The Tragic Logic of Israel

It’s easy to exagerrate the extent of Israel’s diplomatic isolation, and you can count on that to happen every time an incident like the Gaza flotilla occurs. But what is indisputable is that since at least the Lebanon War of 2006, the Israeli strategic braintrust has prioritized maintaining absolute liberty of action over massaging international opinion.

The reason has to do with the logic upon which the state of Israel is based, namely that the Jewish people needed a state of its own because it could not count on the community of nations to protect it. In other words, the last four years of Israeli warfare and confrontational diplomacy is not an anomaly, but the extension of its founding logic: a nation willing to stand alone among the community of nations to defend Jews if and when they were targeted.

The tragic quality of this logic has to do with the way in which the nature of the community of nations has changed since the creation of the state of Israel: With the advent of a hyperconnected world, being willing and able to stand alone is no longer the surest path to safety. Indeed, it is perhaps just the opposite. In a globalized world, safety comes from being as intimately connected — to one’s neighbors, the broader region, and the wider world — as one can be.

In many ways, this is a truth that Jews have intuitively understood throughout history, and have strived to accomplish whenever and wherever possible. It could very well be that this is not possible in the case of Israel and its neighbors today. But if so, the logic of Israel really is fundamentally and inescapably tragic.

More World Politics Review