Middle East atemporal

Aprilie 30, 2012

Speaking Truth to Power in Israel

Filed under: Uncategorized — mihaibeltechi @ 4:00 am

Emanating out of Israel over the past several months has been a remarkable series of dissents against lines taken by the current government of Benjamin Netanyahu from senior and respected members of the Israeli national-security establishment. The dissenters are individuals whose dedication to the security of Israel is, given their careers, beyond question. They also are men whose experience and expertise make them worth listening to. Some have commented on the long-term peril to Israel of letting the conflict with the Palestinians fester while indefinitely occupying all of the West Bank. More recently, they have addressed the subject the Netanyahu government has put at the top of its public agenda, which is Iran and its nuclear program.

Most of the observations have come from former senior officials, who naturally are freer to speak openly and honestly than when they were in government. But some similar dissents have even emerged, albeit in far more nuanced and fragmented form, from currently serving officials. The current head of Mossad, Tamir Pardo, has questioned the notion that an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose an existential threat to Israel. Last week Lieutenant General Benny Gantz, the chief of General Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, said in an interview that Iranian leaders were rational people who he expects will see the advantage for Iran of agreeing not to build a nuclear weapon. Advocates for the Israeli government quickly tried to spin the general’s comments as not contradicting the government’s positions. But in fact, the remarks diverged sharply from the efforts of Netanyahu and his ministers not only to question the rationality of Iranian leaders but also to bad-mouth the ongoing negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 as a damaging waste of time.

Then on Friday came a scathing critique of Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak from Yuval Diskin, the immediate past head of the internal-security service Shin Bet. Diskin said the pair act out of messianic sentiments but, noting that “I have seen them up close,” they are in fact not messiahs. Diskin stated that Netanyahu and Barak have been “creating a false impression about the Iranian issue” and “appealing to the stupid public” by suggesting that resort to military force would eliminate the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon rather than, as is more likely, motivating Tehran to take the decision it has not yet taken to build a bomb.

Americans listening to these exchanges in Israel should draw several conclusions. First, we are seeing one of Israel’s most admirable characteristics, which is free and vigorous debate among Israeli citizens enjoying liberal democracy. Whatever are the faults in that democracy—especially the part with a lot of people living under occupation and not enjoying political rights—there is still a part where such rights prevail. In fact, Israel, with its vigorous debates on such matters, goes one better than the United States, where discussion of issues involving Israel is contorted and constrained by what is at best political correctness and at worst a code of omerta. Debates in the United States about Israel would be more informative if they were more like debates within Israel.

Second, we should listen to the substance of what the experienced Israeli national-security professionals are saying. Diskin, for example, really did have a lot of experience observing Netanyahu in action. And Netanyahu really is exhibiting a combination of misplaced messianism and misleading the public.

Third, the Israeli debates are a reminder that the policies of the Israeli government of the day are not to be equated with the interests of Israel. Any government gets to define national interests, and the best way of pursuing them, as long as it is in power. But that definition is only an act of temporary control. Even in a democracy, the definition may be a narrow and warped version of a larger sense of the national interest. In the previous U.S. administration (which, of course, was ushered into office by hanging chad and a court decision), neoconservatives seized control of national-security policy—enough to start a major offensive war—but the resulting policy did not advance the national interest and did not even emerge from a majority sense of the national interest. Netanyahu’s government is the product of coalition building under the Israeli electoral system amid ethnic and religious complexities and the weakness of parties of the Left and Center.

Finally, and related to the third point, Americans who consider themselves supporters of Israel ought to think carefully and hard about exactly what they are supporting. Falling in line with what Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying is most definitely not equivalent to supporting Israel. If it were, it would be the same—Republicans in particular ought to get this comparison—as saying that a foreign government endorsing any of Barack Obama’s policies was equivalent to support for the United States. Passionate attachment to any foreign country has a bad enough effect on the security and interests of the United States. The effect is even worse when the attachment is to a particular foreign leadership that isn’t even acting in the best interests of its own country.



1 comentariu »

    The UK Guardian reported today that Yuval Diskin, the former chief of Israel’s internal security organisation, Shin Bet, said that:

    …the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and defence minister, Ehud Barak – the principal advocates of military action against Iran’s nuclear programme – were unfit to lead the country and could not be trusted to conduct a war. The „messianic” pair were misleading the public on the merits of an attack.

    The Guardian went on to report that:

    The former Shin Bet chief did not confine his comments to Iran. On peace negotiations with the Palestinians, he said: „Forget all about the stories they’re selling you in the media about how we want to talk but [Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas] doesn’t, and so forth. I’m telling you, we’re not talking with the Palestinians because this government has no interest in talking with the Palestinians … I know from up close what is going on in that area”.

    Diskin presented the Iran issue and the Palestinian issue as though they were two separate issues that needed to be dealt with but which he considered were being handled badly by Netanyahu and Barak.

    The reality, however, is that the two issues are very much related to each other; indeed, the extreme right-wing Zionist obsession with Iran is because the Zionists real determination is to not only never allow the Palestinian people to ever have a state of their own, but to occupy and eventually annex the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon up to the Litani River. Together with the Golan Heights, which they have already annexed after taking it from Syria, they hope to realise their long held dream of creating a Greater Israel. Iran comes into the picture because it is Iran that supports the two organisations, Hamas and Hezbollah, which are preventing the Greater Israel Zionists from realising their dream.

    While the Israeli’s know that the world will not tolerate Israel simply marching in and taking what they want, the Greater Israel Zionists believe that if war breaks out between Israel and Iran on the pretext that Iran is a threat to Israel, then such a war would could also provide the pretext for Israel to invade and occupy the Gaza, West Bank and south Lebanon telling the world that it was necessary in order to prevent Hamas and Hezbollah retaliating against Israel for Israel’s attack against Iran.

    Netanyahu is now under massive pressure. He and Barak are reliant on the US in their war against Iran. While Israel will fire the opening shots against Iran, it will need the US to finish the job on Iran while Israel deals with Hamas and Hezbollah. As the US elections approach, the timing of a war against Iran becomes critical. The fact that Israeli elections may take place at around the same time as the US elections makes the timing even more critical.

    And now, with internal pressures dominating headlines in Israel, Netanyahu and Barak’s hands may be forced to take the ultimate step while in the US, Obama, under electoral pressure from the Republicans and the American right-wing and neoconservatives that support the Greater Israel Zionists, may feel obliged to take a punt knowing that a successful war against Iran will ensure him a second term.

    Factors operating against this scenario which may prevent war are: Obama may resist pressure from Israel to instigate a war against Iran if opinion polls favour him right up to the election and if he knows that he is going to get over the line reasonably comfortably. That, coupled with internal pressures in Israel against Netanyahu and Barak’s push for war, may well tip the balance to avoid war.

    Comentariu de Fabio — Aprilie 30, 2012 @ 4:03 am | Răspunde

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Lasă un răspuns

Completează mai jos detaliile tale sau dă clic pe un icon pentru a te autentifica:

Logo WordPress.com

Comentezi folosind contul tău WordPress.com. Dezautentificare /  Schimbă )

Fotografie Google+

Comentezi folosind contul tău Google+. Dezautentificare /  Schimbă )

Poză Twitter

Comentezi folosind contul tău Twitter. Dezautentificare /  Schimbă )

Fotografie Facebook

Comentezi folosind contul tău Facebook. Dezautentificare /  Schimbă )


Conectare la %s

Creează un sit web gratuit sau un blog la WordPress.com.

%d blogeri au apreciat asta: