Israel's Foreign Policy

By Inbar, Efraim | Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Israel's Foreign Policy


Inbar, Efraim, Middle East Quarterly


Israel's Foreign Policy Published in the Spring 2009 Middle East Quarterly, pp. 82-83.

by Efraim Inbar

Defending the Holy Land. A Critical Analysis of Israel's Security and Foreign Policy. By Zeev Maoz. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2006. 714 pp. $45.

Maoz, professor of political science and director of the International Relations Program at the University of California-Davis, has written a long, well-organized, and detailed book. But those attributes are not enough to distract from the author's often unhinged animosity to Israel. For Maoz, practically everything the Jewish state has done in the area of defense and foreign policy over the last sixty years was wrong. His last chapters are devoted to explaining the failures, ending with some policy prescriptions. For anyone who enjoys sophisticated Israel-bashing and has the patience to read more than 600 pages, Maoz has provided the book.

His narrative of unrelenting criticism erodes the credibility of his arguments. The author implausibly tries to show that Israel's "military adventurism" was much to blame for the 1967 war and argues that Israel played "more than a small part" in the outbreak of the War of Attrition (1967-70) although Cairo clearly initiated that combat.

The author's account of the Arab-Israeli conflict reflects a total misunderstanding of the central role played by Israel's use of force in compelling the Arabs to come to grips with Israel's permanence. Military victories in 1956 and 1967 are curiously and myopically seen as exacerbating Israel's relations with its neighbors, rather than as important events in Egypt's gradual realization that Israel could not be destroyed - a process that culminated in the 1979 peace treaty. Similarly, the author fails to see that the military victory in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, despite the strategic surprise on two fronts, was another significant step in the Arab recognition of Israel as an entrenched fact.

The most astonishing critique is directed at Israel's nuclear policy, despite its obvious success. Maoz advocates Israel's renouncing nuclear weapons and joining a regional security regime. Greater naivete can hardly be imagined.

Maoz repeatedly belittles the dangers posed by the Arab states and portrays Israel's perception of those dangers as unwarranted. Indeed, Maoz views Israel's defensive military operations as trigger-happy, ignoring that the Middle East is conflict-ridden and war-prone, and that Israel's neighbors often resort to the use of force. The author generally dismisses Israel's right to attack states and organizations that refuse to live in peace with it. One can doubt the wisdom of the 1982 Lebanon war, but it included defensive aims. But the author ignores the threat of terrorist and Katyusha attacks by the Palestine Liberation Organization .

The oft-repeated accusations of Israel's "disproportionate use of force" or "excessive force" blissfully ignore the fact that states in war have no obligation to limit military responses to the level pursued by their enemies but, instead, have the duty to use force to defeat their opponents. Escalation often attains military and political goals.

The learned author turns a blind eye to Arab reluctance to accept Israel. He displays a misguided preference for diplomacy in an area where the best political currency is brute force. It is the Pavlovian instinctive reaction of liberals to suggest engagement and peace talks, insisting that the Arabs are ripe for peacemaking with the Jewish state when even today, thirty years after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the State of Israel still does not appear on maps printed in Egypt. …

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