Israeli Settlements

March 28, 2011

While the world has been focused on popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, Israel has continued quietly to expand settlements in the territories that it occupied after the Six Day War in 1967.   A modern Machiavellian must say mazel tov, or as Niccolò said in The Prince

“The wish to acquire is in truth very natural and common and men always do so when they can, and for this they will be praised not blamed; but when they cannot do so, yet wish to do so by any means, then there is folly and blame.”

Chapter III—Concerning Mixed Principalities

Thus the pertinent question is: Can the Israelis get away with it?  From a Machiavellian perspective, settlements are a sensible strategy.  Chapter III of The Prince contains Niccolò’s advice to a government that is expanding his territory (the result being a mixed principality made up of old and newly acquired territories).  Niccolò counsels against occupation on the grounds that it is not cost effective.  He recommends colonies, in effect, settlements.

“A prince does not spend much on colonies, for with little or no expense he can send them out and keep them there, and he offends a minority only of the citizens from whom he takes lands and houses to give them to the new inhabitants; and those whom he offends, remaining poor and scattered, are never able to injure him; whilst the rest being uninjured are easily kept quiet, and at the same time are anxious not to err for fear it should happen to them as it has to those who have been despoiled.”

Chapter III—Concerning Mixed Principalities

The Israeli strategy is sound.  The problem with the Israeli settlements policy turns on the question of self sufficiency.  Does Israel have the resources to see this policy through to total annexation on their own, without the protection of the United States?

Israel was created by the actions of Brittan and The United States.  The U. S.  has subsidized and protected Israel ever since, most notably during the Yom Kippur War in 1973.  However, this support holds a hidden danger for the Jewish state.

“It has always been the opinion and judgment of wise men that nothing can be so uncertain or unstable as fame or power not founded on its own strength.” 

Chapter XIII—Concerning Auxiliaries, Mixed Soldiery, And One’s Own

Niccolò warns that artificially created states, such as Israel, are less fortunate than they appear.

“Such [states] stand simply elevated upon the goodwill and the fortune of him who has elevated them – two most inconstant and unstable things.”

Chapter VII—Concerning New Principalities Which Are Acquired Either by the Arms of Others or by Good Fortune

For its support of Israel, which has been costly in itself, America has endured even more costly oil embargos and terrorist attacks.  After World War II, the U. S. was the world’s dominant economic power.  That made the costs of supporting Israel trivial.  However, as Leon Hadar points out in his book, Sandstorm, now those costs have escalated and America’s economic position is much more vulnerable.  Furthermore, Israel’s most ardent supporters in the U. S. are insisting that America must balance its budget deficit without raising taxes.  American support is looking inconstant and unstable.

Obama’s handling of the crisis in Libya has signaled that America is stepping back from its hegemony in the region and taking a very limited role in the Libyan intervention.  Even so, some in Congress are still criticizing Obama for doing too much.  It is true that had he done less they would be criticizing him for doing too little, and not supporting our allies.  Nonetheless, the implications for Israel are troubling.  It seems to be time for Israel to rethink its dependence on the U. S. and to consolidate its position.

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