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Wrong Move

The key to a lasting peace, argues Israeli Nobel Prize winner Robert Aumann, is not to insist on ‘peace now’

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Robert Aumann at a press conference in Jerusalem after his Nobel Prize was announced, on October 10, 2005. (Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

Why, despite the backing of the American superpower, has the Middle East peace process failed again and again? I was in Jerusalem last week when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led Washington’s peace parade through town, and there was so little fanfare that I was almost forced to conclude that Time Magazine was right: Perhaps given the current dynamism of Israel’s one-time quasi-socialist economy, Israelis are now too busy making money and going to the beach to participate in the secular passion play of the peace process.

But it is also true that the excitement of the Oslo peace agreements culminated in the second intifada, and the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza brought thousands of Hamas missiles directed at southern Israel. Maybe then the problem is not that Israelis don’t want peace, but that the context into which they have been forced is fatally flawed. So, why do Western diplomats and policymakers keep pursuing the same formulas even though the evidence of failure is plain?

For answers I went to visit Robert Aumann, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for economics whose work in game theory, or interactive decision theory, is a formal analysis of repeated games. “Repeated games model long-term interaction and account for phenomena such as altruism, cooperation, trust, loyalty, revenge,” Aumann said in his Nobel lecture, “War and Peace.” If anyone could explain the repeated failure of the Middle East peace process, I thought, it is a Nobel laureate who actually lives in the region and who has experienced the results of diplomatic failure in his daily life.

“I want peace,” Aumann told me in his office at the Center for the Study of Rationality at Hebrew University, where he has taught since 1956, after obtaining his doctorate from MIT. “I am not a proponent of greater Israel. I’m for the two-state solution, or something like that. But what we are doing does not promote that.”

“I want peace,” he said, pausing for effect, “not peace now.”

The 79-year-old German-born Israeli still speaks English with a New York accent—he graduated from City College in 1950—and it is a little strange to hear him ask his assistant for help translating Hebrew words into English every now and again. This is a small office for a Nobel laureate, but it befits the modesty of a man who lost a son in one of Israel’s wars and a wife to cancer.

Aumann stood and walked me over to his chalkboard, where he showed me a quote from a fellow Nobel winner’s acceptance speech in Stockholm: “The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.” “That’s Barack Obama,” Aumann said, nodding appreciatively. “Smart kid.” Aumann then commented on the talk about Obama being unfriendly to Israel, calling the idea only marginally true. “There’s always a lot of pressure on us coming from Washington, for the last 50 years,” he said.

Aumann, who wears a long white beard and a kippa, is an observant Jew whose skepticism regarding the peace process has put him on the right side of Israel’s political spectrum and made him controversial in academic circles—for using his scientific research to support his politics. Of course, the other way to see it is that Aumann’s politics are shaped by the facts his research makes plain.

Aumann’s analysis of repeated games explains how cultures build systems that allow them to function reasonably smoothly. The problem is when one player does not understand the sort of game being played. For instance, when it comes to the Arab-Israeli peace process, Aumann believes that the problem isn’t that the Israelis and Arabs don’t want peace, but rather that the Israelis and their U.S. patron believe they are playing a one-time game whereas the Arabs see themselves as playing a repeated game. Jerusalem and Washington are in a hurry to conclude negotiations immediately, whereas the Arabs are willing to wait it out and keep playing the same game. The result is that Israel’s concessions, or the desire to have peace now, have brought no peace.

What Aumann is getting at is what he called in his Nobel lecture “one of those paradoxical upside-down insights of game theory.” Of course, poker players are familiar with the principle: Don’t show your hand with chips still on the table. “For repetition to engender co-operation, the players must not be too eager for immediate results,” Aumann said in his lecture. “The present, the now, must not be important. If you want peace now, you may well never get peace. But if you have time—if you can wait—that changes the whole picture; then you may get peace now.”

