Vox Tablet

Is Israel a Modern Sparta?

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

September 24, 2012
Israeli soldiers on standby along Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on March 13, 2012.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

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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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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