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At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Road Map’

What If Israel’s ‘Peace Partners’ Actually Prefer War?

Friday, September 21st, 2012

At this point in Israel’s problematic diplomatic agenda, there is really only one overriding policy question: Can any form of negotiation with the Palestinians, Fatah and/or Hamas, ever prove reasonable and productive?

From the very beginning, even before formal statehood in 1948, Israel has sought courageously and reasonably to negotiate with its many unreasonable enemies. Always, Jerusalem has preferred peace to war. Nonetheless, challenged by relentless and interminable Arab aggressions, diplomacy has usually failed Israel. Even the most visible example of an alleged diplomatic success, the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, is apt to fail calamitously sometime in the post-Mubarak era.

It follows that Prime Minister Netanyahu is obligated to ask: What real chance exists that, somehow, this time, and also for the future, diplomacy might be purposeful?

From Oslo to the present Road Map, diplomacy over Israel’s rights and obligations has always been an unambiguously asymmetrical process.

Israel’s principal enemies remain candid. On some things, significantly, they do not lie. On their irremediable intention to annihilate the “Zionist entity,” they are seemingly sworn to truth.

The key disputing Palestinian factions (Fatah or Hamas, it makes little difference) and Iran will never accept anything less than Israel’s removal. This is already obvious to anyone who cares to pay attention to what is said. Moreover, in a clearly corroborating bit of cartography, every PA or Hamas or Iranian map already incorporates all of Israel within “Palestine.”

Toward the end of his tenure, prior Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released several hundred Palestinian terrorists as a “goodwill gesture.” Together with then-President George W. Bush, he had decided to aid Fatah against Hamas with outright transfers of weapons and information. Soon after, those American and Israeli guns were turned against Israel. As for Olmert’s graciously extended “goodwill,” it had only served to elicit the next round of rocket fire. Matters were not helped at all by Washington’s corollary support for a Palestinian state, a thoroughly misconceived support now being extended by President Obama.

The more things change, the more they remain the same. Rooted deeply in jihadist interpretations of Islam, there is an obvious and enduring inequality of objectives between Israel and its principal enemies. For both Palestinian insurgents and Iran’s president, conflict with Israel is always “zero-sum,” routinely an all or nothing proposition. In this starkly polarizing view of incessant strife between “the world of war” and “the world of Islam,” there can never be any proper place for authentic treaties or settlements with the Jewish state, save of course as a temporary tactical expedient.

For Israel, on the other hand, a negotiated peace with its Arab neighbors and/or Iran persists as an elusive but presumably plausible hope. This is true even when any prospect of Islamic reciprocity is evidently preposterous and historically unimaginable.

A fundamental inequality is evident in all expressions of the Middle East Peace Process. On the Palestinian and Iranian side, Oslo and “Road Map” expectations have never been anything more than a cost-effective method of dismantling Israel. On the Israeli side, these expectations have generally been taken, quite differently, as a hopefully indispensable way of averting further war and terror.

The core problem of Israel’s life or death vulnerability lies in the Jewish state’s ongoing assumptions on war and peace. While certain of Israel’s regional enemies, state and nonstate, believe that any power gains for Israel represent a reciprocal power loss for them – that is, that they coexist with Israel in a condition of pure conflict – Israel assumes something else. For Netanyahu’s several immediate predecessors, relations with certain Arab states, the Palestinian Authority/Hamas and Iran were not taken to be pure zero-sum but rather a mutual-dependence connection. In this optimistic view, conflict is always mixed with cooperation.

Incomprehensibly, Israel may still believe that certain of its Arab enemies and Iran reject zero-sum assumptions about the strategy of conflict. Israel’s enemies, however, do not make any such erroneous judgments about conformance with Israeli calculations. Further, these enemies know Israel is wrong in its belief that certain Arab states, Iran, and the Palestinians also reject the zero-sum assumption, but they pretend otherwise. There has remained, therefore, a dramatic and consequential strategic disparity between Israel and certain of its frontline Islamic enemies.

A Strategic Imperative: Maintaining Israel’s Pax Atomica In The Islamic Middle East (Part I)

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
            Si vis pacem, para bellum atomicum. “If you want peace, prepare for atomic war.” However reluctantly, this must be Israel’s overriding strategic mantra in the years ahead. This is not because a nuclear war is especially likely, but rather because Israel’s nuclear deterrent will remain indispensable for the prevention of large-scale conventional conflict.

 

            Still, with Iran’s steady and growing nuclearization, eventual nuclear war, or even a “bolt-from-the-blue” nuclear attack, cannot be ruled out. Taken together with the understanding that an Iranian nuclear enemy could be more-or-less animated by wholly apocalyptic visions of Jihad, this means that military planners in the Jewish state will need to augment recognizable strategies of deterrence with appropriate forms of diplomacy, ballistic missile defense and possibly even preemption. This last option could now take the form of selected cyber-attacks, and/or regime-change interventions, as well as the more traditional sorts of defensive physical destruction. Jurisprudentially, because international law is not a suicide pact, any or all of these kinds of preemption could legally be considered as “anticipatory self-defense.”

 

            There is also the strongly related and inter-penetrating issue of a Palestinian state. If President Barack Obama has his way with the so-called “Road Map To Peace in the Middle East” (just another codified version of land for nothing), an independent state of Palestine would be carved directly out of the living body of Israel. The result: Palestine would become an optimal platform for future war and terror against Israel.

