Leo Strauss’s Forgotten Letter Defending Israel

In January 1957, National Review, then less than a year old, published a letter by Leo Strauss denouncing what he saw as the magazine’s anti-Israel stance and arguing that conservatives ought to support the Jewish state. Steven B. Smith extracts some important lessons for dealing with present-day assaults on Israel’s legitimacy:

Revealingly, Strauss never invokes the Holocaust as the reason for Israel’s existence. He refuses to treat causes that either highlight Jewish weakness or appeal to European guilt. If Israel is to stand, it must stand on its own two feet, that is, from sources within its own tradition.

The best reply to the deniers and delegitimizers is a serious engagement with the founding texts of Zionism—Theodor Herzl, Max Nordau, Aḥad Ha’am, Vladimir Jabotinsky. These are to Israel’s lifeblood what the Declaration of Independence and the Federalist Papers are to American self-understanding. Strauss points to the conditions of human dignity that can be attained only by a self-governing people capable of determining their fate while remaining loyal to their heritage. Israelis and, just as important, Americans trying to defend Israel must never shrink from this task.

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More about: Conservatism, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Leo Strauss, Zionism

What Is the Biden Administration Thinking?

In the aftermath of the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Friday, John Podhoretz observes some “clarifying moments.” The third strikes me as the most important:

Clarifying Moment #3 came with the news that the Biden administration is still calling for negotiations leading to a ceasefire after, by my count, the seventh rejection of the same by Hamas since Bibi Netanyahu’s secret offer a couple of weeks ago. Secretary of State Blinken, a man who cannot say no, including when someone suggests it would be smart for him to play high-school guitar while Ukraine burns, will be back in the region for the eighth time to urge Hamas to accept the deal. Why is this clarifying? Because it now suggests, here and for all time, that the Biden team is stupid.

Supposedly the carrot the [White House] is dangling in the region is a tripartite security deal with Saudi Arabia and Israel. Which would, of course, be a good thing. But like the stupid people they are now proving to be, they seem not to understand the very thing that led the Saudis to view Israel as a potential ally more than a decade ago: the idea that Israel means business and does what it must to survive and built itself a tech sector the Saudis want to learn from. Allowing Hamas to survive, which is implicitly part of the big American deal, will not lead to normalization. The Saudis do not want an Iranian vassal state in Palestine. Their entire foreign-policy purpose is to counter Iran. I know that. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that. Even Tony Blinken’s guitar is gently weeping at his dangling a carrot to Israel and Saudi Arabia that neither wants, needs, nor will accept.

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More about: Antony Blinken, Gaza War 2023, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship