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Israel's Future

Israel's Future

From defeat to reconciliation to peace -- but only in that order.


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Anytime we see screaming anti-American crowds full of hate, with pathetic banners and frothing demagogues, we should be skeptical that such raw enmity represents a real threat to our security -- or even any enduring and irreconcilable antipathy to the United States. The fact is that almost any people, at almost any time, can be whipped into a frenzy and yet very soon afterwards also be convinced to drop its fanaticism and recognize its errors -- once war and subsequent military defeat bring home to them the wages of such lunatic bellicosity.

Note the now suddenly subdued Afghani and Pakistani streets -- for much of last fall, both, we were told, were the engines that drove anti-Americanism in the region. Neither U.N. negotiations with the Taliban nor globetrotting Nobel Peace prizewinners nor injunctions from the Arab or Islamic Leagues would have brought calm. Only force, or the threat of force, brought by the United States could do that.

Fifth-century Athens flourished on the principles of radical democracy and overseas imperialism - a devil's bargain that empowered the underclass at home by extracting capital for it from subject states abroad. Yet the bitter defeat at Aegospotami at the end of the Peloponnesian War -- and the final dismantling of the Athenian navy -- disabused Athenians of their credence in the once-grand overseas imperialism that had slaughtered Melians and attempted the same to Syracusans. Their subsequent reconstituted postbellum democracy engaged in neither ethnic cleansing nor capital expropriation abroad -- so cognizant were they of the past follies that led finally to Spartan triremes docked at their Piraeus.

A review of Confederate rhetoric between 1850 and 1860 might suggest not only that an entire generation was nursed on hatred of the North, but that such a recalcitrant, proud, and militarily capable people could never be reconciled to the Union, could never be defeated, and thus would have to exist as an independent slave society -- forever. Yet by 1864 beleaguered Georgians were telling Sherman's Army of the West to "hurry up" and get over to the Carolinians to punish those "who started this damn war." Negotiating with Jefferson Davis in 1863, electing George McClellan in 1864, or restraining William Tecumseh Sherman would not have saved lives and brought peace, but rather would have ensured a nightmare whose consequences would be frightening even today.

Seeing old newsreel footage of civilian rallies in Tokyo in 1938 and at Nuremberg at about the same time is still chilling. Millions of Japanese and Germans -- the elderly, children, women young and old -- seem to be blood-drunk on militarism, screaming chants of victory, mesmerized with the belief that their armies in China and in eastern Germany were invincible, the vanguard of even greater victories to come. Indeed, in late 1941 the Japanese, flush with victory, declared December 8 to be forever a national holiday. But by 1945 humbled diplomats huddled in a burned-out Tokyo and Berlin with their American advisors to craft democratic constitutions -- humane blueprints still in force today.

Force has a way of making people change.

Safety for London was not obtained by asking Mr. Hitler to curb his use of V-1s; Pearl Harbor was not left unconquered on account of Mr. Yamamato's leniency; nor did the Communist Koreans leave the South through negotiations. Instead dour men like Bomber Harris, Curtis LeMay, and Matthew Ridgeway were unleashed to ensure that their enemies were no longer able to inflict the mayhem they desired.

Force, then, has a way of making people change. Even the most militant citizenries can be disabused of their rather dangerous ideas -- but only after they understand that the logical consequences of their extremism are impoverishment, ruin, and humiliation. Currently in the Middle East we are shown glimpses of small boys with plastic replicas of bomb-belts, and then told that "an entire generation will grow up to despair and anger." CNN reporters stick microphones into the faces of angry residents of Jenin, and logically get the response they hoped for -- pledges of undying hatred for Israel "and the Jews." Pundits wrinkle their brows and then pontificate that "violence breeds violence," and that hatred has become so deeply embedded that real peace is impossible. In fact, peace in the region has never been more likely than it is at the present moment.

As the smoke clears from Jenin, many Palestinians slowly will begin to assess the catastrophe. What will they learn?

Both our own war against the terrorists and the Israeli response on the West Bank -- if conducted forcefully and coupled with the clear intention to help the defeated to rebuild their societies -- can prompt real peace rather than breed endless war. Already the fragile Afghani government not only is far better than the Taliban, but in many ways offers more hope than anything in the region -- from Syria to Pakistan. We pray to prompt a similar metamorphosis in Iraq, where the most evil nation in the Islamic world might transmogrify into the most promising. And it would not be naïve to envision that, after the current Mideast war, a newly regrouped Palestine -- under far better and real democratic leadership -- could have a more liberal and humane government than its thuggish neighbors such as Syria and Lebanon.

