Israel’s ruling class

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In a much discussed article in the current issue of the American Spectator titled “America’s Ruling Class,” Prof. Angelo Codevilla describes the divide between those who run the US – the politicians, bureaucrats and policy establishment – and the rest of the country. 


He laments, “Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust.” 


In his view, the American ruling class “was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the ‘in’ language — serves as a badge of identity.” 


The main unifying characteristic of the American “ruling class” as Codevilla describes it is inexhaustible contempt for the majority of their countrymen who are not part of their clique. In his words, “our ruling class does not like the rest of America. Most of all does it dislikes that so many Americans think America is substantially different from the rest of the world and like it that way.” 
Codevilla’s article focuses on US domestic policy. He accuses the ruling class of purposely spending the US into insolvency. He claims that their goal is to aggregate power. The more Americans depend on governmental largesse for their livelihoods, the greater the power of the government to dictate norms of social and political behavior and the greater the governing class’s hold on power.


Codevilla claims that the Republicans are the permanent minority in the ruling class which is naturally aligned with the Democrats. When they are in power, the Republicans, he claims repress populist and conservative voices within their ranks calling for small government and do so to maintain their good relations with their colleagues in Democratic ruling circles. His prime example of a ruling class Republican is the first president George Bush. 


Codevilla quotes former Soviet ruler Mikhail Gorbachev’s retelling of a conversation he reportedly had with the vice president Bush about then president Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev claimed that Bush told him not to take Reagan seriously because, “Reagan is a conservative, an extreme conservative. All the dummies and blockheads are with him.”


THERE IS A clear foreign policy corollary to Codevilla’s discussion. Just as US bureaucrats, journalists, politicians and domestic policy wonks tend to combine forces to perpetuate and expand the sclerotic and increasingly bankrupt welfare state, so their foreign policy counterparts tend to collaborate to perpetuate failed foreign policy paradigms that have become writs of faith for American and Western elites.


A prime example of this is US Middle East policy. Regardless of its repeated failure over the course of four decades, since 1970, and with ever-increasing urgency since 1988, the consensus view of the US foreign policy elite has been that Israel’s size is the cause of violence and instability in the Middle East. If Israel would just contract into the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, everything would be wonderful. The so-called “extremists” in the Arab and Islamic worlds will become moderates. Iran, Syria, the Saudis, the Palestinians, al Qaida, Hizbullah and the rest would abandon terror and beat their suicide belts and ballistic missiles into ploughshares. 


An outstanding example of this sort of cross-partisan nonsense was the 2006 bipartisan Iraq Study Group’s recommendations to then president George W. Bush. The war in Iraq was going nowhere and the considered view of esteemed Republican and Democratic policy hands was to stick it to Israel. 


In the considered view of these wise men, for the US to emerge from Iraq with honor, it didn’t actually have to defeat its enemies. Instead, according to Republicans like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft and Democrats like Lee Hamilton and Zbigniew Brzezinski all Bush needed to do was force Israel to cough up the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Then al Qaida in Iraq, the Shiite militias and all the rest would shrivel up or – at a minimum – allow the US to withdraw its military forces from the country without being humiliated. 


The likes of Baker, Scowcroft, Brzezinski and Hamilton and their students comprise a permanent Middle East policy ruling class that endures regardless of who is in power and what their actual views about Middle Eastern realities happen to be.


But they couldn’t survive if they didn’t receive help from Israel. Given that most Americans support a strong Israel and view Israel as a vital US ally in the Middle East, they would be hard-pressed to maintain their failed and unpopular policies if they weren’t amply assisted by their counterparts in the Israeli ruling class. 


This week Ha’aretz – the trumpet of Israel’s ruling class – gave us all a primer in how this sort of thing works. In an article titled, “Obama has ways and means to check on Netanyahu,” military commentator Amir Oren disclosed the close collaboration between the Obama administration and a handful of hard-left retired IDF officers against the Netanyahu government.


Oren reported that ahead of Obama’s meeting this month with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, retired IDF brigadier generals Shlomo Brom, Udi Dekel and Baruch Spiegel met secretly in Rome with retired US rear admiral John Sigler who heads the Middle East research institute at the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The purpose of their meeting was twofold. 


