to displace a prior and primary awareness of an always-possible national impermanence.

Strategically, the stark asymmetry of purpose between Israel and its adversaries places the Jewish state at a considerable disadvantage. While Israel’s enemies, especially Iran, manifest their own “positive” hopes for immortality by the intended slaughter of Jews (religiously, the jihadi nexus between these particular hopes, and such slaughter, is often codified, fixed, and compelling), Israel’s leaders display their own tiny country’s vague hopes for collective immortality (1) by acquiescing to incremental surrenders of vital lands; and (2) by releasing thousands of jailed terrorists in endlessly unreciprocated gestures of “good will.” In the end, to be sure, it will prove to have been a vain, indecent, and much too costly display.

Now, after a notably brief and fragile interlude of statehood – a mere 65 years – shall Jewish wandering begin yet again? However unwittingly, by conveniently and unceasingly denying its collective mortality, Israel may have prepared to hand its sworn enemies the keys to the Promised Land.

Part of the blame lies with dutiful acceptance of the “American paradigm.” Significantly, in spite of its endlessly simple charms, the pervasive American ethos of positive thinking is substantially flush with intellectual error. Rejecting such a patronizing ethos, and spurred on instead by appropriately dreadful imaginations of military disaster, the people of Israel may yet begin, as indeed they must, to boldly acknowledge certain decipherable connections between (a) Palestinian statehood; (b) Iranian nuclearization; and (c) regional war.

The alternative, to sheepishly accept the twisted cartography of a “two-state solution” and/or the inevitability of atomic weapons in Iran, could make an unforgivable mockery of the would-be Jew Borges’s deducible insights and hidden truths.

Borges’s wisdom, we have now seen, extends in unforeseen directions. Eventually, too much “positive thinking,” understood here as a wrongheaded denial of national vulnerability, could effectively hasten Israel’s final exit – its enemies’ determined plan for another “final solution.”

Naturally, this is not a plea for Israeli pessimism as such, but rather for Jerusalem’s facing up to utterly worst-case scenarios as a long-neglected but still promisingly gainful national security posture. In certain critical matters of Israeli and Jewish survival, American-style celebrations of pure optimism may be dense with error. Far better for Israel to face up to its core existential vulnerabilities, and then to plan accordingly.

L’chaim!

Louis Rene Beres

About the Author: Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is professor of political science and international law at Purdue University and the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and strategic studies.


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