The Piñata of Spring
The sweet bouquet of the Arab Spring has somehow managed to obscure the outright onslaught now underway by Team Obama, which to the horror of former supporters of the President within the pro-Israel camp, is shaping up as the diplomatic equivalent of the Tet Offensive. Designed to bring Netanyahu to the mat, the latest blitz has been cleverly packaged, Chicago-style, as a diplomatic protection plan.
The coming vote in the United Nations General Assembly this September in support of a unilaterally declared Palestinian State, presumably along the Obama designated "67 lines with swaps" would for Israel be a diplomatic hot potato of unimaginable consequence. So the Obama Administration, led by none other than American ambassador to the UN ( "end military aid to Israel")Susan Rice, has offered to corral the major UN players to "encourage" the Palestinian delegation to reconsider the floating of the unilateral declaration.
On a recent trip to Israel, I actually asked the Prime Minister's assistant, Ron Dermer, what he imagined the cost of the protection plan to be. Mr Dermer, not the type to be easily tongue tied, was visibly confounded by the question but most certainly had a ballpark idea.
The Palestinians, with the consent of the Obama Administration, have adamantly refused to sit at the negotiating table with Israel, and playing a slick game of chicken, are defiantly threatening to unilaterally declare a state but in an illogical reversal, it is Israel that is being heckled as the unrepentant Neanderthal.
Amazingly this proverbial push to nowhere for nothing, has mysteriously gained perceptible momentum, even with the lurking presence of the 800 pound gorilla. Somehow the high probability of the potential implosion of the region into the Islamist abyss doesn't seem to have been worked into anyone's numbers. On the contrary, Israel is being admonished for not willingly stepping up briskly in order to swing the stick vigorously at the bulging piñata, which is filled we are told, with a juicy bundle of strategic and political goodies. Never mind the fact that the grantee of this largesse is an international community whose collective balance sheet bears a morbid resemblance to the sinking Titanic. Or whose collective military impotence has failed to keep Libya's number one pathological murderer from mockingly poking his plastic injected jowls out of his bunker almost on a daily basis. Of course it's acknowledged that the deck has been stacked and packed, but why stop a good show if we can get Israel to consent (regardless if under duress) to walking blindfolded into oncoming traffic.
Such reckless folly might under certain conditions be worth the gamble, but for the fact that in this case Israel does not even have an entity to partner with. Never mind the horrifying implication of the recently signed Fatah-Hamas treaty which in and of itself has obliterated any remaining shred of incentive that Israel might have found to take any further risk. Even amongst the muted drone of his words, the supposedly moderate PM Salman Fayad, who our Chicago delegation recently visited in Ramallah, shocked us by his emphatic objection (with veins in his forehead bulging) at being required to recognize Israel as a "Jewish State."
It's not the moral issue of the denial of Israel's right to recognition as a Jewish State that matters. Rather, it's the Palestinian people's mind-boggling acceptance of the very steep price that they continue to pay for not being willing to concede a very simple fact that almost the entire world already acknowledges. Does that have anything to do with a culture that has nurtured the highest concentration of children anywhere willing to strap on bombs and self detonate? Would anybody deny that the depth and the intensity of that self immolating intransigence is a little scary? Having twice failed to heed the warning signs of this intransigent nature, it would not be prudent for Israel to once again allow herself to be held to a standard above which no other sovereign nation would be called on to uphold. The dots have all been laid out -- they just now need to be connected.
No objective analysis, given the current intransigence of the PA and the growing volatility within the region, would support the real and absolute security risks entailed in the diplomatic formula that will ultimately require the phased relinquishment of the vital Israeli "security envelope" located around the perimeter of the West Bank. As both the withdrawal from Gaza and Southern Lebanon by Israel have conclusively demonstrated, the inflow of lethal weaponry once underway, is nearly impossible to reverse, especially given the reluctance and the unavailability of the international community to deal effectively with the curtailment of such profitable activity.
Where it is accurate to point to PM Netanyahu's ramshackle coalition as a potential source of what has been referred to as diplomatic "rigidity," it is of greater importance to recognize that the defensive liability resulting from the dismantling of the West Bank "security envelope" (including the Jordan River valley). Narrowing Israel's defensive depth would create a risk with far greater a downside than any projected risk in the future resulting from a successful campaign intended to delegitimize Israel as an "occupier" and an "apartheid state." Not to say that a successful campaign of delegitimization which led to the isolation of Israel would not be a problem of severe magnitude. It's just that former choice is an imminent death sentence while the latter would always leave room to maneuver, at least for a period of time.
In weighing the balance between the real defensive liabilities created by concessions that eroded the "security envelope" versus the perceived diplomatic fallout resulting from a potentially higher gear campaign to delegitimize Israel, there would seem to be little choice as to the required path. Israel's first obligation is the defense of her citizens. Such a defense includes the maintenance of a weapons-free West Bank. A West Bank that was allowed to turn into a weapons dump, even one tenth the magnitude as exits today in Gaza, would represent the antithesis of sound defense.
The rising force of Islamism in the region could, in the not too distant future, turn Egypt from a distant but reliable partner to hostile and a dangerously American-armed adversary. Both Lebanon and Syria are also potentially Islamist ideological implosions waiting to happen. Turkey, not long ago a military ally of Israel and a NATO member, will continue the slide backwards into an Islamist-controlled state. For Israel, given the intense volatility of these emerging facts on the ground, it would be difficult to justify the substantial increase in the defensive burden that would result from the erosion of the "security envelope" and the resultant inflow of lethal weaponry into an area which has remained substantially free of any concentration of offensive weapon systems for the last 44 years.
If concessions were made on the West Bank which called for relinquishing control, and subsequently it was decided that re-entry to the West Bank were the only option, Israel would be faced with the unpalatable but essential task of rooting out enclaves of killers lodged guilefully amongst Palestinian civilians. Operation Cast lead would in comparison to such an operation look like a church picnic. The blowback by the international community would be Goldstone magnified by a power of ten. We've already seen how courageously the world defended Israel against Goldstone.
Finally, we get to the issue of the ability of the United States to back up the essential guaranty that would have to underwrite any further Israeli material concessions. If we have learned anything in the last ten years, it is that Jihad is a relentless enemy. It is conceivable that America's collective will would diminish in the not too distant future, overburdened militarily and financially. With these conditions potentially inhibiting the future enforcement of any previously issued guaranty, Israel without the buffer afforded by "security envelope" around the West Bank would have am impossible defensive burden.
It is time to press the reset button. Israel is a vital ally and a democracy which, like us, is committed to stopping the same enemy. As long as Islamism continues its unabated sweep throughout the region, Western democracies will not be in a position to barter our way out. Instead we must do all we can do to win the fight by strengthening our allies.