In Aumann’s view, the post-Oslo period shows that Israel’s behavior leaves it at a serious disadvantage in a repeated game. “In games that repeat over time,” Aumann wrote in an article called “The Blackmailers’ Paradox,” “a strategic balance that is neutral paradoxically causes a cooperation between the opposing sides.” Aumann offered the example of two men forced to split $100,000. Person A assumes that they will split it evenly and is astonished when Person B explains that he will not accept anything less than $90,000. Afraid that he will leave empty-handed, A relents and takes one-tenth of the money. In this situation, A acted as if this were a one-time game, but had he understood it as a repeated game and refused the split so that both he and B walked away empty-handed, he would have shown for future reference that he was every bit as determined as B. This in turn would make B more willing to compromise. “Likewise,” Aumann wrote, “Israel must act with patience and with long-term vision, even at the cost of not coming to any present agreement and continuing the state of belligerence, in order to improve its position in future negotiations.”

Game theory, Aumman explained to me, “has to be borne out by history and historical evidence.” One might add that it is also borne out by other human experiences, like commerce. In the Middle Eastern souk, as the Arab novelist Abdul Rahman Munif once observed, showing your interest in an item immediately triples the merchant’s price. And yet, as Aumann explained to me, “Middle Easterners are no different than anyone else in the world. Game theory is based on the idea that people react to their incentives, and you should be aware that the other party reacts to its own incentives. The other side does not always agree with you or share the same goals.”

To take another example, consider World War II. Aumann remembered his family fleeing Frankfurt in 1938 when his father understood what was on the horizon. “It was Chamberlain who brought war, not Hitler,” Aumann said. If both Chamberlain and Hitler wanted peace, the difference was that Hitler’s vision of Germany at peace included it possessing large chunks of Central Europe. “Hitler was furious when the British declared war,” Aumann said. “And he was right to be. Chamberlain had sent the wrong message.” If Chamberlain had wanted peace he would not have indicated with the Munich Agreement that Hitler was free to have the rest of Czechoslovakia as well as the Sudetenland. That the British eventually drew the line with the invasion of Poland and decided to make war went against the rules of the game as Hitler and Chamberlain had played it up to then. For another example in the Israeli context, Aumann told me to consider the Second Lebanon war. “Nasrallah said, had he known how the Israelis were going to react, he never would’ve started it,” Aumann said. In Nasrallah’s eyes, the withdrawal from Gaza had given him free rein to act with impunity, and it was Israel that had stepped outside of the rules of the game.

“The way to make peace is to make your intentions clear,” Aumann told me. But Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza brought not only the second Lebanon war but also the bombardment of southern Israel and most recently the Mavi Marmara incident. To explain what was wrong with the Gaza withdrawal, Aumann drew on an unusual source for a scientist, the Bible, quoting Jeremiah 2:13: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”

God’s people, according to Aumann’s interpretation of the passage, have done two stupid things—not only did they abandon God but they also worshipped broken idols. “It’s one thing to do something unconscionably bad,” Aumann said. For him, an expulsion that uprooted thousands of people who have yet to get their lives back in order was “unquestionably immoral.” “If it brings the peace,” Aumann said, “if the ends justify the means, that’s one thing, but this doesn’t even achieve the means. It was morally wrong and strategically stupid. The expulsion from Gaza is unprecedented. Jews have been expelled throughout history, but we own the dubious distinction of being the first people to have expelled ourselves. Never before had this happened, and it led to disaster. Our standing in the world was not improved. We didn’t get sympathy. We get sympathy when we act decisively—after Entebbe, Osirak, a lot of sympathy came after the Six Day war.”

When policymakers and analysts use the same sort of examples to draw the same historical conclusions, they’re dismissed as right-wing ideologues, and Aumann has endured the same treatment. The Nobel committee nonetheless realized he’d hit on a truth that explains a fundamental aspect of who we are as political beings—or who we are when we are most human, sitting across the table from our neighbors trying to figure out how to live together. The paradox is that there can be no co-existence if one person isn’t willing to negotiate as hard as the other. The appeaser will always be swallowed up and simply cease to exist. It is stubbornness rather than the willingness to make immediate concessions that brings about successful negotiations. In other words, if you want peace, prepare for war.

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As the saying goes: Lose the battle, win the war. What will be left of our ethical standards when we are declared the stubborn winners? Who of us will be around to declare that we won the war? As we look at ourselves are we decisive or derisive?

Doron Witztum says:

Interesting theory. I thought it might be biblical equidistant letter sequence prophecies alluded to in the Bible that is interfering with the peace process.

