One doesn’t have to be a political scientist to see that Israeli foreign policy has been a disaster. Regardless of which party has been in power, Israel’s foreign policy has eventuated in unilateral concessions and territorial retreat. Lacking is a Jewish foreign policy, one that will require a new form of diplomacy. For its development, let us contrast the aristocratic diplomacy of the 19th-century Austrian statesman Prince Metternich with the democratic diplomacy of Benjamin Netanyahu vis-à-vis Mahmoud Abbas, head of the despotic Palestinian Authority (PA).
Some Strategic Principles
● To expect the leader of the PA, a dictatorship, to be moderate is like asking him to destroy the foundation of his existence. Hence, Netanyahu’s expectation of “reciprocity,” vis-à-vis Abbas, is both absurd and as foreign to Islamic thought and 1,400 years of Islamic history.
● Contrary to Netanyahu’s policy of self-restraint, Metternich held that in any situation where each of the possible lines of action involves difficulty, the strongest line is best.
● Netanyahu also disregards the teaching of the great military scientist, Carl von Clausewitz: “Philanthropists may readily imagine there is a skillful method of disarming and overcoming an enemy without causing great bloodshed, and that this is the proper tendency of the Art of War. However plausible this may appear, still it is an error which must be extirpated; for in such dangerous things as war, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst.”
● Netanyahu does not know how to cope with the moral reversal manifested in President Obama’s malice toward Israel and benevolence toward the PA, partly because he is ignorant of Metternich’s insight that nations with democratic forms of government are not for that reason the natural allies of each other or the implacable foes of dictatorships. Thus enlightened, Netanyahu would be less inclined to grovel in his Middle East diplomacy.
● In contrast to Netanyahu’s timidity, Metternich held that weaker states can ill-afford merely to react to events; they must also try to initiate them.
● Metternich teaches that in this age of publicity, the first care of government must be not only to be right but, even more important, to see that everything is called by its right name. By constantly intoning the words “peace” when Israel is engaged in a war, Netanyahu confuses and disarms his countrymen. Peace is neither a policy nor a goal, for it is not something tangible. Some Diplomatic Principles
● It is obvious that Netanyahu doesn’t know how to negotiate with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas whom he has appeased during the past two decades. If a handbook were written on how democrats negotiate with such dictators, it would be based on the simplistic assumption that dictators are not open to compromise. The handbook might say something like this:
The nature of dictatorships makes it inherently difficult for rulers of such regimes to compromise. The autocrat himself is little used to political compromise and tends to view it, as he does all domestic opposition, as a challenge to his authority, perhaps to his very life. His hostility to meaningful give-and-take diplomacy is reinforced by the inherent vulnerability of all regimes’ resting on coercion rather than consent. The democratic statesman must take this into account, tempering his expectations and standing ready to take the first step, going the extra mile, and perhaps giving more than he gets.
Israel has repeatedly given a great deal more than it has ever received. As Anwar Sadat boasted in a New York Times interview dated October 19, 1980: “Poor Menachem [Begin], he has his problems … After all, I got back … the Sinai and the Alma oil fields, and what has Menachem got? A piece of paper.” There is but one conclusion to draw from the preceding: During the past three decades, amateurs have been ruling Israel!