 

President Obama also seeks “a world free of nuclear weapons.” Significantly, the ultimate existential threat posed by a Palestinian state would require some antecedent forms of Israeli nuclear disarmament.  Once a new enemy state and its allies believed that Israel had been bent sufficiently to “nonproliferation” demands, adversarial military strategy could progress rapidly from terror to war, and then from attrition to annihilation. Any expression of Israeli denuclearization could remove the country’s last barrier to national survival.

 

 Israel’s unilateral nuclear disarmament is improbable, but not inconceivable. Oddly, certain of the country’s leading academic strategists continue to make this precise recommendation. I have debated them myself on the pages of Harvard University’s journal, International Security.

 

It is generally difficult to imagine nuclear weapons as anything other than evil implements of destruction.  Nonetheless, there are circumstances wherein a particular state’s possession of such weapons may be all that protects it from catastrophic war, or genocide.  Moreover, because such terrible weapons may effectively deter international aggression, at least in those cases where the prospective aggressor remains rational, their possession could also protect neighboring states (both friends and foes) from war-related or even nuclear-inflicted harms.

 

President Obama should take note. Not all members of the Nuclear Club need be a security menace. Some may offer a distinct and indispensable benefit to world peace and security. This point should be perfectly clear to everyone who remembers the Cold War.

 

  Should Israel be deprived of its nuclear forces because of sorely misunderstood hopes for peace, the Jewish state could become vulnerable to literally overwhelming attacks from enemy states.  Although such existential vulnerability might be prevented in principle by instituting parallel forms of chemical/biological weapons disarmament among these foes, such parallel steps would never actually be taken.  Verification of compliance in these matters is exceedingly difficult. Such verification would become more problematic where several enemy states would be involved.   

 

   Nuclear weapons are not the problem per se.  In the Middle East, the core problem remains a far-reaching and unreconstructed Jihadist commitment to “excise the Jewish cancer.” Jerusalem should quickly understand that the Road Map, like Oslo before cartographic metaphor became more fashionable, is little more than an incremental enemy expedient. In essence, the Road Map represents a nicely-phrased stratagem designed to weaken Israel to the point where it can, finally, no longer endure.

 

            At least one Arab state that is at de jure “peace” with Israel remains de facto at war.  Egypt, should gainful tactical opportunities arise, would revert to its more customary historic stance. Here, Cairo could join in collaborative Arab attacks against Israeli population centers, and certain military targets.  Similarly, Syria, even if it should sign a formal peace agreement with Israel, would also not hesitate to abrogate that agreement if presumably gainful military opportunities arose.            

 

            With its nuclear weapons, Israel could deter enemy unconventional attacks, and most large conventional aggressions.  With such weapons, Israel could also launch non-nuclear preemptive strikes against enemy state hard targets that might threaten Israel’s annihilation.  Without these weapons, any such acts of anticipatory self-defense would likely represent the onset of a much wider war, because there would be no compelling threat of any Israeli counter retaliation. 

 

 However counter-intuitive, Israel’s nuclear weapons represent an indispensable impediment to the actual use of nuclear weapons, and to the commencement of regional nuclear war.

 

            As Israel’s Prime Minister, Shimon Peres once expressed an explicit willingness to “give up the atom” in exchange for “peace.”   But, left to depend upon the plainly hollow guarantees of Israel’s mortal enemies, the Jewish State, denuclearized, and dismembered by the Road Map, could not long survive. Indeed, as war and genocide need not be mutually exclusive, a denuclearized and dismembered Israel could even invite another Final Solution.  This is not hyperbole, but rather the verifiably reasonable conclusion of sound strategic analysis.

 

To Be Continued

 

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971), is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and is the author of many books and articles dealing with nuclear strategy and nuclear war. Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue for forty years,  Dr. Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945. He was Chair of Project Daniel (Prime Minister Sharon/Israel).

Hating The Israelis As Jews: Why Territorial Surrenders Can Never Bring Peace To Israel

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

The following article was originally published in The Jewish Press in February 2000. It is being reprinted here now because over the past ten years, nothing has been learned about the central impediment to real peace in the Middle East. The core problem was, and still is, the far-reaching Islamic hatred of Jews. Doctrinally, Israel will never be accepted in the Islamic Middle East because it is a Jewish state. As with the Oslo process discussed in this 2000 article, no “Road Map” or other currently favored form of twisted cartography can hold any plausible promise for Israel. Today, as in the case of Oslo, the Road Map simply requires Israel to exchange land for nothing. President Barack Obama, please take note.

“O our beautiful land imprisoned in a cage and surrounded by wolves, My shaded garden, the tormentors have destroyed you, and the dogs have settled in you, O Jerusalem, O my city, With my notebook and pencil and the fire of my rifle I will shatter the cage, I will kill the wolves and plant the flag. The dogs will not bark in the heroic cities.”

Poem read on the Voice of Palestine, official radio station of the Palestinian Authority (Yasir Arafat), on May 22, 1999.
In the strict Islamic view, Israel is always the individual Jew in macrocosm. The Jewish State must be despised because of this relationship, because of the allegedly “innate evil” of each individual Jew. This is a very far cry from the view (accepted by misguided supporters of the Oslo Process) that Israel is despised only because it is an “occupier.” The Israeli is despised in the Islamic world because he is a Jew. Period.

A recent article in AL-AHRAM clarified this critical Islamic position. Here, Dr. Lufti Abd al-Azim wrote unambiguously:

“The first thing that we have to make clear is that no distinction must be made between the Jew and the Israeli…. The Jew is a Jew, through the millennia…. in spurning all moral values, devouring the living and drinking his blood for the sake of a few coins. The Jew, the Merchant of Venice, does not differ from the killer of Deir Yasin or the killer of the camps. They are equal examples of human degradation. Let us therefore put aside such distinctions and talk about Jews.”

