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August 15, 2008: Most Disconcerting

August 14, 2008

That title might apply to most of what’s happening these days, I realize, but I have one particular situation in mind:

On Wednesday, Haaretz revealed that the US has rejected a request by Israel for military equipment that would enhance our ability to attack Iran.  They reportedly — and we’ve had suggestions of this before — see our readiness to do so as undermining US interests in the area.

It was in the context of this rejection that the Americans then offered to boost our defensive capabilities against incoming missiles — which I wrote about recently. 


The lesson for us, as spelled out by Aaron Lerner of IMRA:

“A stunning reminder to Israel why it is so important to continue developing and maintaining the Israeli arms industry.”

Bottom line:  Friends, shmends, each nation ultimately acts in what it perceives to be its own best interest.  Unfortunately, the US has a history of abandoning allies in the clinch — which works against genuine long term American interests, even if those who are making the decisions are too blind to see it.

We here in Israel will do as we deem appropriate for our own security.  Military action would be handicapped, however, by US refusal to allow us to fly over Iraq to get to Iran.  While it seems we cannot count on it, it would be nice to think that, when push comes to shove, the US would at least back us up after the fact.  The Americans may have no choice, precisely because their interests will be involved.


Just to keep everything in broader context:  At no point has the US said the military option was off the table. They maintain they are holding it as a last resort, if all else in the way of sanctions and diplomacy has failed.  They interpret our request for these arms as a sign that we will act in a manner that they believe is precipitous — before other efforts have run their course.  While we are watching the narrowing of the window for stopping the Iranians before they develop capacity to build a nuclear weapon, and are mindful of the danger of waiting just a bit too long.

Could sanctions work? Absolutely, if the entire international community was serious about this and put Iran in an economic stranglehold. But since each nation acts in what it perceives to be its own (often very short term) interest….


Appropriate here is a brief consideration, at least, of the entire (also exceedingly disconcerting) Russian action in Georgia. 

The broad parameters are clear — with Russia acting with naked power, a la the old Soviet Union.  Implications are vast and still being debated.  Everything connects to everything else.

There is in several quarters fear of confronting Russia too sternly precisely because Russia is needed as an ally in standing strong against Iran.  But, the failure of the world to act against Russian aggression will not be lost on the leaders of Iran.  We are speaking here about the power of deterrence.

And, there is also the fact that Georgia is a western-tilting democracy that might have expected international assistance at a significant level.  (Speaking of responses to allies.)

There are some very sharp minds currently analyzing what Georgia might have expected from the international community and how appropriately George Bush is responding.  (Keep in mind that Georgia supported US efforts with troops in Iraq.)

Please see Jeff Jacoby on this, in his piece “Back in the USSR.” He covers a great deal of territory very incisively:

JINSA points out, in “Hammers and Nails,” that US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is touted as an expert on Russia, has been so busy focusing on solving the “Palestinian problem” that she dropped the ball totally with regard to Russia:


JINSA also discusses some possibilities for how Russia should be responded to, which does not necessarily or realistically include military action:


Oil is an additional factor, as Russia is an oil exporter.  See Lenny Ben David for an effective analysis of this:



On a slightly different note, with significance for US politics, is the matter of how the two contenders for the presidency responded to the issue of the Russian aggression. 

Obama began by calling for “restraint” on both sides, which call would do precious little to stop Russia’s naked aggression, and which implies the sort of outrageous moral equivalency that we here in Israel are so familiar with.

McCain, on the other hand, put out a statement that included reminders of the moral parameters the situation and calling for specific actions against Russia.

And this, my friends, in a nutshell, epitomizes a major difference between the two candidates.  It certainly shows us what response we’d get from each, as president, with regard to our need to contend with Arab aggression. 


Regarding politics, here in Israel polls are showing that Livni is likely to beat Mofaz in the September Kadima primary.  The key issue, as I see it, is not who will win the primary, but whether this new head of Kadima would be able to put together a coalition for a new government. Mofaz is saying that he, with military experience and a tough attitude on Iran, is the only one who could do that.


The Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza have announced that they have a new “Nasser 4” rocket with a 25 kilometer range that can reach Ashdod. They say they will use it if Israel enters Gaza.

On CNN, Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev then declared this to be a “clear violation” of the ceasefire:

“The ceasefire that was negotiated through Egypt was very specific that the Hamas movement and the other terrorist groups can’t use it as a period to import more weapons, more explosives, more rockets into the Gaza Strip.

“[Israel reserves] the right to act, if need be, to protect ourselves. We don’t want this current quiet just to be the quiet before the storm.”


One might be reduced to tears of frustration and shame in the face of this statement, which is patently ridiculous in several respects.

First of all, well before this statement by the Committees, Israel intelligence was already fully aware that Hamas has been smuggling in huge amounts of weapons since the ceasefire began in late June.  I ran a list of what has been brought in, not long ago.  So this statement by Regev is merely a PR response to one particular public statement by one group of terrorists, not an actual response to the fact of violations of the ceasefire, per se.   

Talk about loss of deterrence power.  The terrorists know they can get away with anything short of killing a large number of Israelis at one time.


Second, saying we “reserve the right to act” really makes fools of us.  Sort of like, “You keep doing this, you’ll see, one of these days, maybe, if we feel like it, we’ll do something stop you.”

They are violating the ceasefire?  Make an official public announcement of this fact and say it is now off, and that we are going to start military operations in Gaza again.  It doesn’t even have to be (although it should be!) that major operation that we’ve been told was coming some time soon.  Just targeted operations against weapons storage sites and targeted killings of terrorist leaders.

What we’re telling the terrorists right now is that the relative quiet suits our government, which was being pressured to do something for the poor suffering people of Sderot and environs.  Even though there are severe violations with regard to smuggling and stockpiling of weapons, and a rocket is shot now and then, the constant barrage of rockets has stopped, which makes it easier for Olmert and Barak to function in the short term.

If we say the ceasefire is off, that barrage will begin again.  Neither Olmert nor Barak wants this.


But what of the future and the ultimate consequences — regarding loss of Israeli life and damage to Israeli property??  Painful to contemplate.  Painful, painful.

Regev says “We don’t want this current quiet just to be the quiet before the storm.”  But of course that’s all this is, and all it was ever expected to be.  What nonsense to pretend it is anything more.  Neighbors who wish to live in peace with us don’t stockpile ever increasingly sophisticated weapons.  We know this clearly.  But the way we’re going, we’re allowing them to decide when they want to hit us, instead of pre-empting them now.

Has everyone forgotten the Hezbollah lesson?  For years our intelligence clearly knew they were stockpiling in Lebanon, but it was thought best to leave the situation alone.  Until we got hit by their rockets, which we had done nothing to stop, in 2006.


Is anyone surprised?  The lawyers for Morris Talansky have announced that he will not be returning to Israel for additional cross-examination by Olmert’s lawyers.  This is because Talansky is now the subject of a US grand jury investigation in matters that parallel issues here.  FBI agents — alerted by Talansky’s testimony in Israel — actually accompanied Israeli agents who were securing information in the US.

This situation will not necessarily affect a decision regarding the indictment of Olmert, although undoubtedly Olmert’s lawyers will claim something about his rights having been infringed upon. Israeli law officials are now pointing with a sense of vindication to their insistence on taking testimony from Talansky before he left the country, and before an actual trial began, precisely for this reason.  In spite of his insistence that he would continue to cooperate fully, they knew the possibility of his not returning loomed before them. 



1 Comment

  1. Hi!
    My name is Jessika!

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