If the Israeli nation is grounded, as I have suggested elsewhere, on an epistemological gap too wide to traverse without repeated recourse to the passage a l'acte, then the recent incursions into Lebanon pose the question again as to how the fantasy of Israel's ontology is held in place, as to how, to use a term I like a lot, it imagines itself as coherent and, perhaps most importantly here, who suffers the consequences of that composure.
Composure in this sense is a discursive habituation writ large, made material by supreme effort of will. In a palpable sense, war is always grounded on his kind of Durchbruch, running always counter the logics of what Benjamin might once have termed the enlightenment trajectory, but, of course, always consistent with it as its internalised other: it is perhaps one of the most striking insights of the postwar Frankfurt school, to see the holocaust as grounded in the logic of Enlightenment.
War thus marks a certain moment in the decay of discourse, a kind of rude Aufhebung of the terms of that discourse which are difficult to repair after the event. What is crucial about the Israeli situation is the sense in which it hangs on to notion of pre-traumatic space and place, regardless of the marking again of that space as always already traumatic. It is as if the nation of Israel itself were a long and tortuous refusal, a testament to the consistency of special-mission nationalisms (the most famous of which, of course, were Germany and Russia, and more recently the collapse of Yugoslavia, all of which suffered tremendously for their fidelity to that illusion).
The continuity of this Sonderweg politics thus works like a kind of pan-European deep narrative: Zionism itself was born in the great Western metropolises, in German-speaking bourgeois circles (Herzl's disdain for Yiddish underlines this effete origin), born out of the encounter with Western-European nationalisms, with Lebensraum, the politics of a radicalised imperialism. It took these tropes and tuned them into a messianic narrative of return, return, return, as a politics of repetition...
The narrative has remained extraordinarily intact, not least because of US (and, to a lesser extent British) support for the 'Israel idea', but also because that support is mixed with a sense of being besieged: Isreal's Sonderweg is held in place not by the flimsy flim flam of torahism, but by the West's continued investment in the statement machine of th Middle East.
Neocon policy seems to cohere around this conception of eternal 'minor' conflict (i.e. as falling short of but promising cataclysm), conflict that can always be drawn on to radicalise public opinion and sustain an anxious hostility to an imagined or grossly overrhetoricised enemy. Israel thus serves a s a structural anchor in neocon policy: its centrality to neocon policy cannot be explained just by the strength of the American-Jewish lobby or by the rise of Christian right-wing pro-Israeli groups (those loonies who think that, come judgment day they will be judged according to their treatment of Israel). These lobbies are really not sufficiently powerful on their own to explain neocon policy.
No. What makes neocon policy so striking and, frankly, hideously dangerous, is its commitment to a politics of structure. What counts is the overall structure of the policy - its consistency unto itself, a kind of autonomisation of political thought. This is, I think, what explains the Israeli position in recent US foreign policy: Israel functions as a catalyst, and its fidelity to that old deep narrative of Sonderweg is what sustains its operability as catalyst.