In a current Egyptian textbook of “Arab Islamic History” used widely in teacher training colleges (in a country “at peace” with Israel), similar sentiments are expressed:

“The Jews are always the same, every time and everywhere. They will not live save in darkness. They contrive their evils clandestinely. They fight only when they are hidden, because they are cowards…. The Prophet enlightened us about the right way to treat them, and succeeded finally in crushing the plots that they had planned. We today must follow this way and purify Palestine from their filth.”

Ayatollah Khomeini, in the Foreword to his book on Islamic Government, remarked: “The Islamic Movement was afflicted by the Jews from its very beginnings, when they began their hostile activity by distorting the reputation of Islam, and by defaming and maligning it. This has continued to the present day.”

And again, on the “Zionist Problem” as a mere manifestation of the underlying and all-important “Jewish Problem,” Dr. Yaha al-Rakhawi remarked in AL-AHRAM: “…we are all – once again – face to face with the Jewish Problem, not just the Zionist Problem; and we must reassess all those studies which make a distinction between “The Jew” and “The Israeli”…. and we must redefine the meaning of the word `Jew’ so that we do not imagine that we are speaking of a divinely revealed religion, or a minority persecuted by mankind….we cannot help but see before us the figure of the great man Hitler, may G-d have mercy on him, who was the wisest of those who confronted this problem….and who out of compassion for humanity tried to exterminate every Jew, but despaired of curing this cancerous growth on the body of mankind.”

Jewish supporters of Oslo may even acknowledge this far-reaching Islamic demonization of Israelis as Jews, but – they are apt to argue – Arafat and the PLO are different. They are interested in land. They are pragmatic. Their views are of an entirely different sort. Yet, here is what Arafat said on January 30, 1996, addressing 40 Arab diplomats at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. Speaking under the title, “The Impending Total Collapse of Israel,” Arafat remarked:

“We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem…. All the rich Jews who will get compensation will travel to America…. We of the PLO will now concentrate all our efforts on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps. Within five years we will have six to seven million Arabs living in the West Bank and in Jerusalem…. You understand that we plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian State…. I have no use for Jews; they are and remain Jews.”

Is anyone listening?

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, he lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters.

Israel’s Still Blighted Cartography: Searching for New Directions in Jerusalem and Washington

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

From an existential standpoint, Israel must quickly change its strategic and diplomatic course, or prepare to disappear in increments. More specifically, with a new prime minister in place, Israel will soon need to reassess its presumed faith in the so-called Road Map to Peace in the Middle East. For his part, Mr. Obama, the new American president – counseled by the same general collection of foreign policy “experts” – will continue to support this same blighted cartography. It follows that if Israel’s new leader should decide to retreat from the Road Map, as indeed Prime Minister Netanyahu should, there would be an immediate and consequential breach with Mr. Obama.

One underlying issue of any such required Israeli reassessment must be the nuanced question of enemy rationality. If Israel should begin to face a Jihadi adversary that values certain presumed religious expectations more highly than its own physical survival, deterrence could be immobilized. This would mean, at least in the future, a heightened probability of nuclear and/or biological war. As my regular readers already know, it could also place Israel in the precise cross hairs of WMD (weapons of mass destruction) terrorism.

We Jews can learn from the great Irish poet. “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed,” says W.B. Yeats, “and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned.” Assembled in assorted armed camps euphemistically called nation-states, all peoples coexist uneasily and insecurely in an increasingly anarchic world. In time, there will be no safety in arms, no rescue from political authority, no answers from science. New wars may rage until every flower of culture is trampled, and till all things human are leveled in a vast chaos.

For Israel, especially, there are vital lessons. These lessons, which should now be learned by the new prime minister, must be drawn from a subtle awareness that strategic truth may sometimes emerge only through paradox, and that approaching national destruction may actually contain within itself certain core elements of genuine remediation and countervailing power.

Significantly, the whole world is basically a system. What happens in any one part affects what happens in all the other parts. When a particular deterioration is marked, and begins to spread from one nation to another, the effects can rapidly undermine international stability. When deterioration is sudden and catastrophic, as it would be following the start of unconventional war and/or unconventional terrorism, the corollary effects would also be sudden and catastrophic.

The State of Israel exists precariously amid growing chaos. Aware that an incremental collapse of world authority structures will impact its friends as well as its enemies, new leaders of the Jewish State will need to advance certain plausible premonitions of collapse in order to chart durable roads to survival.

Let us be frank. Frightening as it may sound, Israel’s new leaders will need to consider exactly how they would respond to international life in a state of nature.The triggering mechanism of collapse could originate from a variety of possible mass-casualty attacks against Israel, or from similar attacks against other western democracies. Here, even the United States would not be immune.

Chaotic disintegration of the world system will transform the Israeli system. Such transformation could involve total or near-total destruction. In anticipation, Israel will soon have to orient its strategic planning to an assortment of worst-case prospects, focusing more deliberately on a wide range of primarily self-help security options. Certain diplomatic processes that are conveniently but erroneously premised on assumptions of reason and rationality will have to be renounced in favor of greater realism. This means that President Barack Obama, together with Israel’s new prime minister, will have to replace the long-dishonored and inherently flawed Road Map with a more promising set of directions.

As readers of The Jewish Press are already well aware, Israel’s always one-sided surrender of territories, its mistaken reluctance to accept certain indispensable preemption options, and its multiple releases of live terrorists in exchange for slain Jews may not bring about direct defeat. Taken together, however, these policy errors will have a cumulatively weakening effect on Israel. Whether the principal effect here will be one that “merely” impairs the Jewish State’s commitment to endure, or one that also opens it to a devastating missile attack and/or to major acts of terror, is still not clear.

The Road Map remains a horribly twisted expression of cartography. To create regional peace, President Obama, together with Prime Minister Netanyahu, will need much better maps. Replacing “roadblocks” and “detours” with a more navigable (for Israel) “itinerary,” these leaders will quickly need to uncover the vanishing opportunities for diplomatic order in the midst of emerging chaos. Here, their fundamental task will be far more intellectual than political, and will require genuine wisdom as well as real courage.

This task must be accomplished very quickly. Israel is running out of time.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, May 1, 2009. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on terrorism and nuclear security matters. Born in Switzerland, and Chair of Project Daniel, he is the author of ten books on international relations and international law, including some of the earliest major works on Israel’s nuclear strategy. Dr. Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The JewishPress.

The Oslo Accords/Road Map Were Always A Deathtrap For Israel (Conclusion)

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008
 Regarding the Oslo accords and Israel’s vulnerability to war, Israeli security has become increasingly dependent upon nuclear weapons and strategy.  Faced with a codified and substantial loss of territories generated by Oslo, the Jewish State will soon have to decide on how to compensate for its diminished strategic depth.  While this shrinkage does not necessarily increase Israel’s existential vulnerability to unconventional missile attack, it surely does increase that state’s susceptibility to attacking ground forces and to subsequent enemy occupation.  Any loss of strategic depth will almost certainly be interpreted by enemy states as a significant weakening of Israel’s overall defense posture, an interpretation that could actually lead to substantial enemy incentives to strike first.

 

As Israel’s sacrifice of strategic depth − occasioned by the Oslo accords and successor Road Map − would begin to produce a Palestinian state, this time led openly by Hamas, the geostrategic victory of the Jihadist/Islamic world would be complemented by something less tangible but no less critical: an Arab and Iranian perception of an ongoing and unstoppable momentum against the Jewish State, a jihad-centered perception of military inevitability that would reiterate the policies of war.  Recognizing such perceptions, Israel could, inter alia, be forced to take its bomb out of the “basement,” and/or it could have to accept a greater willingness to launch preemptive strikes against enemy hard targets. In this connection, my readers of The Jewish Press may recall Project Daniel and its precise recommendations to Israel’s Prime Minister for Israel’s strategic future.

 

For their part, certain Arab states and/or Iran would respond to such Israeli decisions.  Made aware of Israel’s policy shifts − shifts that would stem from both Israel’s Oslo/Road Map-spawned territorial vulnerabilities, and from its awareness of enemy perceptions spawned by the “peace process”-generated creation of “Palestine,” these enemy states could respond in more or less parallel fashion.  Here, preparing openly for nuclearization and aggression against Israel, these states would illustrate dramatically certain far-reaching results of Oslo/Road Map, results that are still generally unrecognized and that provided, together with other above-listed rationales, a fully authoritative basis for permissible abrogation.

 

On October 6, 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian surprise attacks came close to jeopardizing Israel’s physical survival, it was because of a monumental intelligence failure.  Similarly, on January 18, 1991, when the scream of air-raid sirens could be heard in every corner of Israel, the Iraqi Scuds that slammed through Tel Aviv and Haifa neighborhoods caught the country − in the words of a former Intelligence Chief − “with its pants down.”  In the latter case, the only thing that saved Israel were Iraq’s notably benign warheads.  If they had not been so benign, Israel would have suffered terribly.

 

In good measure, A’man’s (IDF Intelligence Branch) record of intermittent failure is noteworthy.  While it is obviously too late to rectify prior mistakes, lessons can be learned for the future.  The most important of all such lessons is this:  Before you take comfort from what the “experts” have had to say about Oslo − and now about the Road Map − recall that their record has been seriously flawed on certain critical occasions.

 

At this ominous time in its history, Israel is confronted especially by enemy nuclearization, a developing menace of potentially unprecedented import.  Although Israel’s leaders may maintain that this menace is unrelated to the Oslo Accords or to the successor Road Map, exactly the opposite is true.  As I first wrote many years ago before Project Daniel, Iran – if uninterrupted − will have the capacity to launch missiles against Israel from its own territory. And this would not require the strategic advantages of a cooperative state of Palestine. Yet, its willingness to launch will surely be enhanced by the Oslo/Road Map dismemberment of Israel.  This is the case, because the overall effect of such dismemberment will be to weaken the country generally, including its basic will to resist, and because Oslo/Road Map will likely preclude any essential Israeli preemption.

 

Israel, in the fashion of an individual organism, is a system.  Here, the weakening of constituent “organs” may not be life-threatening by itself, yet − taken together − such weakening might portend “death.”  While particular territorial surrenders might not, in and of themselves, produce national annihilation, they will, over time, continue to drain the lifeblood from the country.  In response, enemy states − sensing the progressive deterioration of a still-hated Jewish State − will poise for the kill.  This is precisely what is being calculated at this very moment in Damascus, Teheran, Baghdad, Cairo, and, of course, in Gaza, Nablus and Jericho.

 

Preemption, as was made clear in Project Daniel, may ultimately be essential to Israel’s very survival, and Oslo/Road Map may already have prevented Israel from striking preemptively.  After all, in a Middle East shaped by “peace process” expectations, such a strike would have appeared as incontestably belligerent, upsetting all of the delicate “peacemaking” then underway.  The “civilized world” would have never tolerated such Israeli “aggressions.”

 

What if Menachem Begin had thought this way back in June 1981?  If he had chosen to forego the preemption option at that time, what sorts of warheads would have been fitted on Iraqi Scuds 10 years later?  While Begin’s heroic actions at Osiraq (Operation Opera) did indeed save the country from “another Holocaust” (Begin’s own words after the successful raid), Prime Minister Olmert refused to act against Iran.

 

General Yitzhak Rabin, on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, assured his countrymen that the Arabs would not attack.  This view, derivative from the similarly misconceived assessment of then Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, has come to be known in Israel as the mechdal, the “concept,” the idea that the enemy is not preparing for war.  A scant 24 hours before the attack, A’man’s official estimate on the probability of war, according to Chaim Herzog, was “the lowest of the low.”

 

Today, Israel faces another mechdal − an omission, an instance of nonperformance, and an expression of neglect with vastly more catastrophic potential.  This time, the “concept” could produce an actual end to the Third Temple Commonwealth. The problem stems in large part from an altogether erroneous understanding of what the distinctly zero-sum “peace process” has done to weaken Israel, and to strengthen Israel’s enemies.

 

Under international law, as we have seen, Israel was never under any obligation to comply with Oslo.  On the contrary, the Jewish State was always legally obliged to terminate this set of agreements.  Should Israel’s next prime minister learn to avoid similar mistakes with the present Road Map, Israel may still have a secure future.  But should he (or she) continue to operate on the erroneous presumption that Israel is somehow bound to honor intrinsically lawless agreements (a view almost certainly to be encouraged by Washington), the ensuing mechdal could be the country’s last.

 

Copyright © The Jewish Press, December 26, 2008. All rights reserved

 

LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law.  In the United States he has worked for over thirty-five years on international law and nuclear strategy matters, both as a scholar and as a lecturer/consultant to various agencies of the United States Government.  In Israel he has lectured widely at various academic centers for strategic studies, at the Dayan Forum and at the National Defense College (IDF).  He was chair of Project Daniel, and is the Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS.

On Quashing Anti-Government Dissent In West Bank Communities: Perspectives Of National Law, International Law And Jewish Law (Conclusion)

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Jewish Law is democratic in the sense that it belongs to all of the people, a principle reflected in the Talmudic position that each individual can approach G-d in prayer without priestly intercessions. Hence, a fundamental goal of Jewish law must always be to encourage initiative, to act purposefully on behalf of rescuing and improving both state and society. When this criterion is applied to expected instances of civil disobedience in Israel, it is apparent that the protesting opponents of the Road Map − more than any other citizens of Israel − shall be acting according to law.

In Claude Lanzmann’s monumental documentary, SHOAH, one of the surviving leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising remarks: “If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.” Sadly, the time may still come − if Jerusalem is permitted to continue following Washington’s cartography − that surviving Israelis will someday express similar sentiments. In fact, it is precisely to prevent such an unforgivable repetition of Jewish history that hundreds or thousands of Israelis may soon need to embark upon wider civil disobedience and larger-scale military refusals. After all, what would be the point of sacrilizing IDF “superior orders” at the expense of Israel’s physical continuance?

The Road Map to Peace in the Middle East still being forced upon Israel by the United States, Russia, the European Community and the United Nations calls for the incremental surrender of Judea and Samaria that are indispensable to Israel’s organic survival as a Jewish state. This one-sided piece of diplomatic cartography would open up the entire country to expanded terrorism (including mega-terrorism involving chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons) and to authentically genocidal wars of aggression launched by one or several enemy states. Moreover, in the obvious aftermath of what has happened in Gaza, these pieces of Jewish land carved from the still-living body of Israel would also quickly become a staging area for terrorism against various cities in Europe and the United States. It follows that the Road Map could bring chaos and catastrophe not only to Tel-Aviv, and Hebron, but also to New York, Washington, Paris and London.

Israel’s government is assuredly under no moral or legal obligation to proceed with the Road Map. Steady promises from Washington of billions in new military assistance is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but even such a staggering infusion of American money could never offset the existential security risks of additional “disengagements” or “realignments.” So long as Jewish soldiers actually believe it is their obligation to evict fellow Jews from their homes in Judea/Samaria, not even trillions could save Israel from itself.

America’s third president, Thomas Jefferson, already understood what has obviously eluded every Israeli Prime Minister from Rabin to Olmert (and arguably even from Begin, who began the post-1967 land surrenders with his departures from Sinai). Writing in 1793, in his Opinion On The French Treaties, Jefferson stated: “The nation itself, bound necessarily to whatever its preservation and safety require, cannot enter into engagements contrary to its indispensable obligations.”

In the years just before the Civil War, thousands of Americans organized an Underground Railroad to help those fleeing from slavery. At the time, those who participated in this heroic movement were judged lawbreakers by the Federal government, and were imprisoned, usually under the Fugitive Slave Act. Today, however, it is generally recognized that the true lawbreakers of that period were actually those who had sustained the system of slavery, and that every individual act [performed] to actively oppose this system, had been law enforcing. Similar patterns of recognition should now emerge in regard to IDF refusals to follow manifestly anti-Israel orders.

Through the centuries, distinguished legal theorists (e.g., Bodin, Hobbes, Leibniz) have understood that security is always the first obligation of the state. Where the state can no longer provide even the most elementary security, its leaders can no longer expect obedience. Where the state actively avoids the provision of basic security, as is still the case today in Israel, all citizens have a distinct obligation to resist relevant state policies. In fact, as the government’s idea of “peace” could lead even to another Jewish genocide (let us recall that, jurisprudentially, war and genocide are not mutually exclusive), this strenuous obligation could arguably go beyond more gentle forms of civil disobedience and military refusals to substantially more vigorous expressions of lawful opposition. International law is not a suicide pact, nor is Israel’s Basic law or Jewish Law.

