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No nation has a "right" to exist, be it Israel or the Andaman and Nicobar Islands


The concept of any nation's "right to exist" is a curious construct, false on its face. Nation states may win recognition, even diplomatic legitimacy, in various ways (time and accumulated precedent being useful contributors) but even transient recognition never confers a "right to exist." If the constructs upon which the state is founded are imperiled or dissolved, its existence, at least in its current geographical boundaries, is in doubt.

I find it odd that only the State of Israel is accorded this "right to exist" defense in some quarters, primarily the US, yet its adjoining confrontation states are not. This asymmetry needs to be challenged as I think that it is ultimately injurious to the State of Israel and its citizens as it is an attempt to arbitrarily freeze the development process of an entire region. Xerxes would have better luck holding back the sea.

Observers would laugh if, say, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands declared their "right to exist" in the face of overpopulation and inappropriate development that has exceeded its carrying capacity, and recent geologic shifts that have seen these low lying islands sink by as much as a vertical meter. Only a US guarantee prevents those same observers from laughing at Israel, and that guarantee could be laid low in a stroke if the US blunders further in the Persian Gulf, forcing Saudi Arabia to make a regional compact with Iran. We forget that we failed to listen to Riyadh once before and paid dearly for our deafness.

In the face of US requests to KSA to increase its oil production in the early 1970s, Saudi Oil Minister Ahmad Zaki Yamani replied, "We'll go out of our way to help you. We expect you to reciprocate." We didn't listen. King Faisal ibn Abdul Aziz granted his first US TV interview to state, "America's complete support of Zionism against the Arabs makes it extremely difficult for us to continue to supply U.S. petroleum needs and even to maintain friendly relations with America" We didn't listen. Faisal summoned leading US oilmen, telling them that Arab resentment was rising to the point that, "You may lose everything. Time is running out." The administration would not listen to them.

Neither the White House, State or DoD took the Saudis seriously. US support to Israel in the October 1973 War, Yom Kippur War to Israelis and the Ramadan War to Arabs, was the last straw. Saudi Arabia's imposition of a total oil embargo against the US in October 1973 had in Kissinger's words, "the most drastic consequences" for the US, contributing "to the deepest recession we have had in the postwar period." A Saudi-Iranian rapprochement would, I think, make the 1973 embargo look like a cakewalk. It is that serious, yet the Bush43 administration seems to be equally tone deaf as was Nixon. Should the US blunder into such a default judgment by Muslim adjudicators, Israel's position immediately deteriorates.

I regard Yitzhak Rabin as one of Israel's most gifted soldiers and diplomats. His assassination by the Israeli extreme right in 1995 is a body blow from which Israeli politics has yet to recover. While serving as Minister of Defense in the National Unity Government, 1984 to 1990, Rabin spoke of a 1975 memorandum of agreement that "committed the U.S., and only the U.S., to formulations which [Rabin] did not believe the PLO was capable of accepting":

The first issue, and the central one, is recognition of the State of Israel's right to exist. I remember that many Israelis were offended by this formulation. The idea was Kissinger's: He said that anyone who in any way believes in the PLO's stages program cannot recognize, from an ideological standpoint, the State of Israel's right to exist. This contradicts the main pivot of the Palestinian covenant. It was almost completely clear to me that the PLO could not do this.

Yet we continue to render diplomatic progess moot by playing with phrases such as "recognize Israel," "recognize Israel's existence," or "recognize Israel's right to exist" that are no better than counting the angels on a pin head. The KSA is again on the move, visibly so, with regards to Palestine, and less so, but no less forcefully, on Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf.

The conditions for Palestinians in what I call Paltustan (also here) are so serious that were I a Palestinian, I would be out for vengeance as was Abu Nidal. (In addition to being a very useful introduction to Arab-Israeli issues, Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem is pointed in stating that democracy in Israel is for Jews and not for Arabs, and that the disparity remains unresolved and growing. Nothing has changed in the decades since the book was released.)

