Power & Market

Excellent Talk from John Mearsheimer on the State of Israel v. the Palestinians


Last week, John Mearsheimer presented an excellent summary on what is going on in Israel since the October 7 Hamas attack. Mearsheimer is one of the most insightful foreign policy scholars working today. Naturally, he is virtually ignored by the Washington establishment which is more concerned with obeying the foreign-policy blob and the Israel Lobby. Mearsheimer, of course, famously worked with Stephen Walt to author the important 2007 book The Israel Lobby which describes the remarkable degree to which Israeli lobbyists are able to influence American foreign policy. Mearsheimer also predicted that Ukraine would regret giving up its nuclear arsenal, and he predicted that the US’s insistence on pushing NATO eastward would lead to increased conflict with Russia. 

Remote video URL

In last week’s talk at the Center for Independent Studies in Sydney, Mearsheimer outlines how the State of Israel’s ultimate goal for the Palestinians right now is ethnic cleansing. Moreover, he notes that the Israeli state is presently declining in influence and in its relative power, internationally. 

In illustrating this, he notes that Israel is presently in the business of ethnic cleansing because that it, politically speaking, the most acceptable course of action for the regime. Specifically, the Israeli regime has four options for the Palestinians. 

  1. Become a normal democratic constitutional state in which Palestinians have equal legal rights.
  2. Adopt a two-state solution.
  3. Enforce an apartheid state.
  4. Carry out ethnic cleansing. 

Mearshimer notes that the elites of the Israeli state has zero interest in a democracy or constitutional republic. Rather, the Israeli elites want a Jewish ethno-state in which all other groups are second-class citizens. This is partly why Israel has not written constitution. That might end up protecting the rights of ethnic minorities. So, option 1 is unacceptable. 

The two-state solution is obviously unacceptable also, and Mearsheimer notes this is partly why the Israeli state essentially created Hamas and continued to support Hamas right up to October 7. Hamas was created to counter the PLO which supports a two-state solution. Hamas, of course, rejects that option, and wants for the Palestinians what Israel has right now: total control of the region “from the river to the sea.” 

Given that constitutions, democracy, and self-determination for Palestinians is all unacceptable to Israeli state, the regime has opted for apartheid instead. But apartheid comes with a lot of problems, as we saw in the case of South Africa when it faced a multitude of sanctions and other diplomatic problems from its ongoing apartheid. 

So, the way out of this apartheid, Mearsheimer notes, is to ethnically cleanse Gaza and drive the Gazans out of the country entirely. This eliminates the “necessity” of apartheid. 

The current policy is unlikely to reverse numerous problems that continue to mount for the Israeli state, however. For one, the Israeli regime is now spending a lot of money in its conquest and destruction of Gaza. There is a reason Tel Aviv turned Gaza into what Mearsheimer calls an “open-air prison.” Sealing off Gaza was the most economical option in many ways. The current policy is anything but economical, and Israel couldn’t even carry out its current destruction of Gaza without enormous amounts of free weapons from the United States-paid for by the US taxpayer. 

A second problem can be seen in the fact that the Israeli regime has lost its “escalation dominance.” In the past, Israeli policy was based on retaliating against attackers in ways that were far more deadly and destructive than the initial attack on Israel. As Mearshimer describes it, the Israeli goal has been “as we go up the escalation ladder, I dominate.” Yet, in recent months, Israel’s ability to do this has faltered. Tel Aviv has been unwilling to deter Hezbollah with this method, and the US has even forced Tel Aviv to respond with restraint to recent attacks from Iran. Moreover, the current campaign in Gaza has not succeeded in defeating Hamas, and is unlikely to do so. 

A third problem is that Israel is still surrounded by adversaries that hate the Israeli state. That’s long been true, but technology has not progressed to a place where adversaries now have access to drones and missiles in ways that are far more troublesome for the Israeli state. 

And finally, the current ethnic cleansing campaign continued to make Israel more of a pariah state with each passing day.  Mearsheimer notes that until the 1980s, the Israeli state absolutely dominated the narrative everywhere on the history of Israel and its creation in the 1940s. In recent decades, however, historians have brought to light a version of history that is not nearly as praiseworthy of the Israeli regime. This problem continues to grow, especially as the Israeli state has not managed to exercise control over social media where anti-Israel narratives now proliferate. Indeed, Mearsheimer notes there has been a remarkable, generational shift in views of Israel. The elderly elites still favor Israel overwhelmingly, but younger generations take a very different view and this is very bad news for the Israeli regime. 

Mearsheimer also goes into some detail about the current relationship between the US and Iran and how Israeli policy is bad for US interests in the region. The US’s Iran policies—largely pushed by the Israel lobby—have pushed Iran, China, and Russia closer together, and thanks to this, US sanctions against Iran continue to weaken. 

See the full talk here. 

(Thanks to Lew Rockwell.)

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