“If you could lick my heart, it would poison you.” We must never again hear such a tormented remark from the victim of yet another Jewish tragedy − especially from the self-inflicted disappearance of Israel in presumed “compliance” with military orders. Strategically, the correlation of forces is increasingly stacked against Israel, and it will soon take far more than operational ingenuity to save the Jewish State from its recalcitrant enemies.
We Jews have enough trouble from others. We should not now also have to worry about saving the Jewish State from itself.

Finally, some mention must be made of interpenetrations with American politics. The incoming Obama administration will almost certainly wish to proceed with the “Peace Process.” Although entirely well intentioned in this regard (it is simply wrong to assume that Barack Obama is in any way “anti-Israel”), the new president will still not be helping Israel by reaffirming long-standing chants for a “Two State Solution.”

A special danger here will be the American Jewish Establishment. Anxious to please the new president, and predictably visceral in supporting all U.S. presidential policies for the Middle East, these large Jewish organizations and lobbies will thus follow Jerusalem’s lead on international diplomacy and negotiations. They will adopt this position irrespective of any independent analysis, or the obviously failed history of “Oslo/Road Map.” It is altogether likely, therefore, that this Establishment will automatically side with the Israeli government in supporting blanket condemnations of Jewish civil disobedience. If this should happen, individual Jews in the United States who also care about Israel should avoid making the same mistake. Let them recall, in this matter, that during the Holocaust, the American Jewish Establishment largely refused to “rock the boat.”

Memory is always the heart of redemption. We are all obligated, as Jews, to remember and honor the souls of the 6 million, of the Kedoshim. To meet this sacred expectation, we must never separate ourselves from the fate of our fellow Jews in Israel. If necessary, this means that we must even stand opposed to the Jewish Establishment in the United States.

The forms of Jewish nationalism exhibited by coming waves of civil disobedience in Israel will play a role beyond Israel’s own physical survival. The redemption of Israel is essential to the redemption of all humanity. Jewish nationalism is much more than a highly valued national security position. As goes Israel, so will go our entire world. Those who continue to honorably disobey policies of “Land For Nothing” will be acting not only to preserve the Jewish State, but also to sustain our entire, imperiled world.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, December 5, 2008. All rights reserved

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D. Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with international law and Israeli security matters. Strategic and Military Affairs analyst for The Jewish Press, he lectures and publishes widely on terrorism, counterterrorism, nuclear strategy and nuclear war.

On Quashing Anti-Government Dissent In West Bank Communities: Perspectives Of National Law, International Law And Jewish Law (Part Two of Three Parts)

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

In the Jewish tradition, the principle of a Higher Law is not only well established; it is the very foundation of all legal order. Whenever the law of the state stands in marked contrast to this principle, the secular law is rendered altogether null and void. In certain circumstances, such contrast positively mandates opposition to the law of the state. Here, what is generally known, as “civil disobedience” is not only lawful, but also genuinely law enforcing.

Exactly what sorts of circumstances are we describing? Above all, they are circumstances that place at existential risk the very survival of the state. In such circumstances, which were in fact already identified in the widely disseminated Halachic Opinion issued in 1995 by prominent rabbis in Eretz Yisrael − Concerning Territorial Compromise, the matter is one of Pikuach Nefesh. Hence, it demands certain appropriate forms of resistance. Israel cannot endure meaningfully without Judea and Samaria. As the Torah is a “Toras Chaim,” a Torah of life, Jewish authorities in the State of Israel are “forbidden, under any circumstance,” to transfer Jewish land to Arab authorities.

The writer, Hillel Halkin, fearing that the state of the Jews might one day be ruled by Hebrew-speaking Gentiles (a fear already widespread among American Zionist thinkers like Maurice Samuel and Ludwig Lewisohn) once wrote: “I do not believe that a polity of Israelis who are not culturally Jews, whose roots in this land go no deeper than thirty years and no wider than the boundaries of an arid nation-state, has a future in the Middle East for very long. In one way or another…it will be blown away like chaff as though it never were, leaving neither Jews nor Israelis behind it.” And in a more recent essay, the same writer observed that the actual hatred for Judaism of a very large portion of Israeli intellectuals, including those who now create a theoretical legitimacy for current government policies, has become a hatred of Zionism.

Halkin’s fears were well founded. They remain well founded today. Under the disastrous Rabin/Peres governments, Israel began to be transformed not only into a polity that was more and more detached from cultural Judaism, but also into one that positively undermined both Judaism and Zionism. That transformation now continues full-speed-ahead under a legally fallen government.

The right of sovereignty, in all states, rests upon an assurance of protection. Where a state can no longer offer such elementary assurance − indeed, where it deliberately surrenders such a basic promise − the critical rationale of citizen obligation must also disappear. “The obligation of subjects to the sovereign,” said the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century, “is understood to last as long, and no longer, than the power lasteth by which he is able to protect them.”

Hobbes knew what he was talking about. Can the current government of Israel protect its citizens? Clearly, Israelis have already experienced the Oslo and Road Map “peace process” as a terror process. If Judea/Samaria are transformed into part of “Palestine,” the peace process will also once again become a war process. Here, finally deprived of its essential strategic depth, Israel will become an irresistible object for aggression by certain enemy states and their surrogates. In view of what is already known about enemy state nuclearization, and about ballistic missile developments in these states, the war and terror process could even be ignited against Israel by unconventional assaults of various kinds.

