Lecture Presented in Israel on March 11, 1994 (Reissued May 4, 2005)


Professor Louis Rene Beres



The following is the original text of a lecture delivered by Professor Louis

Rene Beres to the Dayan Forum, Tel-Aviv, on March 11, 1994 (Ambassador

Zalman Shoval, presiding). It is especially relevant again, today, with the

approach of Prime Minister Sharon's "disengagement" from essential sectors

of Israel's Jewish heartland. Sharing the Dayan Forum podium with

Professor Beres on March 11, 1994, was Maj. Gen. Avihu Ben-Nun, Israel Air

Force Commander. Professor Beres is now Chair of "Project Daniel," a small

private group that has issued a special report on Iranian nuclearization to

Prime Minister Sharon. The specific issues/argument behind this report

were briefed to President Bush by PM Sharon in late April 2005.




Ladies and Gentlemen:


      The Oslo agreement has made a bad situation for Israel even worse.

Should it prove "successful,"  resultant Palestinian autonomy will rapidly

transform itself into a Palestinian state, a condition that would be

intolerable for all the already well-known reasons.


      Should it "fail," Arab bitterness  -  paralleled to some extent by

unhappiness and frustration on the Israeli left  -  will accelerate the

intifada and enlarge cyclical acts of violence.  This, too, will undermine

Israeli security, with steadily expanding acts of terror against Israeli

women and children, again for all the well-known reasons.


      Clearly, it would have been better (in Voltaire's satirical "best of all

possible worlds")  for the Oslo agreement never to have happened. It is a

terrible agreement, one that will occasion terrible casualties for Israelis.

But what is done is done, and cannot be undone.


      Where, therefore, should Israel go from here?  This is all that we can

ask today.


      To answer this overriding question, Israel must first decide, by

itself, how seriously it wishes to endure,  as a state. This may seem an

almost silly bit of advice,  gratuitous and perfectly obvious. After all,

every Israeli seeks preservation of the Third Commonwealth. But it is time

for Israelis to be reminded that states are not necessarily forever and

that the Jewish State is always especially fragile.


      Building Israel's peace prospects upon erroneous assumptions of

enemy reasonableness and rationality would be a misfortune. From the Arab

and Iranian perspective generally, Israel is an enemy state because it is a

Jewish state.  Period!  The only step Israel could now take to reduce enemy

belligerence in the face of growing Islamicization ("Palestine" and Iran in

particular) would be to disappear.  Right now, after Oslo, the government of

Israel is, in fact, cooperating in such a suicidal step.


      Significantly, the Arab and Iranian worlds have been strikingly honest

in identifying their goals.  They have made it clear, again and again, that

their overall war with Israel is a war with "The Jews,"  and that it is a war

that will continue until all of "Palestine" is "returned."


      A good portion of the Jewish world, however, in Israel and in the

diaspora, refuses to act upon these strikingly honest expressions of

belligerent intent. Instead, learning nothing from two thousand years of a

murderous history, they create their own reality  -  a nicely balanced,

finely-tuned reality of diplomatic bargaining, negotiation and incremental

settlements  -  and assume that Syria, Iran, the Palestinians, etc.,  will be



      The result, of course, is predictable. Israel's enemies call for more

and more.  Israel, the individual Jew in macrocosm, asks for less and less.

Taken together, these calls portend a shrinking and enfeebled Israel in an

expanding Islamic sea.  It is not a pretty picture.


      Right now, Israel reminds me very much of Gottlieb Biedermann, the

cautious Swiss businessman in the brilliant play by Max Frisch,  THE

FIREBUGS. Biedermann contends with a neighborhood epidemic of arson by

implementing a series of self-deceptions. Ultimately, Biedermann invites

the arsonists into his home, lodges them, feeds them a sumptuous dinner and

even provides them with matches. Not surprisingly, the play ends, for the

protagonist (read Israel, in this parable) on an incendiary note.  It also

ends, predictably, with a pathetic and revolting disclaimer from an academic

observer, from the Ph.D., who has counseled capitulation all along. Removing

a paper from his pocket, as the sky reddens from fire, the all-too-familiar

"professor" disassociates himself from the calamity.   He is, he

exclaims,  "not responsible."


      In his letters,  the Roman statesman Cicero set the foundations for

realist thinking in world affairs. Inquired Cicero:  "For what can be done

against force without force?" It is time for Israel to ask itself this same

question.  At one time it already knew the answer.  Today I am not so sure.


      International law is not a suicide pact. Israel, in the fashion of

every state in world politics, has a right to endure. With respect to

Judea/Samaria/Gaza, Israel has eroded this right by itself.  The ongoing

territorial surrender of the "peace process" was preceded by linguistic

surrender.  By accepting, incrementally, the use of the term "occupied,"  a

term that is challenged almost nowhere in the world  -  it was inevitable

that events would come to where they are today - in 1994.


      In this country (Israel), an academic journal  -  a distinguished law

review  -  refused to publish an article of mine dealing with Israel's rights

under international law because I did not accept that the disputed

territories were "occupied." The irony gets worse. The article was

subsequently accepted by a distinguished American law review sponsored by

the Jesuits. A "no" from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to a manuscript

supporting Israel; a "yes" from the Catholic university of Notre Dame.