First, as Oren put it, they were asked to “clarify whether in the dispute between [the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government] Netanyahu truly represent the majority in Israel.” That is, they were supposed to tell Sigler how to drive a wedge between the democratically elected government and the Israel voters who elected it.


And second, they were supposed to furnish Obama with arguments to reject Netanyahu’s arguments for why Israel cannot retreat to the 1949 armistice lines. As Oren put it, “When Netanyahu tells Obama there is something he can’t do because it would be the death of him, experts like the three brigadiers general can map out Israel’s ranges of flexibility to Sigler, and through him pass them along… to Obama.”


Activities like those Oren reports are a permanent feature in Israelpolicy circles. Regardless of who is in office, the likes of Brom, Dekel and Spiegel and their leader Yossi Beilin are always working with the Americans and Europeans to force Israel to maintain allegiance to the failed land for peace paradigm. Year in and year out, these anti-democratic and strategically demented but well paid former officials maintain what they euphemistically refer to as “track two,” contacts with their counterparts in the European and American ruling class to force the majority of Israelis who don’t share their derangement to accept their policy dictates.


Codevilla predicts that a clash between the ruling class and the ruled in the US is just a matter of time, although he makes scant predictions or recommendations for how that clash will play itself out. Just so, the time has come for Israelis to confront our own ruling class and develop methods for weakening its chokehold on Israel’s domestic and foreign policy. 


For too long and to our unmitigated detriment Israelis have allowed a small unelected minority to dictate our national policies. The views and loyalties of this minority – like their counterparts in
the US – are opposed to those of the majority of Israelis. 


If our democracy is to have meaning and if our lives and country are to be defended, we need to empower our elected leaders to stand up to those – like Brom, Speigel and Dekel -who work actively to subvert the principle of government by consent of the governed.



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  • Anonymous 07/28/2010 at 18:30

    Disgustingly sad, the Israeli hard-left clique display similarities to the disobedience regarding the Amalekites.

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 07/28/2010 at 20:58

    A clash between the ruling class and the ruled in the US will play itself out when the US Treasury is categorically insolvent. America will eventually implode due to unsustainable interest payments on its national debt. The US dollar will become worthless, and the so-called elite will pay heavily from the righteous anger of the American people. As for Israel, it will take a costly war to return the elite to intellectual honesty. Both American and Israeli elites are able to flourish due to relative peace and security, which are fleeting.

  • Anne Julienne 07/29/2010 at 0:56

    wow … tell it to ’em … go girl … you’re pure gold!

  • Terry, Eilat - Israel 07/29/2010 at 3:07

    Well, you finally came to the heart of the problem. Mazel tov, it’s about time.
    While the external threats to our country are certainly real enough, our real problems are internal. As a country, we have the means to deal with threats. But, the sad fact is that we almost never do what’s plainly in our national interest because our country’s elites betray us at every turn.
    We have a political system that is totally dysfunctional, a ghastly failure. This is not a new phenomenon, it dates from the very founding of our country. Most of what we call the ”West” is suffering from the same malady.
    An unaccountable irresponsible elite, devoid of common sense, self-interested, & greedy to maintain & extend control, dominates.
    Our situation, however, is far more acute than other countries. They do not face existential threats.
    I literally cringe when listening to Israeli politicians. Reading the news & opinion pieces in the Israeli media leaves me dumbfounded, in disbelief, at the sheer stupidity expressed.
    Yet, I see few realistic methods for effecting change. Our political system cannot produce leaders – it excels at producing mediocre political hacks.

  • Xaxam 07/29/2010 at 4:28

    The battle for US universities was lost in the Eighties: since then the faculty, traditionally rather conservative (and fiercely fought by the draft dodgers and hippies in the seventies) was gradually replaced by the “rebels”. Now these gray-pony-tailed profs command practically all universities, among them the most prestigious ones like Harvard and Columbia.
    In Israel the academy was always left-leaning, so there is no even the glorious past to evoke. Clearly, the humanities faculties by themselves will never rid of the irrefutable socialist and multicultural worldview: no experimental data can in principle contradict their beliefs.
    The only chance for rescue of the academy is in the sciences: to make things work, one needs to be responsive to signals from the outside world, and engineers cannot afford sticking to failed theories simply because they are aesthetically more attractive.
    Until this war for souls is waged and won, the gap between the ruling elites and the down-to-earth people will only deepen.