Nimrod Tal says:

To Pnina. If you lose all the battles, you have lost the war. And the winners will neither respect nor remember our ethical standards

1: !! “”The peace talks with Israel are part of Arab strategy to isolate Israel and threaten its legitimacy.”” (Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah in Lebanon)
Arabs are playing once again the lying double language.
To infidels in English – masking Arabs intentions– The lying language
To Arabs in Arabic – the truth.
link describes the lying cult
2:Every group of people prefers to be governed by their own.
Artificial boarders or imposed boarders are major reasons to conflicts.
Canada-French want their state: Belgian Flames want separations. Basques in Spain and France. Irish and Scotts independence from UK . Many wars in Africa because tribes have been separated or united by Europeans in artificial state. Kashmir- Cyprus- Kurds in Turkey and Iran.
The Balkan wars. The former USSR dissolving into many states and current wars in Russia.
Avoid future similar conflicts while defining boarders between the Jewish Israel and the Arab Palestine.
Israel will hand over to Palestinian government land inhabited by Arabs from Israel and Jews from settlements should be governed by Israel
Both Arabs and Jew will remain in their current homes, villages and towns- nobody will have to move physically. Nobody will be transferred

4: What are the core Issues?
4:1 – Arabs refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Jews to state in their 3500 old homeland.
4.2 The refugees: 1.000.000 Jews from Arab countries -650.000 Arab refugees from mandatory Palestine.
Most of Jews were expelled by Arabs.
Most of the Arabs leave obeying Arab leader’s advice.
4.4; Jerusalem
Arab holly places governed by Arabs.
All the other governed by Israel.
(Arabs have a very poor record of protecting or offering equality to infidel cultures.
They should not be in charge with Christian most importan

For him, an expulsion that uprooted thousands of people who have yet to get their lives back in order was “unquestionably immoral.”

At first, I thought he was talking about the Palestinians and was waiting for some startling insight of empathy and synthesis. No dice.

Very articulate and almost convincing except that while we ‘patiently’ wait and play the game again and again, people die, and hatred becomes more deeply entrenched on both sides. Even in Poker, there comes a time to call the other side’s bluff and show your cards while the chips are still on the table.

To Pnina.
All ethical standards are set exclusively by the winners.
To Joseph
Regarding Palestinian refugees we should not ask the question “why they became refuge” (for which we won’t have the answer anyway) but “why they remain refugees 69 years later?” Approximately at the time Palestinians became refugees 6 million Germans were expelled from their homes in a clear example of ethnic cleansing, sanctioned by the western powers. Do we hear any word about German refugees? Where are they? Shortly after that almost a million Jews from the Arab countries became refugees as well. Where are their refugee camps? Jews were followed by the consecutive waves of other refugees: French from Algeria, Vietnamese after Vietnam war, Cubans, Poles, just name it. Millions and millions of people. Where are they – those suffering refugees? No, we don’t hear about anybody except Palestinians. Why? Did anybody took an effort to figure out? Why Palestinians are different from all other refugees? Why nobody blames Arab countries for the expulsion of Jews or Poland for the expulsion of Germans? Why only Israel? Because the problem is not why Palestinians became refugees, they problem is why they remain refugees? And unless you address the real problem – you won’t have the solution.

Policy makers would be better equipped to follow the guiding principles espoused by Prof. Aumann. After all “Mi kol melamdai hiskalti” (I learned from all wise teachers) is part of the Jewish tradition as well. All this self-flagellation by pro-Palestinian Left and self-victimization narrative of Palestinians does not and will not advance the achievement of peace. Reformation of Islam and acceptance of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel are the prerequisites for that to happen. Everything else is just posturing at best.

Dani Levi says:

Anything else is wanna believe goodness which the Arabs will shove you where the sun never shines. They do that to themselves all the time. See the Iran hikers, and Sarah Shourd still drinks the koolaid.
And this on Sukkot. Tablet is the best.
And now for some Flam wine.

