A handbook for the modern prince, whose subject is necessarily war.
Machiavelli was an ironist; his treatise The Prince recommends all manner of terrible behavior, but that’s just how his contemporaries behaved. Israeli essayist and politician Shoher evidences no sense of irony, so we’re left to believe that he means just what he says when he recommends absolute cruelty as more effective than absolute goodness: â€œSufficient cruelty can often reduce the dissident population to conformity. Goodness, on the contrary, emboldens dissent–exactly the case with Palestinian nationalism.” Though he professes to hold terrorists in a certain kind of respect–they are warriors and should be treated as such, and killed whenever and wherever possible–Shoher has small esteem for Palestinian opponents of Israel. A would-be Palestinian state, he says, would be swallowed up by its Arab neighbors, who despise the Palestinians â€œas rascals, brigands, and terrorists.” Palestinians in turn despise Israelis because they â€œcombine weakness with anti-Arab ambitions, the worst mix possible.” Given these circumstances, can there be peace in the Middle East? Perhaps, says the author, but it will come only when the opposition is killed or bought off, since Israel will always be perceived as a â€œforeign body” in the Middle East. In this light, he urges Israel to set a course of action–offensive or defensive, active or passive–and then stick to it, rather than constantly wavering and bickering, a consequence, he suggests, of being a democracy at war, a condition that historically demands the suspension of democracy. In the longest term, he also suggests, Israel would do better by being regarded as a more formidable enemy, offering itself as the world’s most accomplished antiterrorist police force. Given the rise of modern terrorism, it may be the region’s best chance for a growth industry.
There’s plenty of food for thought in this book, which, wrongheaded or not, is both open and fearless.