Prof. Paul Eidelberg
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.
- 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:
Some Diplomatic Principles
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!
Suppose, therefore, that we were to design a manual for democratic negotiators based on very different but generally more realistic assumptions about dictators. It might read like this:
“The nature of autocratic political systems makes it inherently easy for rulers of such regimes to compromise. Successful autocrats are above all things calculating, possessed of a shrewd grasp of facts operative in the negotiating arena. They have no difficulty envisioning the kind of settlement that would be equitable or that would at least temporarily terminate disputes with other powers; and ruling over a society resting on coercion rather than consent, they have no difficulty imposing such a settlement, should they deem it necessary.
“Negotiating problems arise exactly because the autocrat understands the propensities of democratic statesmen and the political system they represent. He knows that to the democratic mind compromise is often seen as a good in itself; that completednegotiations are frequently taken as successful negotiations serving to secure personal or domestic political advantage. The autocrat also knows that democratic politicians are impatient for results, especially during election years, in consequence of which he need only bide his time, remain obdurate, or threaten to break off negotiations in order to elicitgratuitous concessions intended to hasten and conclude the negotiating process.
“He is particularly well attuned to the fact that democratic governments are greatly influenced by public opinion, that opinion is usually divided on all issues, and that opinions in democracies can be manipulated to his own advantage. He is also aware of the democratic antipathy to violence and therefore sees the threat of conflict working in his favor. If his democratic counterparts regard him as irrational or ideologically disinclined to compromise, or if they view his system of government as one that by its nature is unable to make significant concessions, he will know this too and take manifest advantage of it.
“The democratic statesman must in no way encourage the dictator on any of these points or negotiations will degenerate into a tedious, counterproductive exercise in making unilateral concessions. He must know from the very outset what he wants out of the negotiations. He must let the dictator take the first step toward compromise and under no circumstances be willing to give more than he gets or give the slightest indication that this might be the case. It must never be forgotten that the autocrat will view all efforts to be ‘reasonable’ – as this term is understood by democrats – as confirmation of his own understanding of democratic negotiating weakness, and he will press his claims unremittingly thereafter.
Would Israel’s use of this type of diplomacy be effective with Arab-Islamic dictatorships like the PA? Perhaps, but it would not be distinctively Jewish.
Some Principles of a Jewish Foreign Policy
- Israel, the nation that represents God and God’s ways, is supposed to set an example to mankind. Whereas the individual Jew is to be humble, the nation itself is to be proud. Accordingly, Israel will not establish diplomatic relations with any tyrannical regime. To do so is to dignify tyrants and perpetuate their unjust rule over their people. To hobnob with wicked regimes cannot but lower the moral standards of the Jewish people. The Torah makes distinctions between good and bad regimes, and warns against seeking relations with those that are wicked. (See Numbers 25:1-3, 17-18; Jeremiah 10:23.) To seek the recognition of Arab states only arouses their contempt for Israel; and to offer Arab despots “land for peace” not only makes them more contemptuous of Jews, but encourages them to make war. By not seeking relations with hostile Arab regimes, Israel will cease to be diplomatically dependent on the United States.
- Israel should establish a school of diplomacy to teach Jewish diplomats how to conduct themselves vis-à-vis other nations.
- Except in emergencies, the Government of Israel will not conduct foreign relations on the Sabbath. This will enhance Israel’s dignity in the eyes of other nations.
- Every embassy will have a rabbi, a synagogue, and a Jewish library. The embassies will organize lecture bureaus and develop electronic networks to explain Israel’s foreign and domestic policies and to encourage aliya.
- Israeli diplomacy will be conducted in such a way as to sanctify God’s Name and bring honor to the Jewish people.?