Refreshingly, Shmuel Rosner's The rise and fall of the Jewish people alerted me to an Israeli group, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI), that was taking the long view, a pan-civilization view, of history and the survival of Jews in that historical progression, the goal of finding possible lessons learned for Jewish and Israeli proaction. Wald's JEWISH CIVILIZATION BETWEEN RISE, THRIVING AND DECLINE analyzes fifteen historians (two of whom are my favorites for cultural cycles, Oswald Spengler and Arnold Toynbee), summarizing the Drivers of Rise, Thriving and Decline, commencing with the Lessons of History:

  1. Decline has multiple reasons. No single mono-causal reason can explain the decline and fall of a wide-spread and multi-facetted civilization. The Jewish people were saved more than once by its global spread and fragmentation. This means that a monolithic Judaism concentrated in one place will have a smaller chance of survival than a multifaceted Judaism present in different parts of the world.
  2. The reasons of decline are internal
  3. with exceptions. Virtually all authors assert that civilizations are declining and falling for internal, not external reasons. This is not true for all of them. Scores of civilizations have been wiped out by genocide since ancient times. The Jewish people escaped extinction several times. In addition to geographic dispersion, the thriving of the Jewish people will for a long time require military strength.
  4. Challenge and response. Jewish history knows at least three periods of major transformation that are responses to severe external challenges. These responses have assured Jewish survival until today: the transformations that both followed the destruction of the First and Second Temples, and that began with the Enlightenment, culminated in the Shoah and led to the creation of Israel. A fundamental, long-term policy aim is to strengthen the Jewish people’s capacity to respond to new challenges.

I recommend continuing through the Strengthening Drivers of Thriving, Coping with Challenges and Threats and Contentious Factors. More than one reader flagged these two drill downs that, taken together, imply that Jews and Israel cannot expect to depend on American Jews and, more broadly, the US for continued protection, and that Herzl's Zionism has placed too many Jewish eggs in an increasingly vulnerable basket:

Many authors warn of a decline of the West or an end to our industrial civilization. Jews have watched and survived the end of many civilizations, but a real decline of the West, particularly the United States, would have dramatic consequences for the Jewish people. Jews can do little to affect the mega-trends of Western civilization, but they should strengthen cultural links with non-Western civilizations, particularly China and India. The Chinese and Hindu cultures know no antagonism to Judaism based on holy books. Jews have done much too little to create more links with these civilizations...

Unless one assumes that the world is about to enter an era of eternal peace, history teaches us that a monolithic Judaism concentrated in one place will have a smaller chance of long-term survival than a multifaceted Judaism present in different parts of the world. The policy recommendations to be drawn from Jewish history are obvious: getting all Jews into the same shape and country, even if it is Israel as recently advocated by an Israeli poet, is not the best survival strategy.

Given the floundering US diplomacy and a rising number of 4GW opponents such as Hezbollah able to counter IDF conventional military assets, those forecasts were never more current. Heeding them will take far more that hiding behind a "right to exist."

Part 2: Cycles of culture, civilization and organizations

As Saudis Fill the Void, America Loses Control of the Game
Steve Clemons
Washington Note
February 10, 2007

What 'Israel's right to exist' means to Palestinians
Recognition would imply acceptance that they deserve to be treated as subhumans.
By John V. Whitbeck
February 02, 2007 edition

The rise and fall of the Jewish people
Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent
Rosner's Blog
June 16, 2006

Jewish Civilization between Rise, Thriving and Decline
Project Head: Dr. Shalom Solomon Wald
Jewish People Policy Planning Institute (JPPPI)
[NOTE: File name is Wald-Wye without an extension. Save it to disk and open it as a PDF]

They made a democracy and called it peace
By Spengler [Author's pseudonym, no relationship to Oswald Spengler]
Asia Times
Mar 8, 2005

The Scarred Earth: Tsunami-Spawning Quake Leaves Geophysical Changes
Scientific American v.292, n.3, 1mar2005

The Overloaded Archipelago
By M. Rajshekhar
In Vogue
1/26/2005 11:18 PM


The Full Story of Resolution 242: How the US Sold Out the Palestinians
by Kathleen Christison
June 28/30, 2002

Nixon Administration Ignores Saudi Warnings, Bringing On Oil Boycott
Donald Neff
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
October/November 1997, Pages 70-72

From Beirut to Jerusalem
Thomas Friedman
ISBN-10: 0385413726
Anchor; Updated with a New Chapter edition (July 15, 1990)

PLO Commitments Compliance Act of 1989 (Introduced in Senate), S 763 IS
Library of Congress

418 Interview with Defense Minister Rabin on IDF Radio- 14 December 1988
Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
VOLUME 9-10: 1984-1988, 14 Dec 1988

Israel-United States Memorandum of Understanding
September 1, 1975

January 1974: Unprecedented U.S. Aid to Israel Began Under the Sinai Agreements
Donald Neff
The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
January/February 1997, pp. 74

Gordon Housworth

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