  • Mike 07/29/2010 at 7:12

    How can these 3, out of power, and their friends, have such influence if Netenyahu and his friends with opposite views, duly elected, are in power? In the US, those mentioned, out of gov’t, share the views of the administration. Of course the Israeli left collaborates with Obama regarding Middle East policy, but who do they speak for? What elite within the Israeli gov’t are they representing?

  • Anonymous 07/29/2010 at 8:24

    Spot on. Also most of the military ruling class is comprehensively supportive of the Arabs
    and fuels the arms race which keeps the military-industrial complex humming. The need for advanced US armaments in response to the US arming the Arabs is yet another lever of the American ruling class on Israeli politicians.

  • Josh 07/29/2010 at 8:50

    Good article, Caroline. You forgot to mention Shimon Peres, mentor and patron of Yossi Beilin. Peres has done more to undermine Israel from within than any of Israel’s enemies could ever have hoped to achieve from the outside. Nothing will stop Peres from trying to get his own way. He always showed no respect for protocol or for democratically elected governments, even when David Ben-Gurion was prime minister. But as the founder of Israel’s security services, Peres still maintains excessive influence within the halls of power in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. His Peres Center for Peace funds many of the NGOs delegitimizing Israel from within and without.

  • Onward James 07/29/2010 at 15:02

    This piece about the “ruling class” is a coincidence because I happened to be listening to Rush Limbaugh talk about America and the lack of class by the elite and others.
    He stated that it is the absent belief in GOD.
    Perhaps, he is right, because the country has become metaphorically pornographic, too libertine, too submissive, too extreme, and to the left, those who desire freedom for themselves at the cost of freedom for pragamtic conservatives and decent families.
    Maybe this is why the Tea Party, in essence the gathering of common-sense people has grown, and, Sarah Palin has become a sound voice.

  • naomir 07/29/2010 at 15:15

    Unfortunately the revelation that a number of Israel’s hard-left are working in collusion with President Obama is not entirely a surprise. What is more bothersome is that many Israelis who are argumentative by nature have not raised their voices in protest. This is the future of Israel. What am I missing here?

  • The Editors 07/29/2010 at 16:11

    Codevilla’s essay should be required reading for all those who want understand why policy divisions exist between rulers and even in democratic societies. Miss Glick notes how Codevilla does not say how the conflict with the elites will play in the United States. Can we expect to hear from her on how it will play in Israel?

  • Gabriel 07/29/2010 at 17:42

    If Israel is not a democracy, then there is a reason to revive Irgun and the Stern Gang. Enough is enough.

  • Jake in Jerusalem 07/29/2010 at 18:36

    The scandal exposed today with Chaim Ramon is another example of this ‘ruling class’ mentality. The former minister and current chief advisor to Kadima’s Tzippy Livni was caught on tape at the American Colony Hotel in Jerusalem advising Saeb Erakat to refuse direct negotiations with Israel so as to defeat Benjamin Netanyahu. Ramon hoped that this would help bring down Likud and bring in Kadima. Just like the Oslo camp he came from, these people will do anything at all to advance their personal cause, irrespective of how much damage they might do to the country.

  • Ali Alyami 07/30/2010 at 0:43

    Well written and thoughtful piece. Ms. Caroline Glick is eloquent, knowledgeable and insightful. Control over every aspect people’s lives render them helpless, hopeless and dangerous to themselves and others. There is no better example to cite in this context than Saudi Arabia, my motherland. The ruling autocratic and theocratic Saudi-Wahhabi elitists control people’s lives and livelihood. The result is total dependence on a system whose institutions are designed to create a generation of young Saudi men and women many of whom make easy recruits for religious extremists and terrorists groups whose agenda is to destroy democratic institutions and replace them with a religious totalitarian system.

