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Is Israel a Modern Sparta?

In Fortress Israel, journalist Patrick Tyler argues that the country’s warrior ethos impedes Mideast peace

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Israeli soldiers on standby along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on March 13, 2012.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Ever since the founding of the state of Israel, the country’s leaders have favored overwhelming military might over diplomatic finesse in confronting conflicts with their neighbors. Such is the argument made by veteran journalist Patrick Tyler in his new book, Fortress Israel: The Inside Story of the Military Elite Who Run the Country—and Why They Can’t Make Peace. Tyler has spent a combined 26 years reporting for the New York Times and the Washington Post, covering the U.S. State Department, the Pentagon, the intelligence community, and the Middle East. In his book, Tyler focuses on the latter, offering a fascinating account of the Israeli military establishment—its victories, defeats, mistakes, and cover-ups. Beginning with David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan in the 1950s and continuing almost up to the present, Tyler details a military mindset that pervades nearly all of Israeli culture and that, as he sees it, has made peace in the region all but impossible.

Tyler speaks with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about the similarities between the ancient Greek warrior state of Sparta and modern Israel, about the “sabra code” to which Israel’s leaders largely adhere, and about the influence of the past on the current stand-off with Iran. [Running time: 22:48.] 

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julis123 says:

Wrong wrong wrong. Israel is actually very non-militaristic. When was the last time you saw a military parade in Israel? Many of the former generals are actually on the left side of the political spectrum in terms of peace. What makes peace impossible is being surrounded by nations who are bent on your destruction no matter what you try to do.

Saint_Etienne says:

Hear hear. How can a person who has been supposedly reporting on the Middle East for 26 years miss all this? Perhaps he has been reporting his own biases all along? Wow, that’d be a surprise, wouldn’t it?

As a goy, viewing from afar, I completely reject Tyler’s thesis.

I see Israel, and its military, as very reluctant warriors. If Israel ever ceases to exist, it will be because it failed to rise to its own defense in a timely manner.

Israel needs to adopt the coiled rattlesnake image favored by American Tea party members.

Eliezer Ramon says:

Disregarding FACTS is the privilege of dreamers.
Islam and Arabs have promised to annihilate Jews as well as all other “Infidels”.
Even before there was the state called Israel – Arabs strove to ‘throw all Jews to the Sea.
Having the Arabs letting the Jewish state to live in peace is a sad WISHFUL THINKING.
Check facts. – Even King Abdallah of Jordan , a proud Muslim Arab , was assasinated , by an Arab because he negotiated peace with Israel. Such was the fate of Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt ,assasinated by a Muslim , because he had signed peace with Israel.
Wake up !!!

This is a report made by someone with a western set of mind which was right if Israel had a borders with Canada or swiss, in a case like this, peace talks would be the way,BUT since we are dealing with an entity that regarded human behavior as a weakness talks cannot help. Let me remind the readers that an x army general Ehud Barack,nagotioating with Arafat, gave him practically everything he wanted, but Arafat backed up.just look around you and see what they are doing to USA embassies around the world.

Sara Ivry says:

Hi, having conducted the interview with Patrick Tyler I should point out his thesis does not examine Israel’s history only for the past two or three decades. Tyler looks back to Israel’s founding. Furthermore, he doesn’t reject the idea that Israel’s neighbors have often been hostile. He simply talks about a mentality in Israel that is somewhat aggressive and about the decision to strike that pose as far back as the early 20th century. This is not mutually exclusive with having hostile neighbors. I am not sure if you all listened to the podcast before rejecting it – perhaps I could encourage you to do so (and even read the book) before casting aspersions.

Sparta was an oligarchy, a strict caste system led by the warrior elite and supported from beneath by a host of slaves — helots. Israel is Athen, the only democracy in the Middle East, and a rambunctious one at that. Athens often had to go to war. That’s the price of living among aggressive enemies. But Athens didn’t succumb to a military ethos, and Israel’s democracy makes it the anti-thesis of Sparta.

Sara,
What do you expect from the pro- right wing Israeli chauvinists that populate this list?
It is “us vs.them” foreever and ever.
With Yom Kippur coming up, you would think they would reflect on their sins as boosters of Israeli policy, which has historically been too quick to resort to military action or police repression.
But don’t hold your breath. You are more likely to be maligned as a self-hating Jew.

Afrayedknot says:

I, for one, listened to the podcast, and still largely agree with most of the commenters. When not being a condescending twit, Tyler still ignores facts to fit his neat little thesis and it would have been nice is Ms. Ivry had deigned to challenge the thesis even a little. For example, when mentioning Ehud Barak’s “champing at the bit to go to war with Iran” it might have been useful to point out that this particular warmonger was the same man who made a full-court press to hammer out a peace agreement with the Palestinians at Camp David 2. It might have been brought up that further reaching offer was made by Olmert several years later and that offer was essentially ignored. How this all squares with the “sabra code” goes unmentioned.

I’m sure you’re patting yourself on the back for conducting such a fascinating interview. And while you do so, perhaps you can check to see if you have a spine, because evidence of such as not apparent in your interview.

PhillipNagle says:

All one has to do is look at the peace proposals the arabs have turned down to realize how utterly stupid this article is. The overwhelming majority of arabs wish only for Israel’s destruction and it is only the military strength of Israel that prvents it.

Sara Ivry says:

Thanks for listening, anyway.

Right on fellow Ethan! This has becom a recuring theme on the left, a la “Tough Jews”. What PEACE has Israel ever been offered. But then we were always more popular as weak victims than as warriors. I supose Mr Tyler would feel more comfortable lamenting the dead of a second Shoah than wondering why these actions are needed. Perhaps if Israel had had ONE DAY of peace since 1948, they wouldn’t need to be a second Sparta. Of course this Sparta produces Art, literature, science, medicine, hi tech etc. What have any of Israels Arab neihbors given the world except terror, death, and oil, which is totally an accident of geography.

Yiftach Levy says:

Sara, I’m looking forward to listening to the interview later today. At this point I’ll just say that I’m as put off by the personal insults being hurled at you and Mr. Tyler as I am by his thesis, as I understand it from the written synopsis here. I’m an IDF veteran, born in Israel, lived in the States more than half my life, so I can speak about Israeli society with some level of personal expertise and direct experience.
G’mar chatima tova.

Faival44 says:

Mr. Tyler states, upon a question about Arab behavior as a factor in Israeli behavior, that his book is about Israelis, not Arabs. Arabs, he says, have their own tragedies. Therein is the heart of foolishness which underlies his book. Jews do not behave in a vacuum, and if one wants to talk about a Sparta mentality, the largest and most menacing in the world is that of the Moslems. Islam has never been at peace with the world, because its most dominant ethos is perpetual war against the infidel. This is not my conclusion, it is explicit Moslem theology. If Israel had Buddhists for neighbors, there would have been peace 10 minutes after her founding.

The writer has seemingly forgotten that Israel (the people, not the state) had a deeply non-militaristic attitude for two thousand years, and that ‘peace’ brought them humiliation, rape, massacre, pogrom, discrimination, expulsion, and finally, the Holocaust. What exactly is the complaint? Is it that Israel can finally defend herself, and refuses to apologise for it?

A little too much name calling and and ideological posturing in the replies.

I also listened to the full interview and was surprised that Tyler limited his research to the Israeli’s without reference to Arab policy and the almost universal popular rejection of a Jewish state by the Arabs. Policy and culture don’t evolve in a vacuum. They are reflections of the surrounding environment. That Israeli governments feel a sense of threat from Arabs is not surprising. Since early in the Yishuv, Arab leaders have called for the destruction of Israel. During WWII, Arab leadership was sympathetic to and collaborated with the Nazis, with the expectation that a Nazi victory would lead to the elimination of Jews throughout the Arab world.

After the first Intifada Arafat and the PLO were allowed in with the understanding that they would build a peaceful, stable government. Instead, Israel got suicide bombers and a continuing hate narrative from the PA. Attempts at peaceful transitions to a two-state solution were summarily rejected by PA leaders. Oslo too proved a failure and did not diminish either hatred or aggression. The Gaza evacuation led to HAMAS and thousands of rockets. Camp David was rejected by Arafat and a more generous offer by Olmert was also rejected.

What is one to conclude? Is there a reasonable expectation that diplomacy and flexibility will lead to a peaceful resolution? The evidence says not. Concessions are met with violence and perhaps provide evidence of weakness to hostile Arab governments. Since 1948 Arab goals have not changed despite the claims of A-list journalists who dine with Arab royalty.

Under these circumstances Israel has little choice but to maintain a strong military. Yet the desire for peace remains strong, but the strategy is to maintain the peace through strength. The US did it when in conflict with the former Soviet Union and Israel does it through maintaining military superiority.

