Thomas Carlyle’s overly weaned motif that history is boiled down to great men is in need of revision; for how does one make sense of Israel?
When Irving Kristol arrived in Jerusalem to deliver a lecture titled ‘On the political stupidity of the Jews’ many pondered the relevancy of his chosen topic. Like Richard Feynman’s infamous ‘There’s plenty of room at the bottom’ lecture, both faculty, administration and students ignored it, for thinking its application severely parochial. In Feynman’s case, the idea was extreme (digital, atomic) miniaturization; in realty, his audience thought his chosen topic referred to adjunct teaching. Both scored resoundingly well in foresight.
Given the depth of our current domestic and foreign challenges, I would mine the character of these men and their distinct achievements to discern how best to meet our present challenges. For Kristol, the solution to Israeli identity and national trajectory lay in its ability to absorb and apply lessons from Thucydides on the realities of power, from Adam Smith on the intrinsically ethical nature of economic liberty, from Edmund Burke an ability to discern opposing trends between politics and irreconcilable domestic political tradition(s); finally, from Tocqueville, on the need to discern satanic, genocidal trends that lay inert in democratic polities.
However, it remains to be mined how Jewish tradition, especially its Roman and Greek challenge spoke to Jewish polity about identity, mission and foreign threats. That ruse continues, albeit differently today. Somewhere deep in Ukrainian, Lithuanian or Polish eastern European philosophical tradition lay keys yet to be discerned on how best Jewish religious identity can surmount the social challenge of modernity. The truth is difficult to say, but rabbinic Judaism has had very little to offer those seeking to surmount the political crisis that envelopes Israel, post Oslo Accord.
Israel today flourishes.
It has survived the lie animating entire fiefdoms at State Department and Islamic civilization at large, namely that peace would be achieved IF Israel conceited ground favorable to Arab proxies: Palestinians.
It has now come to pass.
The knifings around the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem reveal a deeply troubling mindset, one that has finally turned inward, and retreated from the only position favorable to Arab self-determination, namely politics. Hundreds of millions of dollars gone, Abbas and his unelected henchmen straddle an irreconcilable reality; it’s over, and the Jews after Oslo have moved on toward building an indigenous Israeli political tradition, a reinvigorated Jewish nationalism, one alloyed outside rabbinic sources. What has Abbas built? Even with global patronage Palestinians never built institutions necessary for a peaceful state. No rule of law, no room for civil society and its ‘little platoons’ (the term is Burkes), no means to measure public sentiment as electoral. Under these circumstances, the notion of a two state solution has become delusional. With the death of the Israeli anti-war movement under the reign of Ehud Barack, Israeli’s are fortified in acknowledging permanent irreconcilability between western and Islamic revolutionary mores. The Israeli’s have moved on, returning to Ben-Gurion’s insight that Jerusalem should pursue active diplomatic, bilateral relations in its regional periphery throughout Islamic nation states and African continents.
What does all this mean?
It means that Israel, alone in an Islamic neighborhood, must continue to build formal alliances with those on its periphery. It means, preemptive war. It means cleaning up the neighborhood. In a word: leadership. While it sells desalinization plants to Riyadh, builds envious world class air defense systems, and runs the world’s best educational facilities for Arab Israeli’s to enjoy, it lives on, each day fortifying Reagan’s polite admonition: peace through strength!