Martin Sherman, jpost.com
Image from article, with caption: A soldier waves an Israeli flag on the Golan front during the Yom Kippur war.
What is at hand is less a clash of weapons and more a clash of wit and will; the side that will prevail is the side whose political vision is sharpest and whose national resolve is strongest.
[H]ow are we to explain the puzzling conundrum of the powerlessness of the powerful; of Israel’s manifest incompetence/ impotence in handling the Palestinian issue, despite staggering successes in nearly every other field of human endeavor?
Like scissors with single blade
Anyone seeking the reason for the phenomenon need look no further than the abysmal performance of Israel’s public diplomacy.
After all, trying to enforce an appropriately assertive operational policy without accompanying it with a commensurately assertive public diplomacy campaign to legitimize it, is almost like trying to cut cloth with a scissor with one blade – and just as effective.
In numerous articles I have underscored the strategic imperative of enhancing Israel’s public diplomacy. I warned incessantly against the practice of allotting minuscule sums for the nation’s public diplomacy effort and the perils this entails. For, as I pointed out, “the function of diplomacy in general and public diplomacy in particular, is essentially similar to that of the classic role of the air force.” Indeed, “just as the latter was traditionally tasked with creating freedom of action for ground forces to achieve their objectives, so should diplomacy be seen as charged with facilitating freedom of action for the nation’s strategic decision-makers, to allow them to achieve the objectives of strategies they formulate.”
Without a radical restructuring of its diplomatic strategy, infrastructure and doctrine, there is little chance Israel will be able to persist with a policy that goes beyond temporary and tenuous containment of recurring rounds of Palestinian-Arab violence.
To succeed, such an endeavor to “weaponize” Israel’s diplomatic strategy would have to address the issue of new (renewed) “ammunition” (style/substance of the message to be delivered) and its “artillery” (logistical infrastructure /resources to deliver it).
Let me begin with the “ammunition” in the envisioned “arsenal”.
Tale of two narratives
At the heart of the conflict lies a clash of two narratives: On the one hand the stirring, fact-based Zionist narrative, on the other, the openly conceded fabricated “Palestinian” narrative, which as one senior PLO official admitted “serves only tactical purposes” and whose sole purpose is to function as “a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”
Although enormous efforts have been invested in a futile endeavor to portray them as reconcilable, the truth is that they are mutually exclusive. Either one will prevail, absolutely and exclusively, or the other will.
The reason for this lamentable impasse is, as is becoming ever clearer in the current round of killings, that Arab enmity toward a Jewish state does not arise from anything the Jews do, but from what the Jews are. This enmity, therefore, can only be dissipated if the Jews cease to be.
Since successive Israeli governments, intimidated by left-leaning civil society elites, have refused to acknowledge this fact, and refrained from formulating policy that reflects it. Accordingly, they have perpetuated the myth that there is middle ground, which could leave both sides frustrated, but still tolerably satisfied enough to eschew violence.
Clash of two narratives
So if the eye of the storm is irreconcilable claims for sovereignty over a given geographical area, driven by mutually exclusive national narratives, which claim is to prevail? Although there is seldom agreement among political scientists on issues relating to nations and nationalism, there is consensus that a discernably unique identity is a crucial precondition for validating claims for the right to national sovereignty and nationhood.
It is beyond dispute that Jews have a far stronger claim to a distinct national identity, and hence the right to sovereign nationhood, than most nations – particularly the Palestinians.
The Jews have a unique language, unique script, unique religion, unique history and heritage, unique calendar, unique customs, unique...
By contrast, Palestinian-Arabs can point to nothing unique in any of these areas – not in language, in religion, in script, nor in customs... ...
Of course, much has yet to be said as to the “intellectual arsenal” that needs to be marshaled to preserve Israel as the nation-state of the Jews. But a clear idea of the superior Jewish claims to sovereignty, expression of that sovereignty in the Jewish nation-state and the need for a muscular public diplomacy offensive to promote and protect it are indispensable initial building blocks.
Subject to breaking news I will pursue these matters further in next week’s column, including more on the provision of “intellectual ammunition” and the mechanisms of the “intellectual artillery” to deliver it.Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org).