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As the continuing flow of new missiles to Iran reveals, the Bush administration [Editors Note: This refers to first President Bush] remains committed to misconceived policies in the Middle East. Even if Israel were to yield West Bank and Gaza to create a new state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, the government in Tehran would persist in its planned aggressions against the Jewish state. Altogether unconcerned with the fate of the Palestinians, this government can be satisfied only by Israel's disappearance.
Sometimes, as I have asserted from time to time in this column, seeing requires distance. Now, suffocating daily in political and economic rants from both the Right and the Left, we Americans must promptly confront a critical need to look beyond the historical moment, to seek both meaning and truth behind the news. There, suitably distant from the endlessly adrenalized jumble of current fears and concerns, we could finally understand the timeless struggle of individual against mass, of the singular person against the "crowd."
From the beginning, Israel has successfully managed to craft its overriding strategic doctrine apart from any specific U.S. expectations. To be sure, keeping its "bomb in the basement" has been at least partially a response to expressed American wishes. After all, any explicit end to nuclear ambiguity could have proven unacceptable to Washington. Still, all other core doctrinal considerations of nuclear force structure, basing, targeting and nuclear retaliatory thresholds have likely been fashioned, quite correctly, to suit only Israel.
By every tangible military and economic standard, Israel is more powerful than its Palestinian foes. Nonetheless, from time to time, there are stark and compelling reminders in world politics that the powerful can sometimes be weak, and that the weak can sometimes be powerful. For example, despite its evident superiority in arms, Israel is periodically at the mercy of Palestinian rockets fired into civilian areas from Gaza.
We Jews are already accustomed to irony, but - only rarely - does the subject in question rise to the daunting level of human survival. Here, however, is one of those rare subjects. Considering it carefully, we can begin to appreciate the obligation to look at our world with genuinely larger questions in mind. In other words, we should quickly begin to recognize a distinct imperative to look behind the news.
It will seem strange to see a column of mine in The Jewish Press about Woodrow Wilson, but there was very considerable "Jewish wisdom" in this Presbyterian former American president. Wilson first came to my attention in 1967, when I entered Princeton as a graduate student. He had been, after all, a Princeton Professor of Politics, and also a Princeton President before entering the White House.
On its face, it would surely be foolish to blame Daimler-Chrysler's extraordinary woes on the very dark history of Daimler-Benz. On its face, the combined company's deep decline is manifestly a function of bad economic judgments. After all, from the very start, the 1998 decision by Germany's Daimler-Benz to merge with Chrysler simply made no financial sense.
Human interdependence and generalized compassion, integral to a universalized Judaism, are indispensable to species survival. In this respect, President Barack Obama seemingly understands something very Jewish: The state of our now-tormented American union is intimately intertwined with the state of our whole world.
The George W. Bush years are now behind us. But Barack Obama, while still waging an American war on terror, will almost certainly remain committed to a so-called "Two-State Solution" in the Middle East.
For a Palestinian state to be born, only a gravedigger could wield the forceps. Yet in one form or another, a new state of "Palestine" will likely be carved out of the still-living body of Israel. Supported by both outgoing President Bush and President-elect Obama, this 23rd Arab state would quickly seek extension, in judicious increments, beyond the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and into the "green line" boundaries of Israel proper. This is hardly a controversial expectation, as even the official Palestinian Authority (PA) map of "moderate" Fatah now shows all of Israel as part of Palestine.
It is always difficult to believe that any thinking friend of Israel, let alone a prominent Israeli academic strategist, could find something positive in Israeli territorial surrenders and associated capitulations.
Smugly and shamelessly, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert gives freedom to terrorists in exchange for slain Jews.
Every four years America looks to a new president as a source of real hope. And every four years the code word of each yelling aspirant is "change."
Horace was born in 65 BCE, and died in 8 BCE. His ode (I, 14) on the "Ship of State" pertains to ancient Rome, but it might just as well refer to Israel after "Palestine".
My readers in The Jewish Press are accustomed to reading my articles on timely strategic and jurisprudential issues. For the most part, these columns have explored various dangers of terrorism, war and genocide. But sometimes we are imperiled by a very different sort of terror. There is, of course, the "usual" threat of terror violence (the terror "outside"), but there is also a serious specter of interior terror that arises from our willful abandonment of individuality (the terror "within").
For Jews, free will must always be oriented toward life, to the blessing, not to the curse. Our binding charge is to strive in this obligatory direction of individual and collective self-preservation by using our intelligence and by exercising our essentially disciplined acts of will. In circumstances where such striving is consciously rejected, the outcome - however catastrophic - can never rise to the dignified level of tragedy.
True life, it seems, can never be brought purposefully before the judgment seat of Reason. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, absurd narratives now best mirror the deteriorating situation of life on earth. Still living an elaborate pantomime of right and wrong, justice and punishment, we humans desperately want the unfolding world-drama to develop with both fairness and sensibility. Generally, we witness something quite different.