The "official" map of Palestine - distributed widely by the Palestine Authority - defines the emerging sovereign "state" to include all of Judea, Samaria (West Bank), Gaza, and the entire State of Israel. A small slice of Jordan is also included on the map, which purposefully excludes any references to Jewish populations. Only Christian and Muslim holy sites are noted in this rare but candid example of cartographic ingenuity.
Israel still refuses to take proper notice. In Jerusalem, despite the tough Government talk about Palestinian responsibility, nothing is being done to effectively slow the metamorphosis of Israel into Palestine. Soon the real geography will resemble the map. Soon the PA cartographers will be recognized for providing an indisputably forthright blueprint for a Palestinian Final Solution to the Israel Question. For Israel, therefore, the time has come to believe in a future of the terrible. Incapable of believing in a future of their most terrible regrets, the People of Israel still cling stubbornly to the quaintly obsolete notion that they must endure. As a result, they will likely continue about their business until the very last moment. Perhaps one should envy this People the dexterity with which it now manages to die.
But there are better forms of dexterity. In Pericles' Funeral Speech, as recorded by Thucydides, Athens' wartime leader comments: "What I fear more than the strategies of our enemies is our own mistakes." Understood in terms of Israel's current march to disappearance, Pericles' wisdom points, above all, to the mistake of underestimating one's own national mortality. Still led by mortality's buffoons - by "pragmatic" political jesters who abhor every serious thought - Israel has now come to terms with all who would cause it to perish.
Let us be frank. By its wilful surrender of essential territories, of its honored heritage, of its physical integrity as a state, the government of Israel now erects its People's future upon the ruins of wisdom. Proceeding from one forfeiture to the next, this government's unwavering faith in unwisdom serves as an ironic pretext for still greater capitulations. Inhabiting its convictions with great uneasiness, this government "advances" only toward a nadir of the Jewish past, seemingly content that Jewish mortality has been disallowed as a problem.
Israel under Netanyahu still yearns desperately for utopia, but forgets that utopia (as we learn from Thomas More) means nowhere. Israel's collective penchant for utopia is, in part, a contrived memory projected into the future, an illusion of national immortality that stands in utterly stark contrast to the tormented millennia of Jewish martyrdom. Israel's fate, unless it comes quickly to recognize a possible future of the terrible, is to have no future at all. Where such recognition would remain absent, it would be Israel's fate, even as it aspires to paradise, to collide roughly with the Wailing Wall.
As a "pragmatist," Prime Minister Netanyahu needs to exclaim, publicly, that paradise has been bolted shut. No Israeli can force an entrance there. Existing perilously in a region submerged in conflict, Israel's persisting dreams of a New Middle East are based on a theoretical impossibility. These dreams are an immature counterpoint to Reason, a childlike vision that disqualifies the intellect of all its leading architects.
While it is easier politically for Benjamin Netanyahu to sustain a utopia than an apocalypse, the one leads here to the other. What is most striking about the Prime Minister's particular narrative for the region - a narrative based upon incomprehensible presumptions of Israel's permanence - is the total absence of perspicacity. All of his characters, like those of Rabin and Peres before him, are fictive; none is real. His is an earthly vision without any terrestrial reference points. Mr. Netanyahu had now better read Tacitus than the pretend scholarship of those drooling academics who fill Israel's halls of government.
For Israel, for the Jewish State, apocalypse is real. But where it is imagined in timely fashion, it may not actually have to be suffered. Where the People of Israel face up to a possible future of the terrible, they may not have to disappear terribly.
At the moment, frontline Islamic states enjoy a great tactical advantage over Israel. These states understand that a religion that dispenses with The Enemy debilitates itself, atrophies, grows complacent, makes itself unable to compete. This does not mean that Israel now requires its own version of jihad, but it does mean that Israel cannot strive productively toward peace while it is still The Enemy of Islam. One may wish fervently that this were not so, but even the most ardent wishes will not unbolt the doors of paradise.
A dying country compromises with its disease, cherishes the very virus that has produced the infection. So it is with Israel today! Freeing thousands of terrorists in the perverse hope that crimes against the Jewish People may be overlooked, Benjamin Netanyahu does not understand that the smell of carrion merely fascinates and inflames those enthusiastic gravediggers he still calls Israel's "partners in peace." When these beneficiaries of his misplaced largesse may soon dance merrily upon tens of thousands of fresh Israeli graves, the blood-dimmed tide of Jews will have been loosed by Jerusalem's invitation to murder.
Israel should not be a dying country, but it is only by recognizing that death is possible that it can sidestep death. To accept such recognition, Israelis must first understand that their current leaders still think as if by accident. Listening to such acccidental thought, it is apparent that a single human indigestion is richer in ideas than the government's entire parade of "strategic" concepts. The odor of incompetence clings to its appeals, to its promises, to its exhortations, to its violence. Its "thinkers" are theoreticians for the adolescent and for the senile. Obsessed with cliches that stop the serious mind's progress - an unfortunate borrowing from the President of the United States - it can only disregard its depressing intellectual impotence.
For Israel the time has finally come to believe in a future of the terrible. The People of Israel must be able to believe in a future of their most terrible regrets. With such a belief in the prospect of genocidal war, Israel could abandon its bizarre enchantment with impotence and prepare instead to endure. By acknowledging that endurance is not assured, that nowhere has it been recorded that the Third Temple Commonwealth is necessarily forever, Israel could wisely choose wisdom over unwisdom and life over death.
LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is Professor of International Law at Purdue University. His work on Israeli security matters is known widely in Israeli political, military and intelligence circles. He is Strategic and Military Affairs Analyst for THE JEWISH PRESS and THE MACCABEAN. The only son of Austrian Jewish survivors, he was born in Switzerland in 1945.
E-MAIL the author at: BERES@POLSCI.PURDUE.EDU