      With respect to the recent Gulf War (1991), Israel may feel, generally,

that absorbing 39 scud attacks without direct reprisal  -  that is, letting

the Americans do the job for them  -  was smart. It seems to me, however,

even recognizing full well the military code constraints of that moment,

that this deferral to Washington  -  a deferral reinforced by the demeaning

acceptance of minimally-capable patriot missiles -  will have longer term

ill effects. I daresay this is the case even though I speak together today

with the distinguished commander of the Israel Air Force, Maj. Gen. Avihu



      Israel's enemies understand Cicero. Israel does not.


      What, precisely, am I suggesting? The peace process, of course, is

misconceived and potentially catastrophic. Associated efforts at so-called

"confidence building measures"  and  "security regimes" are the foolish

inventions of academics, of the professors, trapped as usual in their

hermetically-sealed world of erroneous assumptions and political

correctness. In the academic world, Cicero is not in fashion. Cliches are the

rage, especially when they are well-funded. Euphemisms are proper.

Forthrightness is unforgivable.


Incrementally Oslo will fail; Israelis will suffer increasingly numerous and more indiscriminate terror attacks; young Palestinians will be recruited to blow up Jews as a ticket to eternal life amidst seventy-two virgins.


What is only metaphor to the sophisticated Westerner will be altogether literal to a seventeen-year old Arab boy from Jenin.


      There is, of course, one more arena of prospective war, an arena of

particularly great importance to Israel. I refer to Iran;  especially the

development of Iranian unconventional weapons and the threat of Iranian

nuclear attack. This threat is becoming very real indeed. Regarding this

threat, Israel has essentially two options:  (1) do nothing other than rely

on strategic deterrence, deliberately ambiguous or disclosed  (a problem

because of willingness, capability, and rationality components of a credible

deterrence popsture);  or  (2) strike preemptively against Iranian hard

targets and/or associated infrastructures,  a strike that would

necessarily reflect the permissible use of force known as  "anticipatory

self defense"  in international law.


      Here an unfortunate synergy must be noted. Now that the "peace

process" is underway,  Israel's effective capacity to preempt has already

been diminished. It is true that Iran is not a part of this process, but

surely the global community  (a community not usually known for its good

feelings toward Israel or, for that matter, toward Jews in general)  would

see a post-Oslo defensive strike against Iranian hard targets as evidence

of continuing Israeli "aggression."


      But again,  what is done is done?  The only question that remains is:

what is Israel to do now? I have written widely about preemption and

anticipatory self defense by Israel,  with special reference to Iran.


The tactical requirements of such actions are somewhat beyond my domain

and can be handled more adequately elsewhere (especially by my fellow

speaker today, IAF Maj. Gen. Ben-Nun). What Israel does need to keep in mind

is the essential time factor. Once Iranian unconventional or even nuclear

weapons are deployed,  Jerusalem's preemption options will be severely

reduced. In essence, where Iran has already "gone nuclear," they will have



      Of course, Israel continues to place substantial hopes in ATBM (Anti-

Tactical Ballistic Missile) defenses, principally the Hetz or Arrow project,

but the limitations of such defenses are significant and well-known,

primarily because a largely "leakproof" system is required, and such a

requirement is well beyond technical possibility. Moreover, the success of

deterrence is entirely contingent upon assumptions of enemy rationality.

Should the leadership in Iran prove willing to absorb massive Israeli

counterstrikes to achieve the allegedly Islamic benefits of a first strike

attack against the "Zionist cancer,"  Israeli nuclear deterrence would be



      Is such Iranian willingness likely?  Probably not.  But are you

prepared to bet the country on it?  And if you are not so prepared, timely

preemption by Israel emerges as the only alternative to waiting patiently

for annihilation. This is the case even where preemption would succeed only



      Israel, like Biedermann in Max Frisch's ominous play, lives in a bad

neighborhood. Like Biedermann,  Israel can pretend that everything will be

alright, that the "arsonists" will disappear on their own accord,  or at

least that they will be deterred from doing harm if they are indulged in

their every whim and expectation. Like Biedermann,  self delusion for Israel

will result in "fire,"  in an assortment of harms that threaten survival and

that should have been averted.


      Israel must act unlike  Biedermann,  choosing not the path of

"reasonableness" in an unreasonable region, but of determination, self-

reliance and appropriate forms of forceful self-defense. Rejecting the

"disassociating" professors for whom Jewish history might just as well

have never happened,  Jerusalem must now base its policies upon a sober

awareness of what has already been and upon a full consideration of what

is still possible. Should Israel choose such an awareness, as indeed it

must, acknowledging protracted, even permanent conflict, the short-term

will be markedly unpleasant (hasn't it always?),  but the long-term will at

least remain a forseeable possibility.



Louis Rene Beres was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author

of many books and articles dealing with Israeli and Middle Eastern security

issues. His work is well known to Israel's military and intelligence



Louis Rene Beres,  Ph.D. (Princeton, 1971)

Professor of Political Science and International Law

Purdue University

Beering Building

West Lafayette IN  47907


(765)  TEL 494-4189

(765)  FAX 494-0833

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