Dani Levi says:

100%, things are coming together nicely. Actually there were 12 million German refugees after WW2. That is people who never voted for hitler , but because they were ethnic Germans were expelled from all over eastern europe. Imagine if the west Germans had set up 12 f’ing million people along the inner german and czech border and had kept them in tent cities and urban slums. Had trained them in terror warfare and had sent them across the border into east European countries to randomly murder and shoot up kindergartens and schools and hotels. Or the Khmer, or the Hmong, or the Viet, the Spanish under Franco , or how about the scots? We would have a global terror war.
ONLY in Arab culture is being a refugee hereditary. Well not really, it is just that life is ‘cheap’.

Interesting comparison with an Arab souk. I stood and watched a friend – who is a terrible negotiator i.e he never negotiates, he pays the asking price if he thinks it is fair or does not buy it (negotiating is not in his genes) – buying a yarmulke in the Arab Market in Jerusalem. Once he had chosen his item he asked how much and was told by the merchant: 200shekels. He immediately said “no sorry and started to walk away” (this was not a negotiation tactic he simply thought it was too much so did not want to buy it). The merchant – thinking this was a game – immediately started to drop the price: 180… No its ok. 150… No really i just want to leave. 100… I just want to leave! 50… Please let me go. 20… I’m going!! And that was it.
So, as Aumann says – if the Arabs are prepared to walk away from the negotiating table (as my friend was) they will always be in the
strongest position AND a deal will never get done until THEY want it
to get done. Just as my friend could now return to the merchant and
offer 10shekels for the yarmulke the Arabs, each time they walk away and then return, return in a stronger position. To summarise: if you
are prepared to walk away from a deal you will always do the best possible deal for yourself. So the question is: do the Arabs actually
want peace now? I fear the answer is: No, and on that basis these
peace talks will never bring PEACE NOW. The Arabs have patience because they don’t care for or value the lives of their people and they are prepared to stretch out this ‘game’ as long as necessary. The fact that the Israelis are playing a negotiating game where they actually WANT the goal of the game (PEACE) and the Arabs are playing the same game but don’t really want the same outcome is THE problem… Until the Arabs value life and value peace in the same way the rest of the civilised world values it, this game will never be played on a level playing field. In other words I agree with Aumann’s explanation – grt article -Peace

Dani Levi says:

Hear , hear Bru!
Or !
If you want peace prepare for war. ( NATO )
Or !
Walk softly and carry a big stick.

Let’s just suppose an Israeli government told the Arabs that peace wasn’t important to Israel, that Israel is prepared to hold onto the so called west bank (Judea and Samaria) for 500 years and is prepared to fight as often and as long as necessary. Would that change the perspective of the Arab side? I believe it would. One cannot expect the Arab side to make concessions when the Israeli side constantly carries on that they want peace. Peace at any price is not peae but a prelude to war. Tell the Arabs that peace depends soley on them-see how they react.

The New York accent didn’t make it any harder to understand this article;)

Is the problem then not that Israel and the U.S. believe, in error, that they’re just playing a one-time game?

Is anti-semitism a recent happening? If one replies yes, then one has to admit that hyenas are vegetarians!If the West Bank construction, were to cease today, would anti-semitism and anti-Israel hate disappear? Would there be peace? Anti-semitism is in-grained at childhood,and after, by people who look at Israel’s accomplishments (in just 60 years of becoming a state)in a very enviable way. This anti feeling is a cultural aspect in the mid east. It will take generations to get rid of this hate.

When oil no longer is the yardstick of political prostitution, perhaps things will change. And lets not forget that the UN., is controlled by the majority, who are not exactly Israel’s brethern.

I’m not arguing with you, Gene. I just hoped that Aumann would come up with some fresh thinking. You don’t need a Nobel Prize or complicated game theory to restate or rationalize what’s become a commonplace position.

before proceeding, the venerable professor should tell us who the arab side is. is it fatah, hamas, israel arabs, nasrallah, ahmadinajad, etc…
it is clear that the arabs of israel prefer to remain part of israel. aside from the corrupt EU supported leaders of the PA, the arabs of the former west bank of the hashemite kingdom of transjordan would also prefer to be part of the state of Israel. time to wake up!!!

Louis Proyect says:

The expulsion from Gaza is unprecedented. Jews have been expelled throughout history, but we own the dubious distinction of being the first people to have expelled ourselves. Never before had this happened, and it led to disaster.

What kind of game theory is this? It sounds more like Likud madness.

