A Jewish Foreign Policy - Part I

It should be obvious to everyone that Israel's foreign policy has been a disaster, especially since the Oslo Accords, and now, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Disengagement Plan.

Prof. Paul Eidelberg,

Paul Eidelberg
Paul Eidelberg

It should be obvious to everyone that Israel's foreign policy has been a disaster, especially since the Oslo Accords, and now, with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Disengagement Plan. Sharon has created the world's most lethal terrorist base in Gaza, and seems almost anxious to create another in Judea and Samaria. Why Israel's worst prime minister has not been removed from office testifies to the grotesque nature of what self-serving politicians call "the only democracy in the Middle East."

But the topic of this article is Jewish Foreign Policy. Is it not amazing that no party, with the exception of the Yamin Israel party, has formulated a Jewish foreign policy for the Jewish State of Israel? Not even the religious parties have formulated such a policy. Nor has any party in Israel - again, with the exception of Yamin Israel - formulated a Jewish type of diplomacy.

Almost everyone seems to think that foreign policy and diplomacy are based solely on universal principles and have nothing to do with a country's own distinctive values. If this were so, Israel's government could simply send would-be diplomats to study diplomacy at Harvard or Oxford.

Of course, there are sound principles of foreign policy or statecraft that apply to all nations. Indeed, several of these principles have been repeatedly ignored or violated by Israeli governments. Demonstrating that this is the case, I will set forth and comment on seven principles of statecraft that were enunciated by the 19th-century Austrian statesman, Prince Metternich.

Metternich on Statecraft

Principle I: To base a foreign policy on faith in the moderation of the contracting parties is asking for trouble. This principle has been repeatedly violated by Israeli prime ministers from Menachem Begin to Sharon. No one can rightly accuse Egypt and the PLO of moderation, if only because Egypt is the patron of the PLO.

Principle II: To expect the leaders of dictatorships to be moderate is like asking them to destroy the foundation of their existence. Another principle ignored by Israeli politicians.

Principle III: Any plan conceived in moderate terms must fail when the circumstances are set in the extreme. Hence, in any situation where each of the possible lines of action involves difficulty, the strongest line is the best. The Sharon government's policy of self-restraint toward Arab terrorists has led to the murder of more than a thousand Jews. Even Operation Defensive Shield was conceived in moderate terms, which is why Israel suffered so many subsequent suicide bombings.

At this point, let me inject some ideas of the great military scientist, Carl von Clausewitz. In his classic, On War:

1. Clausewitz defines war as "an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfill our will. Violence is the means; submission of the enemy to our will the ultimate object." As long as the enemy remains armed, he will wait for a more favorable moment for action. Because of Sharon's policy of self-restraint, the Arabs have accumulated an enormous arsenal that threatens all of Israel.

2. Clausewitz warns: "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 erased; for in such dangerous things as war, the errors which proceed from a spirit of benevolence are the worst."

3. Not that Clausewitz advocates indiscriminate slaughter. He warns, however, that "he who uses force unsparingly... will obtain a superiority if his adversary uses less force." Don't be surprised if the Arabs obtain weapons of mass destruction.

But let's return to Metternich:

Principle IV: Nations with democratic forms of government are not for that reason the natural allies of each other or the implacable foes of dictatorships. We see this principle in operation in Europe, which appeases Arab dictatorships and opposes Israel. Notice also that while the US opposes Jewish "settlements", it retains strong ties with Saudi Arabia, a totalitarian state that has long supported international terrorism in general, and the PLO-Palestinian war against Israel in particular.

Principle V: Weaker states can't afford merely to react to events; they must also try to initiate them. The very contrary of this principle was taught by Shimon Peres' mentor, the late professor Y. Harkabi, head of Israel's Command and Staff College.

Principle VI: 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, Israeli prime ministers confuse and disarm the people. Peace is neither a policy nor a goal, for it is not something tangible.

Principle VII: A nation's foreign policy should not only be clear in the eyes of the cabinet, it should also be made clear in the eyes of the public. Such clarity is impossible given Israel's system of government, wherein the cabinet consists of the leaders of rival parties, each with his or her own ambitions and agenda.

[Part 1 of 2]

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