Astonishing History

After appealing directly to the people in his speech, the prime minister should alter the coalition and summon the authority to win a critical mass of support.

The phrase "politics is the art of the possible" befits dealmakers whose main motivation is to look out for their own interests. A statesman, on the other hand, first examines the issue on its merits, and only then considers how to form the best policy implementable, while expanding the boundaries of "the possible" and being ready to take a personal risk.

Israel's diplomatic-security predicament greatly necessitates a paradigm leap that will astonish history. Yet this bit of innovation has no chance if the philosophy is limited to the hell that is "the tyranny of the existing situation." The right strategy, therefore, is to prepare a credible diplomatic-security plan to puncture all opposition, as opposed to the usual method of tailoring diplomacy to current-day limitations.

It is important to understand the elements of the tyranny of the present situation. The first is the near mystical belief in miracles, which includes a pretentious philosophy giving human beings an understanding of the divine, exempting them from responsibility for grasping reality. People hold this belief despite warnings from the rabbinical sages, given the ramifications on Jewish history.

This worldview is accompanied by a political theology in which haphazardly interpreted religious commandments are translated into policy, blurring the boundaries between the rule of the state and the rule of the clergy. The current period meshes with an updated version of the formula "if you will it, it is no dream," while ignoring the possibility that, under different circumstances, "if you will it too much and believe in the impossible, it will be a nightmare of destruction."

Another element of the tyranny of the present situation is the adherence to obsolete defense doctrines like the Allon Plan, "defensible borders" and a lack of understanding of the ramifications of defense operations from a diplomatic and public-relations standpoint. This is accompanied by the fractured political system, which creates wobbly coalitions which, given the lack of strong leadership, precludes decisive choices. This comes against the backdrop of the settlers' ideological zeal and the yet-to-be-determined strength of the settler movement in Judea and Samaria.

If the limitations under the present circumstances were completely debilitating, there would be no alternative but to render Israel a state in decline due to an inability to adjust to the new reality. Yet it is possible to overcome the tyranny of the present situation if the prime minister combines a fox's wits with a lion's urgency.

Hopefully, in the days leading up to his policy speech, the prime minister assembled a small group of aides and colleagues to prepare a new diplomatic-security plan without excessive concern for the prevailing circumstances. For political reasons, it is advisable to confer with various officials on this matter, without assigning too much importance to these consultations.

The preferred route is an arrangement for the Mideast that includes ironclad incentives for Israel in exchange for concessions from which there is no escape. Peace would be advanced to the greatest extent possible. The plan would include progress in stages toward establishing a Palestinian state and an agreement with Syria, which would accompany full relations with most Arab and Muslim states. There would also be reliable security arrangements to contain and neutralize radical elements.

Once satisfied with the plan, the prime minister must make clear to Israel and the world that he stands behind its underlying principles. He should also make it clear that he will not remain in office if the plan is not approved.

The president could perhaps help prepare the plan and present it to the public. This would overstep legal authority, but extraordinary times call for unusual actions, as long as the rule of law and democratic principles are preserved.

After laying the groundwork carefully and presenting the plan, the prime minister must appeal directly to the people, alter the coalition and summon the moral, political and communicative authority to win a critical mass of support - backing that would overcome the tyranny of the present situation. If necessary, he should also resort to a referendum.

The writer is founding president of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, an Israel Prize laureate and professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University.