Israel A Modern Hobbesian State According to Essay

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Israel: A modern Hobbesian state?

According to the British philosopher Thomas Hobbes, in a state of nature, human life is 'nasty, brutish and short.' Hobbes takes a dark view of humanity, and while he concedes that very often the governments of nations are less-than-ideal, this is preferable to a state of anarchy. "In Hobbes' state of nature, men find themselves in a state of anarchy, understood as the absence of authority and order. The violent nature of this state of anarchy, the war of all against all, is the determinant aspect of Hobbes' political philosophy which it is a theory of survival. The aim of the social contract, of accepting hierarchy and the power of the sovereign, is to escape the inescapable and universal danger presented by anarchy" (Long 2008:91). Hobbes takes a 'dog-eat-dog' view of the world, and stresses the need for a strong sovereign power to govern. This emphasis on strength and mistrust of others is one reason why the state of Israel is often called a Hobbesian state, as it fights for its survival in a sea of enemies.

"Hobbesian culture is constituted by shared ideas that others are enemies. Agents do not recognize the right of others to exist" (Frederking 2000). At the beginning of Israel's existence, it was embroiled in a territorial dispute with the Palestinians, who contested the right of the Jewish state to exist at all. Israel won its civil war, and now the Palestinians exist within Israel's territories and in occupied settlements. However, the memory of the civil war still remains fresh, whenever Israel enters into negotiations with Palestinian or Arab representatives, many of whom still deny Israel's right to exist. In counterpoint, Israel has resisted making concessions as well, further contributing to the Hobbesian state of nature in the Middle East. "Both the Arabs and the Israelis consistently accepted the necessity of using force to resolve the conflict. For the Arabs, Israel was the embodiment of Western imperialism in the area. Israel was indeed an enemy to militarily destroy, not a rival with which to politically and economically compete" (Frederking 2000).

The current stand-off in the Middle East between the Israelis and Palestinians likewise reflects the Hobbesian notion that "enmity is a property of the system; the military capabilities of others convey an ominous meaning. Relative military capabilities are thus seen as crucial, and agents use pre-emptive strikes if violence is deemed inevitable" (Frederking 2000). This basic principle of the need for preemptive strikes was seen the Six-Day War, in which the tiny nation overcame a larger and better-armed coalition of Arab nations, and was used against Israel during the Yom Kippur War, when the Arab nations chose to attack on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar to catch the nation unawares. At the time of the Six-Day War, Israel was spending 21% of its GNP on defense (Frederking 2000).

Only a single successful peace accord has been established over the course of the modern evolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Even in the Camp David accords, which created peace between Egypt and Israel: "Israel did not explicitly commit to withdrawing from the West Bank and Gaza; indeed, the agreement does not even mention Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. And Israel did not explicitly recognize Palestinian rights to self-determination. Hobbesian rules still applied in the region as a whole. Only the rules governing Israeli-Egyptian interactions changed from Hobbesian to Lockean rules. The ensuing peace treaty between Israel and Egypt formally ending the state of war and recognizing each other's sovereignty solidified this transition" (Frederking 2000). 'Lockean' rules refer to the philosophy of the English democratic philosopher John Locke, who believed that citizens could renegotiate social contracts, and that cooperation was possible in the international community. Another uncharacteristic component of the peace treaty was that Israel conceded territory. At the end of the Six-Day War, Israel found itself having "acquired extensive territories - the Sinai desert, the Golan heights and the West Bank, that were several times larger than the 1948 borders" (Isseroff 2009). To maintain a larger buffer zone between itself and the Arab powers, it strove to retain these territories, and, despite on-and-off negotiations with the Palestinians since, it continues to retain…[continue]

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