Israel's Elections, the Saudis Under Attack, and Lessons from the Roman Republic

It is early Wednesday morning Minnesota time as I am writing this posting.  We are still awaiting the results of the election yesterday in Israel.  As of this morning, the election is too close to call.  It seems that the Likud party and its leader Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Blue and White Party with its leader Benny Gantz are tied, each party controlling 32 seat within the 120 seat Knesset.  As I have explained before, it takes a majority of the Knesset seats to organize a government, thus meaning 61 seats.  If the election holds as it presently is, then both sides will begin to tally up the support they have from the other parties that also will have representation within the Knesset - each seeking that 61 seat majority goal.  Ultimately, it will be up to the decision of the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, as to whom he will call upon to form a government.  We should have a clearer picture of the election results later today. 


This is a critical election for Israel.  Hamas has stepped up its rocket attacks into Israel from the Gaza Strip.  The IDF has responded with strategic aerial attacks, yet the threats of an all-out military engagement within the Gaza Strip certainly seems inevitable.  And then there is the threat from Israel's northern neighbors - Lebanon and Syria.  Hezbollah has become more vocal over the past several months, and the presence of Iranian forces within Syria always cause Israel to be on guard.  Finally there is the almost daily threats from Iran that their intent is to wipe Israel from the face of the earth.  Thus the leadership within Israel is crucial. 


President Trump had indicated that he would not reveal his "deal of the century" plan for peace within the Middle East until after the Israeli elections.  Because of the uncertainty of the outcome, I am confident that such a revelation will be delayed yet once again. 


So, the question is asked, "What if no coalition government can be formed?"  That can only mean that new elections will be called.  And so the process starts over once again.  Could Israelis have a third national election within the space of one year?  The possibility does exist for that to happen.  But let's hope that it does not.


Speaking of the Middle East, over the weekend tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran certainly were ramped up.  A major Saudi oil field was attacked by guided missiles and drones.  The attack brought to a halt nearly one-quarter of the Saudi oil production.  The Saudis and the United States were quick to condemn the attack as coming from Iran. Forensic teams from both countries are combing through the debris and a definitive conclusion as to the origins of the attack will become known after their investigation is completed. 


This attack fits with the increased belligerence we have seen from Iran in recent months.  Oil tankers within the Straits of Hormuz have been attacked.  An American reconnaissance drone was shot down by an Iranian missile.  Iranian gunboats have become more menacing within the Straits threatening the shipping lanes.  One theory about this increased volatility on the part of Iran is that, because of the sanctions placed upon Iran by the United States, the Iranian economy is struggling.  So, in order to take some of the pressure off, Iran has chosen to become more hostile.  Perhaps the Iranian people will see these hostilities as a threat upon their sovereignty and not be as focused upon the painful economics of their country. There was a very interesting article posted at The Daily Signal website that I recommend.  It was an interview of Peter Brookes from the Heritage Foundation.  You can find it at: www.dailysignal.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-attack-on-saudi-arabia


Again, with this increased threat from Iran, the result of the Israeli elections takes on a more strategic importance. 


Finally, I would highly recommend the following article for your reading.  It was written by Steele Brand from the Washington Post: www.thehour.com/opinion/article/Why-knowing-Roman-history-is-key-to-preserving-14445569.  Let me share just a few paragraphs from this amazing and very important article.  "The United States didn't simply poof into existence, fully formed, from the brains of the Founders.  History guided them as they crafted the American system of governance.  This included the European traditions they were partially rejecting, but also elements from an older generation of republics that they wished to copy, especially the Roman Republic.  And while our problems today feel distinctly modern, Rome still has lessons that can guide our republic.  Polybius, a Greek who saw Rome's republic conquer the world, believed those statesmen and citizens who knew Roman history could shape the future with wisdom and justice.  This is what the Founders did, adapting the lessons of Rome to new problems - and it's what we must do again today."


"Not surprisingly, then, Rome inspired many features of our own constitution, including its checks and balances, bicameral legislature, term limits and age requirements.  In some cases, the Founders copied terms straight out of the Roman constitution: words like senate, capitol and committee."


The author then makes the contrast between the revolution occurring in America and that occurring in France at nearly the same time.  "This Roman influence was crucial, because a very different path presented itself at the time the Founders were designing the United States.  The French Revolution took a different course than its American counterpart.  It did not simply seek to rebalance power but rather to eradicate all existing power bases.  The revolutionaries overthrew everything: the monarchy, the church, the nobility, property rights and most of the other things that had held the French people together for centuries.  The result was total anarchy fueled by bloody purges of whoever happened to be on the wrong side of the revolution, which was constantly changing in the 1790s. 


"The situation ended not with a stable republic but with a strongman, General Napoleon Bonaparte.  The bloodshed of his regime stood in stark contrast to the reign of the former general leading the United States in the 1790s.  George Washington stepped aside from the presidency in 1797, personifying self-sacrifice and a peaceful transfer of power.


"While Washington propagated these lessons in republican civic virtue, the French Revelation became a model for the brutal communist and fascist takeovers of the 20th century in Russia and Germany.  Like the French, Russian and Nazi revolutionaries believed they could ignore the bounds of history and create a new world order form scratch.  These alternatives reveal how differently things might have gone for the United States had Founders like Washington not humbly sought the wisdom of the ancients.  By staying rooted in history, America did not descend into France's revolutionary tyranny or the totalitarian utopianism of the 20th century."


The author closes with these powerful words: "In a broad sense, America was remarkably unoriginal.  The way it governed, the virtues it demanded of its citizens and the heroes it celebrated were inspired by the successes of the past.  By looking at the republican path hewed by Rome so many centuries earlier, the American founders learned how to move into the future.  They knew what humans were capable of, what government could and couldn't do and what citizens ought to do.  That was the brilliance of the Founders: rather than trying to create something never tested, they adapted the lessons of history to their own age.  They used older models in innovative ways, like making Rome's unwritten constitutional norms part of America's written Constitution and extending a republic across a continent using federalism and representation.  Their legacy challenges us not just to know history, but to understand how it applies to the questions of today.  This raises the most pressing and dangerous risk confronting us: a republic can endure many things, but a citizenry ignorant of the past dooms it to failure."  Friends, this could not be said any better.














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