When the other side seeks your destruction and makes it clear on a daily basis, your options are limited. As Golda Meier famously said; “they want to kill us and we want to live. Where’s the compromise?

federbender says:

And a reminder–Abdullah was assassinated at the instigation of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who had been a friend of Adolph Eichmann, and who had been a Brigadier General in the Waffen SS in Bosnia, when he was banned by the British from Palestine. In Palestine, he had been responsible for a series of riots and pogroms, including the Arab Revolt of 1936–long before there was an Israel. He had never been brought to trial at Nuremberg, because the Allies feared Islamic retaliation.

So—–where did this warrior mentality come from?

Beatrix17 says:

Egypt? Jordan? Hey, two
peace treaties by this warrior state.
Sadat, the Egyptian leader
hand-picked by Nasser, known as the Hitler of the Mideast. Begin,
the terrorist who participated in blowing up the King David Hotel.
Together, these warriors put together a peace treaty that’s lasted 30
years,and has some chance of continuing. Rabin, the former warrior
and King Hussein agreed to a peace treaty their countries still
maintain.

Eisenhower talked about
the “Military Industrial Complex,” but only after this top
American general helped the allies win WW2.

And Barak, so dedicated to
war that he wants to fight with Iran, offered Arafat a peace
agreement that even other Arab nations said was generous. Arafat’s
answer? Another intifada.

Iran has frequently
threatened to annihilate Israel and is working on a bomb that could
achieve that very thing. Yet, even with many people alive today who
remember a man who wanted to annihilate the Jews, and actually
proceeded to do so, Tyler criticizes Netanyahu for wanted to prevent
Iran from going nuclear.

jonitin says:

curious what you think after. Have not heard it yet, either but comments here suggest majority of people did not like the book, and some people wish the interviewer was more challenging.

paul delano says:

First of all, Tyler’s tenure with the NYTimes and WashPost should make it clear to one and all what his ‘take’ is going to be on Israel-arab/Iran relations. But more importantly, it is obvious that for the Left it is far more comfortable to dissect Israeli society than to tackle the real beast in the room: the intolerant and fascistic islamic societies which Israel is forced to contend with. To explore and dissect these societies honestly would require the Left to abandon its mantra of the ‘equivalent’ moral worth of all cultures and face squarely the irredentist nature of 21st century islam. Much more in keeping with their indoctrination to obsess over Israel and its constant need to remain vigilant.

as an israeli LIVING is israel, i totally disagree with you. and i’m not a nationalist…quite the opposite… the so called spartan culture we live, in is essential in the neighborhood israel is located in.

the traditional arab mindset will forever view the will to negotiate first rather than fight first as a weakness. their culture and mentality will ALWAYS prefer a bloodbath first and only then when it is cllear who id the stronger side is willthey agree to negotiate… and never stop attemting to come out as the winning side. THAT’s why there is no peace in the Middle East. They are still trying to accomplish victory.

That is also whyuntil thos day, the Yom Kippur War, named by the Arabs as the October war is celebrated by them ad if theyeon it – even though it is clear to every child they lost.

Excellent comment – I agree 100%.

vildechaye says:

I don’t believe in self-hating jews. But I do believe in stupid jews, and clearly you fit into that category. “Us vs. them”? How else would you describe the situation them? Israelis may be paranoid, but that hardly means their neighbours aren’t out to get them.

Sara Ivry says:

@Jonitin – I don’t think the majority of people have read the book. They are responding to the podcast and/or to the description of the podcast.

9Athena says:

Excuse me Patrick. So the United States is a pacifist nation? As an old hand hanging around the Pentagon, the intelligence communities et al-you’re thinking the “Department of Defense” is maybe the National Guard or states’ militias? Patrick- the Department of “Defense” is a buzz word for the Department of War. Patrick-take a look at our weapons procurements. Look at our special forces-or maybe you’re not privy to those trained killers. Yes Patrick-that’s exactly what they train for. So you’re thinking that the rest of the world knows we would never intrude upon or invade or occupy their territories overtly or by stealth such as our parachutists dropping in from black helicopters for a little heart to heart chat. C’mon Patrick. We’re about to upgrade all our nuclear missiles to the tune of billions. If you feel a little queezy about other nations’ military stances, so go talk to China, Saudi (yes Saudi), Iran, India, Pakistan and the rest of the world. Yeah-you guessed it. I’ve been in the middle of the military (and intelligence) muck for 30 years. I have stories, but I’ll never tell. Now really Patrick. Look in the mirror. Just what is your agenda? Shame on you.

bartmartin says:

It`s the Muslims who really have less roots in the mid east.and even less in places like Pakistan,Indonesia,Malaysia,Iran and many more places.This writer should go back to kindergarten for further studies.What an absurd and ridiculous article!!

Insults. Very nice just before Yom Kippur.

If Israelis are paranoid, they need therapy in not seeing the world in black and white.
This is not 1967. Their neighbors are NOT out to get them. Egypt and Jordan have peace treaties with Israel. The PA recognized Israel long ago. Syria is a bit preoccupied right now. Iraq is completely defanged. Iran is a pariah state that can and should be dealt with diplomatically.
Note that I am not calling you “stupid” or any other name.

If you can’t be civil, then keep your opinions to yourself.

jacob_arnon says:

There is critical review if Tyler’s facile thesis here:

http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/4743/features/fortress-israel/

I had commented there as follows:

Does the book explore the mindset of the Arab strongmen’s who preached the annihilation of the Jewish people daily in Syrian, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Jordan (the king could only meet his Jewish adversaries in privat lest he be assassinated by “his people” who didn’t and don’t like making peace with the Jews.
It’s as if one were to write a history of the Hundred Year War, or First World War from only the side of the conflict.
Patrick Tyler, a former, New York Times, correspondent isn’t an historian and one wonders if and in what manner did he deal with the original record. Does he read Hebrew or Arabic? How did he deal with Israelis’ “adversaries of the conflict the Arab dictatorial powers (the Baath parties in Syria and Iraq, the Arab Socialist Generals in Egypt?) These strongmen had their own ideologies that would not have allowed to make real peace with Israel. Even Arafat made it clear that the peace he signed was but a first step for the liberation of “Jerusalem.”
The “history book” will probably be praised by Israel bashers in the media who seem to accept calumnies against the Jewish State without checking to see if the charges are true or false.

Besides, would any publisher accept the a book about the Arab Elite establishment arguing that they possessed a warlike mindset which made them incapable of making peace with Israel?

Patrick Tyler’s thesis is a throwback to the good old days of history writing when the mentalities of the major players were proved through stereotypical notions like “mindsets.”

Finally and this was brought up in this excellent review, how could warlike Generals agree to unilateral withdrawals from say, Lebanon (Ehud Barak), or from Gaza (Ariel Sharon)?

I should also add that no set of warlike Generals would have allowed the country to become so unprepared for war that the Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack in 1973 would find them totally unprepared for war in 1973.

The book has been written at a time when Israel faces the possibility of a nuclear threat from Iran. Is this a coincidence or is it an attempt to cast the blame on the Israeli government should it decides on preemptive action against Iran.

jacob_arnon says:

41953,

So you were born in April of 1953, congratulations.

Anyway, the peace treaty with Egypt is in jeopardy since the Muslim Brotherhood took over. The PA have “officially recognized” the Jewish State but it’s been having trouble negotiating a peace treaty.

Why do you thing that is? Hamas (a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood) said that it will neither recognize nor enter into peace negotiations with Israel.

As for insults, you post is one long insult. Calling people paranoid is an insult. Stop psycho-babbling and start discussing in good faith which means offer proof and don’t just make assertions that are half truths.

A half truth is worse than a lie.

julis123 says:

Sara–We’ve all heard this thesis before, and as someone who lives in Israel, has been in the army and has had children in the army I can honestly say that it is wrong. One example-in 20+ years in the army (including reserves) I never heard my officers saying that we have to hate the army or describe them in inhuman terms. I actually find the US to be much more militaristic. For instance one of the best selling books in the states now is an autobiography by a US army sniper describing how he killed Iraqis. A book like that would never appear in Israel. There’s lots to criticize in Israel, but I’m so sick of these outside “experts” getting it all wrong.

vildechaye says:

