Israeli leaders, by and large, appear not to have understood, in their dealings with the “international community,” that they are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Those of us who are often critical of the failure of the nation’s leadership caste to act decisively in perilous situations, whether diplomatic or military, recognize the multitude of factors and pressures among which it must navigate. It must maintain its alliance with its American ally and also manage to keep European markets open to its exports.
Nevertheless, the cost of its political and economic prudence may be higher than the advantages it seeks to gain. There are times when prudence can scarcely be distinguished from timorousness. Why, for example, does Israel persist in supplying its sworn, genocidal enemy Hamas with electricity and allow the transfer of enormous quantities of goods and materials through the checkpoints, thus empowering an adversary that has launched over 8,000 rockets at civilian centers since the withdrawal from Gaza? Such counter-productive largesse has deterred neither the terrorist enclave from continuing to attack the Jewish state nor the “international community” from continuing to condemn it.
Similarly, in the wake of the P.A. seeking national status in violation of the Oslo Accords by appealing directly to the United Nations rather than pursuing the negotiation route, why has Israel not abrogated the Accords and subsequently implemented an independent policy of annexation of those areas of the so-called “West Bank” over which it has juridical authority? More to the point, why in its various wars against Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in 2008-2009 and 2012, has it not extended its campaign and delivered a crushing blow against its enemies, settling not for stalemate but for victory?
In every case, it has been denounced and vilified despite its lack of fortitude while permitting the terrorist cadres to re-arm and grow ever more menacing and intransigent. Would any other country in the world with a military edge and fighting for its very survival have courted what amounts to de facto defeat with such exemplary devotion?
In an article for The Jerusalem Post, co-founder of the Jewish National Initiative Ariel Harkham points out that Israel has embraced a siege mentality, concentrating mainly on “passive defense” rather than a strategy of determined offence that would “incite fear in and wreak havoc against Hamas and Hezbollah.” Even the successful Iron Dome anti-missile technology focuses on deterrence instead of surgically removing the threat under which the country perpetually suffers.
There is another respect in which deterrence may not be ultimately viable: expense. Iron Dome scored an 85% success rate in neutralizing incoming missiles, but at a cost of $50,000 per interception, altogether between $25-30 million during the recent hostilities. The terrorist intention is thus double-pronged, namely, to harm and terrify Israeli civilians and to severely impact the Israeli economy. The IDF estimates that 200,000 missiles are currently aimed at Israel. Should these be launched, and every one intercepted, Israel would be bankrupted. Of course, this is not likely to happen, but it is clear that Israel cannot afford to maintain a defensive posture indefinitely. It must act, as it did in the 1967 war, to eliminate those forces that impinge on its ability to survive and prosper—and thus place itself in a better position to confront new threats that will inevitably arise.
But in order to do so, the governing class must realize the eternal paradox of Israeli existence in a hypocritical and inimical world: damned if it does, damned if it doesn’t. When conciliation is fruitless or contra-indicated, it is always preferable to be damned for strength than for weakness.
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