The University of Pennsylvania political scientist Ian Lustick had an insightful piece published on the Forbes.com web site on June 17th. The title of the piece was 'Israel Could Benefit From Hamas' Here are some of Professor Lustick points presented in paraphrase.
1. The Israeli government equates Hamas with Al-Qaeda and claims it is defending the Western World from this twin terror threat. But the truth is that Hamas is not al-Qaeda. If they wanted to Israelis could live with Hamas.
2. Things are moving in a direction that is not in Israel’s favor. So, "while we can easily imagine a Middle East without al-Qaeda," it is much harder to imagine the region without Islamic fundamentalists. And how about Israel? Lustick points out that among the people of the Middle East, the answer to the question, ‘can they imagine the region without Israel?’ is "increasingly, yes." In a certain way this matches the Israeli wish that their country was located somewhere else. Israelis see the Middle East as a "bad neighborhood" a "Jungle" and, being there is like being stuck in "muck." Nevertheless, Israel is in the Middle East despite both Israelis and Arabs wishing it elsewhere.
3. And how should Israel react to this situation? Lustick advises that its leaders should seek the same "modus vivendi that Egypt, Jordan and other secular Arab regimes have reached with their local versions of Hamas." He notes that Hamas has recently offered the Israelis just such a deal. "Competitive coexistence for a generation or two." And, "at this point it is probably the best deal Israel can get."
4. Unfortunately "Israel is not buying it." They would rather hold tight to their idea that, as a country, they alone stand against the terrorism allegedly inherent in Islam. The Zionist actions that have stemmed from this attitude has not changed the region in the direction Israel had hoped and, in their frustration, they have built walls and threatened to bomb Iran, etc. However, as Lustick tells us, this reaction is "a temper tantrum, not a sustainable national policy."
5. This is a real problem because Islamic fundamentalism is deeply embedded in the Arab world and that means "Israel will ultimately have to choose between constant war with an adversary that cannot be defeated, or a long-term competitive relationship whose outcome cannot be guaranteed." If it chooses the former it is doomed in the long run to a "competition in brutality that the Jews will definitely lose, not because their ethics are stronger, but because more Jews than Arabs have foreign passports."
I think Ian Lustick is right. So why do I also think that the politicians and soldiers in Jerusalem are incapable of accepting his analysis or taking his advice? Here is a short list of reasons.
A. The majority of Israelis live in a world of their own and it is quite different from the rest of the planet. As Uri Avnery recently confessed, "Israelis normally live in darkness as far as seeing the world." They have been raised with a warrior outlook, a fortress mentality and overweening national hubris. In many ways their grasp of reality is quite shaky. As we have all seen for years, Israeli leaders have a hard time making what we would recognize as rational decisions.
B. Another very big reason why Israeli decisions often turn out to be irrational is that they are driven by the goals of Zionism as lived out by increasing fanatic leadership cadres. The folks presently at the helm in Jerusalem are a combination of Likud expansionists, Russian racists and Sabra political opportunists. They are dedicated to an expansionist and anti-Arab policy that they will not give up. Back in 1990, the Israeli Prime Minister Yizhak Shamir declared that "the past leaders of our movement left us a clear message to keep Eretz Israel from the Sea to the River Jordan for future generations...for the Jewish people, all of whom will be gathered into this country. Most Jews no longer believe this will ever happen, but the Zionist’s ideological impetus to retain the land strongly persists.
C. To the extent that Israelis understand their national ideology of Zionism as one demanding the control of the Holy Land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan river, they all become active or passive allies of settler fanatics. And the sine qua non of the Hamas deal that Professor Lustick--and I too--favor is that the Israelis go back to the Green Line.
Thus, the sad fact is that, as things stand now, the Israeli mind-set favors endless war and "competition in brutality."
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