This is an Excellent article and the comments following are very insightful as well. I think this should be given to those who are right now attempting to hammer out some sort of ‘peace agreement’….
this can’t hurt!

In 2002 I wrote as follows:


Major: Only the Arab acknowledgment and acceptance of the state of Israel will bring peace.

Minor: Arabs will never acknowledge and accept the state of Israel..

Conclusion: Israel will never be at peace.

by Martin Kessler

I have recently returned from Israel where for 3 weeks I was a volunteer with the IDF [Israel Defense Force ]. This occurred during a time when much bloodshed was let on both sides of the conflict. I also visited with the Director of the Israeli/Palestinian Research and Information Center [] at Tantur at Gilo Junction, Jerusalem, who provided me with several of their publications, from which I have learned much relating to many aspects of the Israeli/Arab-Palestinian problem.

Visiting the Center was one motivation for the trip since what sparked my interest was an email I received on how to solve the Arab-Israeli Conflict I read written by the center’s Co-Director, Gershon Baskin, about which I strenuously disagreed. For an Israeli, I thought he was overly pro-Palestinian. I wanted to discuss and see him face-to-face because for an Israeli to seriously harbor such pacific thoughts — especially as they were patently pro-Palestinian— seemed to me sheer lunacy.

So I went to Israel primarily to determine if my intuitive evaluation and analysis of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict simply as a layman was correct.

I have come back strengthened in the belief that my appraisal of the problem is sound. I have also come away with a confirmation that my analysis of the current conflict is quite accurate and, sad to say, not at all optimistic that a permanent solution will be achieved soon or even within the 3-year estimate made by the Bush Administration. The minimum conditions for a peaceful resolution are no where near the point that one could predict an end to hostilities at some reasonable date in the future and the depressing thought is this, that the one fundamental condition for achieving peace is not even being publicly discussed in any serious way among the principal parties even at this date, so you can see just how far we are away from a solution.

For example, here are some selected issues that are heatedly debated which pre-occupies the minds of those closely concerned with an interest to the conflict, such as (1) the status of Jerusalem, that is, whether it shall be a capitol of a state, and whether sovereignty shall be shared or not, (2) the ending of the military occupation, (3) Israel withdrawing to this or that border, (4) the reformation and introduction of democracy within the PLO, (5) whether Chairman Arafat goes, or stays, or is essential, or is irrelevant (6) the plan to withdraw the Israeli army from the legally occupied territories in the West Bank and Gaza, (7) how to end the suicide bombers ,(8) termination of the Intifada (9) the end of all terrorism mutual hate (10) and, lastly, what issue could be more heatedly debated than this: the issue of the establishment of a Palestinian State.

All of these issues, and any other you can think of, means absolutely nothing to the solution of the conflict. Have I made myself clear? Repeat: Absolutely nothing! All such issues are secondary, cosmetic, compared to the one essential element required for peace: Arab acknowledgment and acceptance of the State of Israel.

Acknowledgment and acceptance of the State of Israel puts an end to the entire conflict. Without that condition, the conflict will never be resolved. Is this so difficult for any Israeli to understand? I find it impossible to believe there are Israelis who actually think pursuing peace – whatever that word means – will bring peace

The sentence following will appear paradoxical to some and even shocking, but read this carefully, for it becomes obvious to any discerning mind when reflecting on the objective record of the past 55 years: I am telling you that the path to peace is precisely in not pursuing peace.

The government of Israel must stop pretending the creation of another peaceful Arab State next to Israel will bring peace.

Let me explain.

My thinking is predicated on the concern for the State of Israel to exist, now and forever. And for it to continue to exist, it must be accepted as a valid sovereign nation among the nations of the Middle East. This concern becomes a presupposition to be foremost in mind and overriding in any discussion of the conflict. One must keep this essential critical thought always in mind when thinking, speaking, reading, writing, or talking about the “Israeli/Arab/Palestinian Problem”.

My belief is that for “peace” to be attained, or have the expectation of being attained, the State of Israel, in order to ensure its own existence, must not initiate any act, must not continue to carry on any contact, or hold any discussion with Arabs any longer in search of a peace between the parties. That it has become a pointless exercise too costly to continue in terms of life and limb should now be obvious even to a casual observer. After frustrating and fruitless years of “negotiating”, would it not occur to you that it is time to bring this impotent “peace process” to a close?