Thanks for the support, Jacob, though I think I’ll handle this one myself as well. First of all, I don’t give a damn if it’s close to Yom Kippur or not. I’m not religious. Second, I’m not sure how to describe the false rosy picture you paint other than stupid, well, perhaps you prefer reckless. You’re right about one thing: It’s not 1967. Very good. Now let’s review the situation. Hezbollah has 40,000 rockets pointed at Israel and refuses to make peace. Hamas refuses to make peace. Egypt under Morsi is playing a funny game in Sinai and only the threat of losing the U.S. subsidy is keeping them nominally within the bounds of the peace treaty. And then there’s Iran, whose leaders never miss an opportunity to call Israel a “cancerous tumor” (direct quote) and call for its annihilation. What else do you do with a cancerous tumor, if not excise it. You don’t wait around for it to “vanish from the pages of time.” Luckily for Israel, you don’t determine the measures Israel takes for its security. You think the Iranian thugocracy that routinely calls for Israel’s annihilation can be dealt with diplomatically? The only word to describe that is stupid. They won’t even talk with us, never mind negotiate. Nor will Hezb. Nor will Hamas. You don’t want to take at their words enemies of Israel who say they want to destroy it? As the son of holocaust survivors, I’m not prepared to take that risk 60 years later.

mouskatel says:

If he spent a combined 26 years reporting for those papers of records, I’m just wondering how the treaties with Egypt and Jordan fit into his Sparta thesis.

mouskatel says:

Sara, first of all, the first sentence of your comment is completely incoherent. Second of all, I hope you’ve read the review in JID, because that article sums up how utterly preposterous this book is. Here’s the punchline, in case you don’t have time to read it before Yom Kippur:

“Why go on? There is no need, after this, to proceed through the rest of Fortress Israel and to demonstrate how Tyler’s own narrative repeatedly subverts his governing conceptions. It provides neither a coherent account of the past nor a preview of what is likely to happen in the future. ”

http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/4743/features/fortress-israel/

scribblescribble says:

I didn’t listen to the podcast until today, after Ahmadinejad’s latest comments, and the juxtaposition was jarring. I can’t think of a sillier episode on this podcast, going back to when it was Nextbook. Though it’s dangerously silly and reveals less about Israel’s militaristic mindset than it does about the mind of this breathtakingly clueless author. Of all the writers and books about Jews and Israel one could profile — what a poor choice this was!

Absolutely agree. I listened to the entire interview and it was softball all the way.

it’s just another polite and erudite way of saying Israel is the problem. A nod is given to Arab hostility, violence and mayhem but ultimately Tyler makes the case for this innate militaristic Israeli core which they can’t overcome and which is the real obstacle to peace. Combine this with Mr. Tyler’s recent op-ed in the LA Times and it’s clear that he either doesn’t really understand the situation or he’s so totally blinded by his own views that he can’t understand it. In the LA Times he writes:


Young Iranians who risked their lives for reform and who admire Western democracy are also fiercely nationalistic in defending Iran’s right to develop technologically.”

And so do we negotiate with those young Iranians who hold little to no power over their fundamentalist Government? What about Ahmadinejad, the Iranian President who threatens Israel and demeans Jews every chance he gets: is Mr. Tyler seriously suggesting to negotiate with him?

Sara Ivry sounds like smart young lady but as an interviewer she offered no substantive challenges to Tyler’s main arguments.

I haven’t read the book but I’ve listened to the podcast and read his op-ed in the LA Times. From these two sources, it’s quite clear that for Tyler, Israel is the problem in the middle east. He isn’t nasty, I don’t think he hates Jews but I believe there is unfair and unbalanced bias coming through his writing wherein Israel, not Iran, not Syria, not Egypt, not Hezbollah, etc,etc, is responsible for the troubles, has a problem with being too militaristic and not diplomatic enough.

He at once acknowledges Arab hostility but then quickly moves back to Israel with laser precision as the main troublemaker, the “detonator” that will blow itself up taking everyone else with it. I think like many other decent people, he’s wrong.

Patrick Tyler lives in an alternate universe. Shame on Sara Ivry for throwing one soft question after another. We would have been better served by a critical interview. BTW, Netanyahu has never led Israel into war (as of this moment) in two terms of office. But why allow facts to interfere with theory.

Vilde chaye called Israelis paranoid. He used that term.

Be civil or be silent.

Hamas knows how far it can go and poses no existential threat to Israel. Hezbollah has missiles but Israel has way more. The last military confrontation brought great suffering to the Lebanese which will deter Hezbollah from striking Israel again.
If Israel can have 200 plus nuclear weapons, without allowing international inspections, it is not in a very strong position to say Iran can’t have any.
Even Iran is not about to start a nuclear war. Restraint is called for, not sabre rattling. Most Israelis do not want Israel to attack Iran including many military leaders. Why are you taking a more aggressive position than most Israelis?
Please stay civil or stay silent.

vildechaye says:

Like I said, I’m glad you aren’t in charge of Israeli defence policy. Your irresponsible “don’t worry be happy” philosophy could just as easily have appliied any time since 1967. Did Israel’s overhwleming military superiority stop Egypt from attacking in 1973? Did it stop Hezb in 2005? Hamas from showering southern Israel with rockets? Has it stopped Iran from issuing death threats to Israel on a continuous basis? Didn’t think so. Incidentally, I don’t recall advocateingan Israeli attack on Iran, though I certainly would understand why might think it was justified. It’s the responsibility of any government to ensure the safety of its citizens from attack. Can you imagine any other country just sitting back and accepting death threats, rockets and missiles and then sitting back and doing nothing, as you advocate?
Be civil? Get stuffed.

Get stuffed???

I am done with the “wild animal.”

jacob_arnon says:

Hypocrisy is worse than incivility sine the latter can lead to debate.
You Mr. April 1953 are acting hypocritically when you demand civility in an uncivil manner.

vildechaye says:

Good, that means I will no longer have to respond to the silly pollyanna who maintains that Israelis are “paranoid” even as they endure repeated and endless calls for their destruction, never mind rocket attacks, incursions from Sinai, Gaza and Lebanon, etc, and a murderous regime in Iran that is actively building a nuclear bomb and routinely threatens Israel with annihilation. What a fool!

Remember the Peel Commission of 1938 – accepted by Jews and rejected by Arabs (there were no Palestinians at that time – they were Arabs). Perspective = Arabs said no to all legal positions – why does the USA have a Bonnie and Clyde mentality – praise the bully and criminal elements?

Tyler “forgot” that the Palestinian Jews accepted the UN partition, while the Palestinian Arabs (and the Arab states) vehemently rejected it because they denied he legitimacy of a Jewish state in Palestine, regardless if its size. One day after the partition vote, they started a bloody civil war, aiming to prevent by military means the implementation of the partition. The regular armies of the Arab states invaded Israel on the day of its founding. They lost that war and brought nothing but disaster to the Palestinian Arabs.
Had the Arabs accepted the partition and had not started the war, their state would have been 64 y old today and the lives of thousands, on both sides would have been spared.
As for a “modern Sparta”. Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books. It also has the highest number of scientific papers, published in peer review publications, per capita. Also, in has the highest number of Nobel prize winners per capita. Typical for a Spartan society…
Israel always has been, and is today more than ever, a fractious, democratic society in which it is the politicians and judges who have the final say. The present debate over a possible Israeli attack on the Iranian nuclear facilities illustrates that very well.
The politicians (Netanyahou and Barak) are in favor of of that attack while the generals oppose it. But why expect Tyler to be objective…

@41953: I guess the not exactly flattering irony — in your first assuming anyone who disagrees with your opinion about Tyler’s book and the questions put to him in the interview is to be slurred as a chauvinist while at the same time chauvinistically assuming that any conservative leaning person (which I’m not btw) is necessarily a chauvinist and then immediately accusing “them” (conservatives and people who disagree with your opinions) of being the ones who see the world as “us vs them forever” — is entirely lost on you. Let’s hope for the sake of your own political awareness and self-awareness, it won’t be lost on you for ever and ever.

Tyler “forgot” that the Zionist movement accepted the UN partition plan. Which means that it accepted the fact that two peoples are living in Mandatory Palestine and they both have the right to political self determination and statehood. But, the Palestinian Arabs vehemently rejected the partition because they denied the right of the Palestinian Jews to a state regardless of its size. They started a war hoping to prevent by force the implementation of the UN plan. They lost the war and brought nothing but disaster to the Palestinian Arabs. Many of them continue to deny Israel’s legitimacy (seק Hamas’ charter). Which explains why Isrשקl has to maintain a strong army. Without it there will be no Israel.
Israel always has been, and is today more than ever, a fractious, democratic society in which it is the politicians and judges who have the final say. The current debate over attacking Iranian nuclear installations is an excellent illustration of this, It is Israel’s political leadership, particularly, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak, that is most inclined to attack and it is the generals who oppose the idea. But the final decision will be made by the politicians not the generals.
As for Israel being a “modern Sparta”. Israel has the world’s second highest per capita of new books. Israel produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation. And, per capita, Israel has the highest number of Nobel prize winners.
Typical for a Spartan mentality…

Gay State Girl says:

Don’t you see? Israel puts us in greater danger. Americans are tired and war weary, and if there is another war….well I won’t go there, but who do you think is going to have to pick up the tab?