  • David 07/30/2010 at 4:49

    Hi –
    Thanks for another great article.
    I moved to Israel in 2001 and, for some time, I have had the sense that in both the US and Israel, the ‘silent majority’ is at the end of it’s tether.

  • Doby 07/30/2010 at 11:14

    Couldn’t the most simple solution be also the most realistic?: You, Sara Honig and the tiny handful of Israelis who both get it and have a clear vision and the ability to implement it start a political party and run for the Knesset to represent the large number of people in Israel who are sound of mind. For all its flaws, one virtue of the Israeli political system is that it has an incredibly low barrier to entry. Just as the pensioners party and others were easily able to get to the Knesset on almost playful platforms of narrow appeal, why can’t you get there riding the tsunami of public support that your message would generate? Israel is ready for you to unleash a Tea Party movement, or call it a Matzo Ball party movement. Why not?

  • anonymous 07/31/2010 at 22:38

    not only do Brom and company undercut Netanyaho but so do Peres, Barak, and Netanyahu himself.

  • Anonymous 08/01/2010 at 0:50

    The Myth of Israeli Democracy
    Paul Eidelberg
    Caroline Glick is to be congratulated for drawing a parallel between Angelo Codevilla’s exposé of America’s ruling class and its Israeli counterpart (see below). However, I venture to say that Codevilla, who I know is well versed in Aristotle’s political science, would take exception to Glick’s referring to Israel as a “democracy.”
    That Israel has a ruling class has been patently obvious since Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu adhered to Labor’s policy of “territory for peace” when he first became Israel’s prime minister in 1996. Since then, the present writer has referred to the Likud as the right-wing of the Labor Party. This was confirmed when Netanyahu’s predecessor Ariel Sharon crafted the March 2003 coalition agreement which bound the coalition parties to the Oslo or Israel-PLO Agreement of 1993. Nor is this all.
    Israel’s government had legal grounds for abrogating the Oslo Agreement in view of its blatant violations by the PLO. Moreover, and as I have elsewhere shown, since the policy of “territory for peace” did not have the support of public opinion, there is good reason to believe that Israel is far from being an authentic democracy despite its periodic, multiparty elections. This was clearly demonstrated when Likud prime minister Ariel Sharon adopted Labor’s policy of “unilateral disengagement” from Gaza—a policy rejected by at least 70 percent of the public in the January 2003 elections. How one can persist in calling Israel a democracy when its prime minister effectively nullified that election boggles the mind.
    Hence I find it remarkable that an intrepid and brilliant political analyst like Caroline Glick refrains from saying that the power of Israel’s ruling class is perpetuated by Israel’s undemocratic system of governance, as I have repeatedly shown in books, policy papers, and countless articles.
    If a person of her prestige were to expose Israel’s regime flaws as she so frequently reveals Israel’s policy flaws, this might have significant political influence in Israel where she is greatly and deservedly admired. Alas, by perpetuating the myth of Israeli democracy, she obscures the institutional causes of Israel’s self-destructive policies.
    It may be objected that exposing this myth will only arm Israel-bashers and anti-Semites. To this I say: “Has Israel’s reputation as a democracy disarmed these detractors?”
    On the other hand, by exposing the myth of Israeli democracy (especially in the United States), this would arouse great fear in Israel’s ruling class. Why? Because it is precisely the myth of Israeli democracy that legitimizes Israel’s ruling elites. Only by arousing the fear of losing their respectability will these elites undertake the institutional reforms required to make Israel a genuine democracy, where governments cannot ignore public opinion with impunity. Not that institutional reform is a panacea; but it’s a necessary means of minimizing the self-destructive consequences of its policies vis-a-vis Israel’s enemies.
    One last word. Just as the Likud has become the right-wing of the Labor Party, so the Republican Party in the United States may be deemed the right-wing of the Democratic Party. A political realignment may very well occur after the November 2010 elections. The American constitutional system of checks and balances may then kick in and drastically reduce if not terminate the power of America’s current ruling class. No election has a chance of terminating the power of Israel’s ruling class under Israel’s current system of governance.
    This means that the territorial policy of Israel’s government will not change, and that we shall therefore be very much in need of Ms. Glick’s perceptive political analyses.


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