It is precisely with these sobering points in mind that Israeli opponents of a self-annihilatory peace process must now prepare to engage in civil disobedience. Although the government still instructs them that a “Two-State Solution” is possible, Palestinian maps certainly suggest otherwise. There, the Arab “Phased Plan” of 1974, spawned in Cairo and unambiguously genocidal, is codified into an open cartography of disappearance for the Jewish State. Surely Israel still faces a distinct machinery of destruction, and it is up to each and every Israeli to “stop the machine” while there is still time.

To “stop the machine.” This aptly phrased metaphor is taken directly from Henry David Thoreau’s classical explorations of civil disobedience. In his famous essay on the subject, the American transcendentalist spoke persuasively of such essential opposition as an act of “counter friction.” Confronted with dreadful harms of the sort now suffered and anticipated by so many Israelis, harms generated by the incessant and illusory Peace Process, he would urge, as he once did about policy deformations in this country: “Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn.”

This is what Israel’s thousands of protestors shall seek, not to lend themselves to the manifest wrongs of the planned government surrenders. Among these wrongs are the government’s corollary legitimization of a terrorist organization, and its shameful unwillingness to punish terrorist crimes. Indeed, not only are Israel and the so-called Palestinian Authority still abandoning all pertinent jurisprudential obligations to seek out and prosecute terrorists, they are both still releasing known terrorists from their respective jails.

Israel’s pertinent agreements with the PA/Fatah contravene the binding obligation to punish acts that are crimes under international law. Known formally as Nullum crimen sine poena, “No crime without a punishment,” this requirement points unambiguously to the multiple acts of killing and torture ordered directly by PA officials over many years.

To not only ignore this requirement, but also to actually legitimize the criminality by making Abbas a “partner” (Israel’s first honored Palestinian “partner” was honored Nobel laureate Yasir Arafat), is an openly egregious violation of Principle I of the Nuremberg Principles. This means that Israel’s citizens who now continue to support and sustain the Road Map are in violation of international law (and therefore of Israel’s national law as well, which necessarily incorporates international law), while those who oppose this path to self-destruction within the proper bounds of civil disobedience are in support of both forms of law.

These informed views of law and civil disobedience in Israel, however counterintuitive or disturbing they may seem, warrant a broader public understanding. Now embarked upon policies that threaten Israel’s very existence while they simultaneously undermine authoritative expectations of justice, the Jerusalem government should fully expect to be confronted with mounting protests. Were it not so confronted, citizens of Israel would have already consented to their own codified disintegration.

International law, which is based upon a variety of higher law foundations, including Jewish Law, forms part of the law of all nations. This is the case whether or not the incorporation of international law into national law is explicit, as it is in the Supremacy Clause (Article VI) of the United States Constitution. The government of Israel is bound by settled norms of international law concerning punishment of terrorist crimes and physical survival of the state. Where this government fails to abide by these rules, as is very much the case today, civil disobedience is not only permissible; it is required.

We began with a look at the Jewish Law bases of higher law and civil disobedience. Jewish law rests always upon two principles: the overriding sovereignty of G-d and the derivative sacredness of the individual person. Both principles, intertwined and interdependent, underlie the reasoned argument for civil disobedience in Israel. From the sacredness of the person, which stems from each individual’s resemblance to divinity, flows the freedom to choose. The failure to exercise this freedom, which is evident wherever a response to political authority is merely automatic, represents a betrayal of individual legal responsibility.

What are the likely costs of such a betrayal? Above all, as we have already noted, they include increased loss of life and expanded human suffering. Failing to exercise their obligations as free citizens, Israelis who stand by passively as the government proceeds with a terror process/war process are undeniably complicit in the deadly consequences of their betrayal.

Where it is necessary, civil disobedience in Israel can save lives. This path does display the highest imperatives of free citizens in a free society. To the extent that it can stop and even reverse the Road Map, it can reduce the number of Israelis who would die or be maimed at the hands of Arab terrorists and also those who would perish as a result of newly probable aggressions by certain Arab/Islamic states. There is, then, a potentially concrete benefit to civil disobedience in Israel. This is by no means a merely abstract matter of theory and jurisprudence. It is, rather, a distinctly flesh and blood matter of national self-defense and survival.

In utilitarian terms, we are speaking of calculations that would compare the two essential options − civil disobedience vs. no civil disobedience − according to expected costs and benefits. Here it should be apparent to all that the Road Map, which represents a proper-sounding exchange of critical Israeli lands for unsupportable diplomatic promises (Land For Nothing), offers absolutely no benefits and altogether unsustainable costs. The calculation should be easy enough to compute.

It is true, of course, that certain acts of civil disobedience could represent technical infractions under Israeli statutes or Basic Law, but such infractions are necessary in order to support vastly more important principles of Israeli law and Jewish justice. In the United States, a traditional common law defense known as “necessity” (which has also been incorporated into certain criminal codes) permits conduct that would otherwise constitute an offense if the accused believed such conduct was necessary to avoid a public or private injury greater than the injury which might reasonably result from his own conduct.

Transported to the Israeli context, where the greater public and private injury occasioned by the Road Map might include terrorism, war crimes, crimes against peace, crimes against humanity and genocide, a necessity-type defense could be appropriate and compelling. This is the case even if Israeli law recognizes no clear form of “necessity” because this law must recognize the higher-law principle from which the necessity defense derives. Indeed, insofar as the origins of the higher-law principle lie in ancient Jewish law, the argument for civil disobedience in Israel based upon some notion of “necessity” is especially persuasive.

Copyright © The Jewish Press, November 28, 2008. All rights reserved

(To be continued)

LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D. Princeton, 1971) is the author of many books and articles dealing with international law and Israeli security matters. Strategic and Military Affairs analyst for THE JEWISH PRESS, he lectures and publishes widely on terrorism, counterterrorism, nuclear strategy and nuclear war.

Can Israel Slay Clocks? Understanding Chronology Of War And Terror In The Middle East (Part One)

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

Over the years, regular readers of my column in The Jewish Press may have noticed a continuing regard for the concept of time. On the surface, it might not appear that chronology can possibly have much to do with war and terror. Some deeper reflection, however, should reveal several interesting and intimate connections. Moreover, much of what we can now learn about time, war and terror has its essential roots in original Jewish ideas of community. Here, in these Jewish prophetic visions, authentic community was actually defined by very explicit reference to existing in time under a transcendent G-d. Land and space were also important, to be sure, but derivatively; only because of the verifiably sacred events that would necessarily take place therein.

Time now has a great many different meanings. It certainly means very discrepant things to the very assorted players in world politics. Historically, the specific idea of felt time – of time as lived rather than clock time – also has its origins in ancient Israel. Deliberately rejecting the concept of time as mere linear progression, the early Hebrews approached chronology as a fully qualitative experience. Thus dismissed as something that can submit to abstract or quantitative measure only, time was understood in ancient Israel as something that is always logically inseparable from a distinctly personal content.

We can learn a great deal from this today. Drawing from this ancient Jewish wisdom, true chronology in understanding war prevention and counter-terrorism must now embrace more than the uniform intervals of clocks. For Israel, time must also be understood in the acknowledged and exquisitely meaningful terms of its enemies. What are these terms?

For Israel’s determined Islamist terrorist enemies, real time means something very different from what is measured by clocks. There is, therefore, an ironic but altogether noteworthy commonality between Israel and its enemies in the complex matter of time. For the still-expanding legions of Jihad, real time also has significant foundations in ancient Israel. Much as they would be loathe to admit it – and, more than likely, it is not a commonality they even recognize – these legions of death dutifully obey the manifestly subjective idea of felt time.

The idea of Jihad is not animated by any standard measures of duration. Not at all. If it were otherwise, and Israel’s enemies were to calculate solely or primarily in ordinary strategic and hence measurable terms, there would never be any cessation of Arab violence. Why would there be?

“Yesterday,” says Samuel Beckett in his analysis of Proust, “is not a milestone that has been passed, but a day stone on the beaten track of the years, and irremediably part of us, heavy and dangerous.” Newly aware that tomorrow will always be structured by “yesterday,” at least in part, and especially by the all-important memory of “yesterday,” Israel’s Prime Minister – beginning to think more conceptually – should finally be made aware that time is power. But this imperative will make sense only insofar as time is first correctly understood.

Presently, Mr. Olmert’s plan to capitulate to the so-called “Road Map” and to the corollary creation of “Palestine,” indicates that this crucial awareness is fading. Naturally, this capitulation has everything to do with the new $30 billion in military aid promised by Washington. Although this aid will surely be valuable to Jerusalem, in the end it will prove to have been a foolish exchange. In other words, the actual gain afforded by the aid will be overshadowed by the actual loss.

The subjective metaphysics of time, a reality that is never based on equally numbered moments, but rather upon particular representations of time as lived, should immediately impact the way in which Israel confronts its Arab/Islamic enemies. At a minimum, this means struggling to understand even more precisely the manner in which these enemies – both state and sub-state adversaries – live themselves within time. How then do they live in terms of chronology?

For Israel today, encumbered by the twisted cartography of a Road Map to a 23rd enemy Arab state called “Palestine,” the pertinent space-time relationship must necessarily be seen along two complex dimensions. Any planned further surrenders of territory by Israel will inevitably reduce the time that Israel still has left to resist certain mega-forms of both war and terror. Moreover, such surrenders, considered cumulatively, have already provided time to Israel’s enemies to await more perfect opportunities for eliminating the hated “Zionist entity.” It follows, in an apparent paradox, that time now best serves Israel’s enemies, and that it does this by both its diminution and its extension.

These are difficult ideas to grasp, especially for political and military decision makers unaccustomed to imprecise and “unscientific” modes of analysis. Nonetheless, there are many things that science can never understand, and that must therefore be understood according to very different but certainly not inferior forms of reasoning. A markedly greater awareness of the subjective metaphysics of time, a reality that is based not on equally numbered moments, but rather upon representations of time as lived, should impact the way in which Israel now confronts its principal terrorist enemies. This means, inter alia, struggling to fathom the manner in which these Islamist enemies (again, both state and sub-state) actually live within time. Ultimately, this has to do with conceptualizing the very precise religious obligations that are drawn from very particular Arab/Islamic interpretations of faith and law.

Let me be more “operational.” If Israel should determine that certain Jihadist terror groups and/or their state mentors now accept a very short time horizon in their plan for future attacks, its apt response to planned aggressions and materialized expectations would have to be correspondingly swift. If, on the other hand, it would seem that this time horizon is substantially longer, Israel’s defensive response could reasonably be more patient and less urgent. The exact duration of this enemy time horizon must always be determined by identifying the enemy’s own idea of divine expectation. It must now be Israel’s main task, therefore, to accurately determine this idea, an indispensable task that would also affect the way in which Israel may have to decide the increasingly critical trade-off between civil liberties and public safety.

Copyright The Jewish Press, April 11, 2008. All rights reserved.

LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many major books and articles dealing with war, terrorism and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.

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