Saturday, December 22, 2012

Realpolitik: From Herzl to Begin

From Shlomo Avineri:-

Today's leaders of Zion: Thinking you're right isn't enough

In responding to the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, the government's decision to build in E-1 and in East Jerusalem is the exact opposite of the underlying principles of how Zionist and Israeli international policies have evolved over the years...It is not enough to think you are right and to convince your supporters of that: In the cruel world of international politics, a small nation can achieve its aims only if it is able to forge alliances with the powers-that-be and to ensure their support - not out of love, but because they are convinced there is congruence between their countries' interests, or their leaders' considerations, and the aims of, in this case, Zionism and the State of Israel.

Theodor Herzl imprinted this harsh truth into the DNA of political Zionism despite considerable objections from other Zionist leaders, who thought it was enough to be convinced yourself that you are right...That was the significance of Herzl's political Zionism: As a political journalist...the father of modern Zionism understood that small nations like the Greeks or Serbs had won independence not only thanks to the liberal voices in the European Christian world that raised an outcry against the Ottoman- Muslim oppression of those nations, but rather because Britain and Russia had an interest in weakening the Ottoman Empire and getting a foothold for themselves in the Balkans.

Realpolitik of this sort is also what was behind the willingness of the Zionist leadership, headed by Weizmann and David Ben- Gurion, to accept the idea of partition.. .

...This harsh reality of international politics was not grasped by the Revisionist movement, the major precursor of the Likud party: Vladimir Jabotinsky's impressive rhetoric in his dramatic appearance before the Peel Commission convinced no one, and the Revisionists' maximalism ("There are two banks of the Jordan River, this one is ours and that one too" ) was perceived as unacceptable. Jabotinsky also failed in his attempts to persuade British policy makers that the Yishuv was Britain's best ally in its fight against the Arab world, and would constitute its imperial vanguard in the region. Jabotinsky and his followers convinced themselves of this, but the British felt they knew better what their own interests were.

Ben-Gurion, however, understood very well...

...Menachem Begin, though he came from a different background, also understood this basic truth of international reality during his tenure as prime minister. There is no doubt that his willingness to make far-reaching concessions in Sinai derived not only from his desire to reach peace with Egypt, but also from his realization that in the new reality created following Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's dramatic gesture toward the Jewish state, Israel would win American and international support only if it took a significant step toward the Egyptian position, thereby helping the United States strengthen its foothold in the Middle East and reduce the Soviet Union's influence in the region. Begin did this with impressive courage, counter to his previous positions and those of his movement, and with a willingness to risk a painful rift with many of his own supporters.

These are exactly the characteristics that are so lacking in the current moves undertaken by the Netanyahu government...

blog comments powered by Disqus