As the smoke clears from Jenin, many Palestinians slowly -- but still privately -- will begin to assess the catastrophe. What will they learn? That murdering bombers ultimately draw a devastating Israeli response. That their own leadership that condoned and at times sponsored the terror, and so prompted the war, allows neither dissent nor freedom in formulating its policy -- and thus is solely responsible for its own failure. Most will grudgingly admit that 97 percent of the West Bank was a better deal than Jenin and Israeli tanks.

The Palestinian Authority's state-run propaganda that "ten thousand were murdered" and that the fighting "was a real Holocaust" proved deceitful and ultimately lost, rather than gained, credibility for the Palestinians. The very spokesmen who allege an unending war against the Israelis also know that their own youths mined streets and homes that magnified the carnage in Jenin; and they know those murderers whom they now cherish as martyrs are also the culprits who brought them weeks of misery.

Occupying Christian shrines, machine-gunning Israeli children in their beds, and sending out more suicide murderers are the policies of a failed regime.

So there will be a bitter recognition of what rests ahead as well: Another round of suicide bombings will bring the Israelis into Gaza and any other cities so far left unscathed. More government hysterics and lying, without an independent press to verify events, will only erode even European support. Occupying Christian shrines, murdering bound and gagged prisoners, machine-gunning Israeli children in their beds, assassinating Israeli cabinet members, sending out more suicide murderers, and booby-trapping houses are the policies of a failed, not merely a desperate, regime. And so out of the conundrum -- should the Israelis remain firm -- will slowly come an awakening that the Palestinians can have their own state and live far better in it without, rather than with, Mr. Arafat.

What, then, can Israel really hope for? And how can it translate tactical success to long-term strategic victory? Its continued policy of deterrence is working -- most of the Arab world knows better now than to try a fifth invasion with conventional forces. Strong incursions against the nests and infrastructure of terrorism are also making it clear that such murdering brings the perpetrators and their abettors misery, not concessions.

Quiet will occur not with more Nobel Peace prizes spread about to those who either cannot deliver peace or actively thwart it, not with more bottled piety from Mr. Carter, and not with more threats from subsidized intellectuals in the European Union -- but only when unsavory men like Mr. Sharon's make it clear to the real killers who surround Mr. Arafat that war is hell and cannot be refined.

Yet at the same time, Israel must envision some type of Palestinian autonomous state on its borders. This is its dilemma -- one that is unfortunately inescapable. Thus its only long-term hope, as we learned after World War II and Korea, but did not fully not grasp in Vietnam, is to continue to defeat the Palestinian terrorists and then to renovate a broken enemy into a proud, but democratic, state with a real market economy -- and in a region with no history of consensual government or liberal institutions, no less!

Such a massive evolution could take years -- but again, given world opinion and the vast array of Israel's enemies, it is Israel's only chance at some future of peace. Like the free world in the Cold War, Israel must maintain its army ever-ready to strike back, even as its entire society mobilizes to promote moderate Palestinians, to hope that thousands rethink their support for terrorists, and to encourage wherever possible economic and political liberalization among a population which, if it had its way right now, would destroy Israel itself.

It is not an easy thing first to crush a deadly adversary, then help the defeated, and finally join in with that former enemy -- but it is the only way to peace. And because Israel remains a democratic, magnanimous, and militarily strong society, there is more hope in all this gloom than pessimists think -- as long as the historical order of events that lead to lasting peace is not allowed to be subverted by well-meaning but ultimately reckless outsiders, who seek to impose their own self-serving and often utopian policies from a safe distance.

May 4, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Tinkie, December 5, 2006 4:47 AM

I agree - only not with the "breaking"down & building up part.

The idea you state of breaking down a society and then building it back up in a "acceptable" society, is down right absurd. Western powers have been doing this throughout history, and instead of building positive societies, it has lead to total chaotic corrupt leaderships. Remodeling is a very good idea, but not through force. Try bringing up a child with force, instead of love, and he/she too, will rebel. The palestinians are also not our children. I think it is time to give respect, and to give in to some concessions. I fear for our future and for the future of my daughter. We really have no other home than Israel. So, we cannot bully them into doing what we want exactly. It is not working. It will have to be "give & take". And I can only pray that it is not too late.

(4) Doanld, December 4, 2006 6:27 PM

Do Not Trust in Chariots and Horses

To be sure, Victor D. Hanson is a world renowned scholar, and a very prolific author, and in this article, his historical examples of the taming of previously violent societies are highly illuminating.

However, when it comes to Israel, and that country's future, the normal observations, generalizations, and logic do not necessarily apply in the same way, and in some cases, do not apply at all.

Why is that? Because the country and people of Israel, have a very unique role to play in this world. One that is given to them by HaShem, and no one else.

The Tanach is very clear about Israel's destiny, and future, and the requirement(s) for permanent peace in the land. Yes, Israel is to have an army, yes Israel is to fight to defend herself, i.e., not to rely on miracles, but that is were the similarities between Israel and the other nations end.

Israel, and the Jewish people, are to be a nation of priests, and light unto the goyim. Millennia ago, HaShem spoke to the new nation of Israel at the foot of Mt. Sinai, and gave them the terms of the eternal covenant. Later, as violations occured, prophets reiterated HaShem's Instructions, and clarified them.

One of those clarifications, was that Israel was not to trust exclusively, or primarilly, in horses and chariots for her well-being and/or safety, i.e., the nation/people of Israel were not to rely on their fighting or war making ability to maintain peace.

Instead, it was B'nei Yisrael's dedication to the Instructions (Torah) of HaShem, that would guarantee her peace, prosperity, and safety.

The sooner B'nei Yisrael; and the modern State of Israel, realizes this, and quits trying to emulate the nations, makes teshuvah, reinstitutes the Sanhedrin, and allows prayer on the Temple Mount (according to Halacha), the sooner peace will come, and the sooner will be the coming of Mashiach! B"H, Shema Yisrael...

(3) Freda, November 29, 2006 4:55 AM

Victor Hansen - you have always been my favorite columnist - you are incomparable and this article tops the list of other marvelous columns. Kudos to you - I have sent it to everyone I know. Keep it up - you are inspirational. Freda Flood,

(2) DanielBenAvraham, November 24, 2006 11:38 AM

Thank you for your scholarship!

Thank you Victor Hansen for your scholarship! It is amazing that your article from 2002 still rings true today in 2006, lending credence to the notion of what is right is always right.

It is amazing to me that I meet so many Israelis or American Jews who believe in peace as the only answer, and that war is not a means to an end. We all really want peace - but peace for peace sake, and not as a concession to an evil. It has never worked before in history, why believe that it will now.

As for some of Esther's comments, they are factually incorrect, and the name Palestine which is a made up term, unfortunately has been with us for a long time; and thus, a lie repeated often enough becomes a believed truth. I share her desire not to carve up eretz israel, but the chance for that to have happened passed us in 1948, 1967 and 1973 whether through negotiation or by force, and we are left with the consequences of a divided country.

Sadly, Palestinians have been granted squatters rights, and the world through its anti-semitic eyes would rather side with them, then recognize our ancestral claims. As for quoting the TORAH - remember not everyone reads nor reveres this great book, and we have to deal with a largely secular, and certainly largely non-Jewish point of view. Accordingly, no matter how much we want an undivided Israel, it is likely never to happen in our lifetime short of all out war to remove the cancer surrounding us. Will it ever happen? Only G_D knows.

What are we left with then - to remain ever vigilant, to encourage political and religious reform, to encourage education and not hate, to embody the ideals of the Torah and Tikkun Olam.

Sadly, we cannot hope for the promised end result until Israel's Jewish population and the world's Jewish population get on the same page. Look how many Jewish haters we have among our own ranks - look no further than the likes of Noam Chomsky as an example. Look to the corrupt UN and morally confused EU and know that outside assistance beyond that of a Republican lead USA is unlikely.

May the world and history prove me wrong, but until that time, I side with Mr Hansen's point of view.

(1) Esther Cohen, May 6, 2002 12:00 AM

Israel's Future

I am not sure if your organization is "Reformed" one, by the article I just read, you state that Israel must establish a Palestinian state. This is not the case:Israel was given to us, Jews as G-D's inheritance. It is a commandment from G-D not to give an inch of the land to anyone.The world that decided to distribute parts of Eretz Israel to other nations was wrong to begin with. Who is anyone to give away OUR Holy Land? If you read the Torah, it states that to acheive peace, we must first reclaim our land to the Jews-love each other-Unity-NOT to have a Palestinian state. It is not our problem to solve regarding a disturbed & corrupted nation such as the Palestinians, that by the way do not exist. The Palestinians were invented by Egypt for the sole perpose to destroy the Jews.WE should have "The right of return" to OUR land not those who wish to kill us.It is also a commandment of G-D to destroy all that is on it's way to destroy us.If you are a reformed site, please let me know because I am only interested in the truth.

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