Israel must cease all current negotiations regarding the creation of a “Palestine State”. Carrying on discussions with the Palestinians gives them an identity and status they have not earned, or deserve at this time. Unfortunately, there has been established by the Oslo Accord a relationship between the State of Israel and a non-State, the PLO, much to the detriment of Israel. Israel now recognizes this as the second biggest blunder since the creation of the State of Israel.

Students of Human Behavior have taught us that in any relationship, whether between individuals or between groups, the following axiom is universally true: “The one who cares the least, controls the relationship.” Accordingly, let Israel not be so vocal and anxious to bring about still another “peaceful” nation state to worry about. Israel must begin to care less, to show indifference, to be less available, in any and all other matters relating to any Arab or Palestinian issue. For the most part, Israel must simply and pointedly ignore the Palestinians. Let them go annoy the Arabs.

Up to this point in time, if one is truly objective and honest with oneself, one must ask what good has all the work and effort and agreements accomplished for the Israelis in its relationship with the PLO? Does not the answer to this question clearly support the point I am making?

Can no one read the past to infer or predict the future? How many more years and how many more successive White House” peace meetings” and solemn “signings” are required for Israel to grasp the futility of negotiations with the Arabs and the PLO? First, there was Arafat and Rabin at the White House, then Arafat and Netanyahu at the White House, then Arafat and Barak at the White House! What’s the point!

What will it take for the Israelis to finally get it through their heads that the Arabs do not really care – I have said that correctly — do not really care whether there is or is not created still another state in the region to be called “Palestine”? The creation of a state called to be called “Palestine” – a state with no known resources , social or economic assets to covet; a state that may likely be a burden to them, a state that will contribute nothing to their stability, their security, their economy, and a threat to the continuation of their power to rule. What possible benefit can a new state adjacent to Israel have for the Arabs? The answer is obvious. What the Arabs really desire most of all is the ultimate destruction of the state of Israel and creating still another state in the region to be called “Palestine” is a step towards the achievement of their objective.

The Arabs are not prepared to compromise on this fundamental desire, neither now nor in the foreseeable future. Why is that so difficult to comprehend as the basic force driving all Arab thinking, of which only Hamas has the courage to state so publicly?

The issue is so crystal clear: Israel must finally stop fantasizing and unilaterally announce what its borders shall be — from the Jordan to the sea, or whatever border will assure-not its security, that is misguided and shortsighted — but its survival! Security, if you have not been able to grasp, is not the issue. The issue is survival!

Israel must then have the courage to pointedly ignore any objection to the manner of resolving the nation’s current conflict in its own interest, as I feel it must to ensure its own existence. If the now-stateless Arabs within annexed territory wish to pledge their allegiance to a sovereign body, they may elect to move to an Arab country or to Norway, which will accept them willingly, for Norwegians appear to have taken a special interest in the Palestinian issue and in the Middle East in general.

Decisive and unilateral action by the Israelis may cause several other European states to rage and rant, but that too shall pass as their demographic, namely, immigration, problems are becoming of more immediate interest to them than what will become of the “poor” Palestinians.” They are also beginning to discover that their financial contributions to support the Palestinians has enriched some PLO Palestinians with lavish living accommodations and secret bank accounts, but has done little to alleviated the “plight of the Palestinians.”

To make this point even more forceful, the surrounding Arab states care little for the “plight of the Palestinians.” This is obvious and evidenced by their lack of firm resolve to do something about it, other than lament and protest whatever the Israelis do. Do not their words speak louder than their actions? For example, Jordan, a predominately Palestinian State wherein Palestinians now call themselves Jordanians, has imposed onerous restrictions and conditions on Palestinians who wish to travel to Jordan. A Palestinian must post a bond in order to obtain permission to travel to Jordan. Can I make my point any clearer?

If the Arab states thought they could succeed by force of arms, they would invade Israel without a second’s hesitation, for the creation of Israel is the bane of their existence. It is fervently believed to be the source of irreparable harm to their dignity; as they say, their “catastrophe.” I say this notwithstanding the “peace” agreements Israel has with Egypt and Jordan on paper.