Hoo-ray for ” overwhelming military might”! May we always have more of it than our enemies…

Peace between Israel and Palestine will bring more security to Israel. One cannot really conclude that the Palestinians are a military threat to Israel. However, there are elements in the Palestinian society who do not want peace. They are the terrorists and members of the Palestinain governments who are benefitting from the status quo. Like all politicians they do not want to give up power, and love to play the card of the victim. With democracy coming to some states in the region, the politics will change, and that may force all sides to develop new policies. Military occupation of ones neighbors cannot go on forever–it is not in the interest of the people of Israel. Why should Israel spend all that money and resource to occupy people who have no resources?

Peace between Israel and Palestine will bring more security to Israel. One cannot really conclude that the Palestinians are a military threat to Israel. However, there are elements in the Palestinian society who do not want peace. They are the terrorists and members of the Palestinain governments who are benefitting from the status quo. Like all politicians they do not want to give up power, and love to play the card of the victim. With democracy coming to some states in the region, the politics will change, and that may force all sides to develop new policies. Military occupation of ones neighbors cannot go on forever–it is not in the interest of the people of Israel. Why should Israel spend all that money and resource to occupy people who have no resources?

What makes peace impossible is fucking arab neighbors who vow destroy Israel! Idiot!

Israel is not the problem of Middle east, but Iran that is struggling day/night to see how they can influence or dominate the Middle East.

Israel is not the problem in the Middle east, but Iran that is struggling
day/night to see how they can influence or dominate the Middle East and they rule the World.and I wonder when the Israeli Government will start to relay on their own, knowing their full rights not to wait 4 the United States or UN to decide on any matter concerning their security in the Middle East. They should know that they live among aggressive enemies

so share it be.

Well, this is just dumb.

People seem to love blaming Israel but, of all the ‘parties’ involved in the conflict, which has put forth the most compelling confidence-building measures?

Pulled out of Sinai? Removed settlements? Pulled out of Lebanon? Removed settlements? Created PA? Ceded WB territory? Pulled out of Gaza? Removed settlements? Continually support the economy of the WB, despite its corruption and cronyism? The list goes on and on…

Meanwhile, over that same period, Egypt has slid backwards and it is only a matter of time before the MB-theocracy becomes hostile. Lebanon harbors genocidal terrorists with thousands of rockets. Gaza is a disaster, firing dozens of rockets on a daily basis. The PA is a Nazi-like propaganda machine, fueling the hatred and reinforcing the most libelous of Jewish stereotypes. And, again, the list goes on.

People who write articles like this are either one of two things: 1) Total morons, or 2) secretly want to destroy Israel.

Let’s no forget that Arafat rejected evey peace offer form Ehud Barack.
Plus, it is difficult to be commited to peace when one is surronded by such peace loving nations as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq , etc

genelevit says:

Tyler is not a Jew, therefore I can forgive his ignorance and indifference toward Jews. But I cannot forgive Jews who agreed with him. They, on the eve of Yom Kipur, forgot the sufferings of their ancestors who for 2000 years tried to use “diplomacy” instead of the might. They should know what such “diplomacy” had led to. People, whom history teaches nothing, don’t deserve forgiveness.

As good as the Israeli military is, Israel has little in common with Sparta. Anyone who has read anything of history would know that.

Pam Green says:

@ Sara Ivry – Instead of insulting Tablet’s readers, dismissing them as uninformed, why don’t you respond to their complaints? I’m sure I’m not the only person who would like to hear you explain why you didn’t ask Patrick Tyler the tough questions.

Tibor Harari says:

Israel is Sparta? That`s a good catch-phrase but makes no
sense. The society is totally civilian and treats the military duties
reluctantly as something imposed on the country as a necessity and better gone.

Israel is simply in the forefront of a conflict of global nature by its geographical location. The US is already engaged in warring acts, directly or indirectly,in a dozen
of arenas – it is just lucky enough to be big and far away.

I Iistened, expecting to hear something new. (I have lived in Israel for 36 years, and followed the change from the more austere, group oriented and cocky society after ’67, to the more individualistic country of today.) And then I heard the stale political stereotypes:
The author correctly identified the Israeli military’s culture with the old left Socialist elite. But then he got dragged down in recent years, to identifying diplomatic slogans, with actions.
Of Israelis 20 odd wars and major combat campaigns, only ONE was fought under a ” militaristic” Likud/Revisionist government: the Peace of the Galilee, Lebanon war under Begin. (It actually was Lebanon#2. Everybody conveniently forgets Rabin’s Litani Campaign, Peres’ Grapes of Wrath, and Olmert’s Lebanon fiasco.) Begin authorized a very limited campaign along the border. Ariel Sharon and Rafael Eitan, both classic products of Labor party moshavim and the leftist Hagana and Palmach, disobeyed the democratically elected government, and brought the army to Beirut.

“Intransigent” Yitzchak Shamir and “trigger happy” Bibi, and in reality cautious. They refused to take unnecessary risks, both on the field of combat, and in unreparable diplomatic concessions.

rocky2345 says:

The Haredi don’t look very Spartan like to me and they won’t even serve in the military. Given that they are the fastest growing part of the Jewish population, they will be the undoing of the country.

I’m now 1/3 thru the book. My reaction, thus far, is thank HaShem for the “sabra military elite” . What other way can a post Shoah Jew think? Israel is a fractious democracy. That said, a Spartan warrior attitude is needed to live in this treacherous neighborhood. Over the last few years I have served as a volunteer 5 times on Israeli combat bases in the north. I have tisked my life to stand and support my brothers and sisters . Staring down Hezbollahs 50,000 missiles requires grit and determination. Better not be “a lamp unto the nations” than a lamp shade.

Egypt is a democracy. Lebanon is a democracy. Iraq is a democracy. Yemen is a democracy. Iran is a democracy. Tunisia is a democracy. Turkey is democracy. Lots of democracies in the mid-east and area. Granted, Israel is the only atomic democracy in the mid-east…maybe that was your point.

Nat Ben Zimri says:

I take great comfort in the fact that our country has a staunch ally in the Mideast called Israel. Israel has sometimes been called the largest aircraft carrier in our fleet. And for good reason. While the whole Mideast region radicalizes and boils over in anti-USA violence and hatred, we can always count on Israel for a safe landing and to be our only true friend in this region that hates the West more and more with each passing day. We both share the same Judeo-Christian values. We’re both democracies. We’re both proud countries that respect human life, human rights and freedoms of all kinds. We’re both the West. Like it or not, we need Israel perhaps as much as Israel needs us. I dare say maybe even more. That’s why I am more than a bit concerned about our government’s misguided foreign policy towards Israel. It seems that far from supporting her as we should be, we’re throwing her under a bus. We appease her enemies. We disrespect her prime minister. And most disturbingly, we try to push through the “Two State Solution” to the Israel-Palestinian issue.
This two state “solution” is bad for Israel because if forced upon Israel, then she will be forced to surrender her most important strategic asset – the high ground – and will be left defenseless. Take a look at the following website for an explanation. The pictures that you’ll see herein don’t lie. They explain why Israel must never fall into the “Two State Solution” trap.
Click here: http://shomroncentral.blogspot.co.il/

Nat Greenwald says:

Quick question for Mr. Tyler: Did Sparta start or lose the Peloppenesian war? Sparta was so militarized because it had to maintain control over the vastly more numerous helots. This made Sparta more cautious in foreign policy–it was extremely reluctant to send its troops away from Sparta and possibly allow for a helot revolt.

Mr. Tyler also says the bellicose defense ministry batters the possibly more peaceful foreign ministry. Is Lieberman more dovish than Barak? Was Netanyahu, a lifelong businessman and politician, more dovish than Sharon?

Israel is more like Athens. Militaristic, artistic and democratic at the same time. Oh and ever-changing. It may also resemble the Roman Republic.
Maybe the settlers have something in common with Sparta. Blaming everything on Israel seems extremely unfair and unreasonable.

JakeUSA says:

I do agree with most of what you wrote, however Israel is not a Western country. Israel is a Middle Eastern country, and while the Jewish people do share many values with the West, they are not a Western people. This common misconception gives credence to the myth that Israel is a Western colony.

after living among muslims for many years I have learned one thing, that is that unless you are a fellow muslim, they are an untrustworthy and treacherous race of people which makes any talks or negotiation with them extreamly difficult. I am not a racist or a biggot I am merely reporting on the behavoir of the muslims which i have lived amoung for many years

Like a wise man once said “you get more with a smile and a gun than with just a smile”.

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Is Israel a Modern Sparta?

In Fortress Israel, journalist Patrick Tyler argues that the country’s warrior ethos impedes Mideast peace

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