First published here almost one year ago, Professor Beres’ column about Prime Minister Olmert’s devastating policy errors was a warning unheeded. Written even before the 2006 Lebanon War fiasco, it takes on new and especially urgent meanings following the scathing report by Israel’s Winograd Commission. In essence, the report’s stunning rebuke of Mr. Olmert’s conduct of IDF operations against Hizbullah was already foreseen in Professor Beres’ despairing prediction of an IDF “openly fawning upon its own doom.” Today, when large numbers of Israelis actively campaign for Olmert’s resignation, this earlier column by Professor Beres will remind readers of the current prime minister’s initial failures and of his inherent incapacity to govern.
Israeli Prime Minister Olmert now gives guns to Arab terrorists while planning to surrender more of his country’s essential heartland. The apparent rationale of giving Israeli arms to Fatah is to diminish the contending power of Hamas. Inevitably, these same weapons will be used to murder individual Jews. Surely they will do absolutely nothing to help Israel.
The elegant new name given by Olmert to the next round of Israeli territorial concessions is “realignment.” A linguistic change from former Prime Minister Sharon’s “disengagement,” this semantic policy offers no real changes in substance. Like its carefully codified predecessors, it offers only land for nothing.
What now emanates from Prime Minister Olmert’s continuing complicity in Israel’s defeat is a discernible scent of impurity. Surely Sharon’s disengagement has already proven itself an obvious mistake. Indisputably, Gaza is now an active base for both Hamas and al-Qaeda terrorism. What, then, does Olmert now hope to achieve by further strengthening Israel’s sworn enemies?
It is all so sadly predictable. The ongoing Arab/Islamic war against Israel is not about compromise. It is only about annihilation. Jewish annihilation. The only acceptable “compromise” Israel could ever offer to Fatah or Hamas (it makes no serious difference for Israel which group dominates the Palestinian Authority) would be to disappear.
Soon, Olmert and his followers will encounter a stunning irony. Following self-destructive arms transfers and “realignment,” Israel will appear to its many enemies as weak and without existential will. Drawing upon their own particular interpretations of sacred texts, proverbs and revealed expectations, these enemies will conclude (however erroneously) that Israel actually wishes to die. This is admittedly a very difficult concept to grasp for all those who do not seek to understand matters from an Arab/Islamic perspective, but it is now an indispensable mode of policy thinking.
There is yet another irony here. Sensing Israel’s newest surrenders as incontestable expressions of divine will, Israel’s principal enemies won’t immediately oblige the Jewish state’s presumed wish to die. Instead, they will “allow” Israel to disappear slowly – first, by more “realignment,” and later, by all-out war.
This long-planned Arab Jihad will be initiated in carefully measured phases. Only when the IDF is openly fawning upon its own doom – an unutterable humiliation that has already dragged on from Rabin to Sharon to Olmert − will the dissolving Jewish state merge into “Palestine.”
In the end, let us be frank, Washington, London, Paris and Ottawa will be pleased. Still unable to understand why their proposed “two state solution” never materialized, they will still be content that Israel is no longer a bother. So it is that they will proudly celebrate Israel’s “incorporation” into a “democratic Palestine.”
Like Bill Clinton, who first set the American stage for Israel’s Oslo capitulations and who later provided billions of American tax dollars to North Korea that were used to build nuclear weapons, they will realize and applaud the utter unimportance of truth in politics. In the United States, Clinton, a disgraced former president who also stood by silently while 800,000 were murdered by machete in Rwanda, now openly cashes in on millions of dollars in speaking fees. About what does the former president speak about to earn eight million dollars a year on the lecture circuit? He speaks about nothing. Like Seinfeld’s comedic show within a show, his presidency was all about nothing. Absolutely nothing. But this point is immaterial. The fact that no one seems to care (Mr. Clinton does, after all, “look presidential”) will give aid and comfort to all who shall soon stand silently by as Israel’s enemies plan their final battles.
Despair, we learn from the philosopher Kierkegaard, “is the sickness unto death,” and it is now Israel’s possible fate to despair for a long, long while, eventually to a point where it might actually prefer to die. If Israel’s enemies interpret Olmert’s “realignment” as a fulfillment of precise religious expectations, the torment of Israel’s despair will be that it shall not be able to die. To be sick in this grotesque fashion, to be sick unto death and not even be able to die, would be, for all Israel, the unkindest cut of all.
The despairing state, like the despairing individual, cannot die. For Israel, the agonizing hopelessness – in this case, even the last hope of death would be unavailable − will entail “dying the death,” living to experience death. This fate is much worse than simply being allowed to die − to expire quickly, completely and blessedly. But to die and yet not to die, to actually die the death, would be for Israel a fate distinctly worse than death.
Thus it is that despair, this immobilizing sickness in the Israeli self, is the Jewish state’s sickness unto death. The despairing Jewish state under Olmert is mortally ill, but it will not be allowed to die, at least not for a while. To be delivered from this sickness unto death is impossible, unless Israel’s profound sickness of the spirit is first understood. This sickness, a rotting of Israel’s Jewish soul now enhanced and accelerated by “realignment,” is ultimately more dangerous even than enemy armies and missiles. Although it is certainly correct that a dramatic synergy exists between enemy military might and Israel’s growing “soullessness,” it is the latter that breeds a virulent sickness unto death.
Israel’s sickness of the spirit is not its sickness unto death. Rather, it is the pathology that leads to the sickness unto death. It is, then, an illness that leads not to death directly (that would be a relatively favorable outcome), but to a protracted death by an extended despair.
Fear and trembling. It is time for Israel to experience these sorts of dread, to acknowledge that with bad leadership the Third Temple Commonwealth may not live to see a Third Temple, and to understand that “realignment,” like “disengagement,” is always an unforgivable crime.
The (moderate) Palestinian Authority’s appointed clergy, preaching on the Temple Mount, recently offered the following familiar sermon: “Palestinians spearhead Allah’s war against the Jews. The dead shall not rise until the Palestinians shall kill all the Jews…. All agreements with Israel are provisional.” As for expected Palestinian gratitude to the United States for pushing Israel into the “Road Map” ambit of genocide, here is what another PA-appointed preacher said on the Gaza-based Al Quds radio station on the day following last July’s London bombings: “We welcome these blessed acts….”
The Palestinian solution for “the Jews” is an openly Final Solution. As long as Israel agrees to yield to such a plan, its sickness of the spirit will spread. Finally, unless Ehud Olmert’s “realignment” can finally give way to courage, it will become the sickness unto death.
Copyright, The Jewish Press, May 18, 2007. All Rights reserved. (First Published in The Jewish Press June 28, 2006.)
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971). He lectures and publishes widely on international relations and international law. Professor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.