The unwillingness of the Arabs to accept defeat and make peace with Israel is the one and only reason for the continuation of the conflict. Until the rulers of the Arab masses change their thinking, or until they finally come to genuinely accept Israel in their midst, notwithstanding their loss of “dignity” suffered as a result of the humiliation by having been soundly and repeatedly defeated in a contest of war with Israel, war will be the constant state of inconclusive affairs, regardless of any other factor in the region.

While the Arabs may question the wisdom, but, observe, not the legality, of the United Nations partitioning the property in 1947 as they did and where they did, nevertheless, it was done. Had the Arabs accepted the fait accompli, we would have had 5 less wars to worry over and their “dignity” would have never been impaired, tarnished, or brought into question? Is that not obvious to everyone? They hate Israel for loss of “honor” more than they want peace!

Furthermore, I say stop all discussions about “Two States for Two Peoples.” There already exists two states. There is a Jewish State and there are all the other Arab states, which, as the past clearly shows, act as one, think as one, and wage war as one.

Failure or misplaced timidity on the part of Israel to take bold, affirmative steps now — steps to resolve its conflict unilaterally in whatever is in its best interest — will only result in another 50 years of war. There will not be a better time than now to take the initiative for its survival, or Israel will be destined to just keep on bleeding and attending successive fruitless meetings and “signings” at the White House. With Arafat or another “Arafat”!

Israel does not have enough Jewish blood to bleed forever!

Israel must also not permit the Arabs to term the current occupation “illegal.” There is nothing “illegal” about it. The occupation is the result of conquered territory, and in accordance with International laws of war an occupation is legal, provided it is temporary. “Temporary,” however, is not defined. Israel should, therefore, proceed to annex any territory needed for its survival. Failure to do so earlier is the first biggest blunder Israel ever made as a result of its wars.

Many of the Arab nations are new nations, and have only themselves become “nation states” within the past 60 years, well within our recent memory. In addition to Israel, we have Lebanon, Oman, Syria, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Iran, Bahrain, and Kuwait. These are all new to the business of nationhood. And the Kingdoms or Republics of Saudi Arabia and Iraq and Turkey were only officially recognized since 1923 as “nations,” as distinct from tribal fiefdoms.

Until the Arabs come to their senses, Israel must of necessity stand ready as a loaded gun, cocked and ready to go off. It cannot afford to lower its guard — it would be national suicide. Never in the history of the world has a nation as an established polity depended on its army for its survival. Nation States have engaged in wars, their armies or navies have been defeated, yet the nation as a sovereign State has continued to exist.

I admonish you with this thought: If the Israeli Defense Force is ever defeated, the sovereign State of Israel will cease to exist!

Mark my words.



I can understand the Arabs very well. The “Arab Nation” was the catchword that supposedly united the Arab under a common fellowship. The “Arab Unmah”: God giving land never to be trespassed by infidels. Not just Jews; anyone not an Arab. One can imagine an Arab’s thoughts: “We may be poor. We may appear backward. We may be ruled by evil men but we have conquered the world, albeit in the past, and have lost only because they [ The West ] got the industrial revolution first ] . But, by golly, we’re Arab, We Speak Arabic!”[ N.B. Just think of what it could be if they had no oil! ] I think there may be a social anthropologist who could explain this bond of unity much better than I. In fact, it is normal reaction to experience a sense of bond even when strangers meet in a foreign land and pleasantly discover they speak the same language.

What sticks in the Arabs craw is Al Nakba–the “disaster”, the “catastrophe” but what is at the heart of this disaster is not–in my sole view — the incomprehensibility of Jews — Jews!– trashing not one but 5 Arab Nations on a field of battle. Wait–I need to take this a step further to explain. It was not just the military loss that constitutes the “catastrophe”. Not the loss of their military arms, or their air force, not even the loss of their soldiers. Al Nakba was not the day on May 15, 1948 when the state of Israel was proclaimed and then recognized by other sovereign powers of its right to be a state. The true “disaster” was mainly the abject humiliation to which the Arabs were subjected, and the mortification of the Arab soul, the snickering in the halls of power of other nations, the visible loss of their respect and honor–that is the Al Nakba–in my opinion. They will say May 15 , 1948 –the fact of the establishment of the State of Israel— defines the disaster, but I don’t believe that for a moment. Now that Hamas has come to power, they are holding parades and speeches on May 15 to buttress their position that it is only the eradication of the State of Israel that will restore the Arab Honor.

The Arab mind is already made up as regards the “right” is Israel to exist. So long as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States have financial power, the conflict will continue. Even President Bush touting a 2-state solution is , I feel, a sop to the Arabs. Creating a 23rd Arab State in the region will be creating a basket case. Creating another Arab State will only compound the problem of the United Nations having allowed the creation of the State of Israel in the first place. But since we have passed a point of no return in regard to the State of Israel’s existence–right or wrong—-it is there, with the 4th largest and sophisticated military force in the world, constant Arab belligerence notwithstanding.

The only solution at this point in time to end the conflict–right or wrong–is Israeli annexation of the West Bank. Gaza becomes “the” Palestinian State at long last or, for the benefit of the ordinary Palestinian citizen, it becomes an autonomous state within the sovereignty of Egypt. It is too late for 2 states. It is possible to create one nation state in which Arabs and Jews can live, but it must need be only Jews are to be citizens for political and governmental purposes–the rest shall be “guest workers,” if they wish to reside in Israel, otherwise emigrate to another Arab State elsewhere. I doubt the majority of the Palestinian households want to move. In fact, according to recent Polling done by the Palestinian Opinion Poling Center only 26% of the Palestinians feel Israel is their major problem, Hamas notwithstanding!

In 2002, I started with a logical syllogism, namely:

Only the Arab acknowledgment and acceptance of the state of Israel will bring peace.
Arabs will never acknowledge and accept the state of Israel..
Israel will never be at peace.

True, until Israel – and only Israel–decides its future.

Martin Kessler

Very interesting reading; I have no erudite contribution to offer as to this problem that will probably outlive all of us engaging in this discussion. I do note that the Arab Muslims in Iraq-Iran have a running conflict between themselves as Shias and Sunnis continute to kill each other, because of a centuries-old doctrinal dispute over which of Muhamed’s relatives to follow. As a Socialistic-Democracy, Israel finds itself surrounded by those who do not fear being under dictatorial rulers, and temporarily fear only those who have sufficient forces to defeat them. A sort of “balance of terror,” as Kissinger we used to call Soviet-US relations. I have no doubt that many on both sides want peace, but untill the notion of driving Israel into the sea is openly repudidated, real peace is not possible for the long term. We Americans, love to see negotiations, and rightly so, but as long as the prospect of devolping nuclear weapons continues in Iran, there will reamain only a balance of terror, which is an insecure foundation; merely a pause between episodic violence. At least, they are arguing while in the same room. I pray for some real concessions on each side that will lead to peace; and at this point prayer may be just about as effective as one-sided, unyielding negotiations. At least, the Nobel Laureate has given us something to ponder with his game theories. But the same beat goes on, as long as stubborn resistance is not made economically painful enough.

Robert Aumann, Israeli Nobel Prize winner uses game theory to help solve the Israeli peace problem !
This, for me, was a very new way to look at this problem, and to find a
acceptable solution. LONG but fascinating.

It is obvious that the Palestinians don’t want peace – their actions, even aside from their declarations give the game away. If you claim to want to buy my house, but insist that my children go along with the house, am I to believe that you are seriously trying to buy the house? The side that is willing, let alone eager, to close the deal will make some concessions, but will certainly not insist on conditions the other side certainly cannot accept. According to Islamic teaching and scripture, one does not negotiate from a position of weakness, but only after the other side has acknowledged that it has been thoroughly crushed. It therefore leaves crushing the Arabs – as was indeed done to Egypt – as the only way to peace with them; as long as they, justified or not, can kid themselves that they have not been thoroughly defeated, they will never make peace – and I mean never!

I agree trying to falsely manufacture peace instantly hasn’t been working, but timelines aren’t much better. Peace won’t come through a barrel of a gun in this case, but with negotiation

Rocky says:

I wonder what Mr. Aumann thinks of the fact that most Haredi in Israel do not want to do their time in the IDF or hold down gainful employment? The Haredi are the fastest growing segment of the Israeli Jewish population and the country is surrounded by neighbors who don’t like it.

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Wrong Move

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