Israel 2012: Tactical Brilliance, Strategic Imbecility


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The ultimate test of this agreement will be a test of blood…. If it becomes clear that they [the Palestinians] cannot overcome terror, this will be a temporary accord and… we will have no choice but to abrogate it. And if there is no choice, the IDF will return to the places which it is about to leave in the upcoming months. – Yossi Beilin, on the Oslo Accords, Ma’ariv, November 26, 1993.

Is it just me or is there something dreadfully wrong – almost grotesquely absurd – with the government not only asking a member of the Muslim Brotherhood to broker a deal for it in a conflict with… the Muslim Brotherhood, but, incredibly, also to adjudicate in the case of alleged breaches?

Things can’t get any more topsy-turvy crazy than that, can they?

Mad Hatters and March Hares

The dementia that has seized the policy- making process in Israel, and the mindless prattle of the political pundits that accompanies it, has become so pervasive that it is increasingly difficult to grasp.

Indeed, were the characters from Lewis Caroll’s fantasy Wonderland to tumble down a rabbit hole into Israel, they would be likely to find the events here so nonsensical and far-fetched, that they would make the Mad Hatter’s head spin with bewilderment, and the eyes of the March Hare glaze over with disbelief.

True, Israel has made impressive – indeed in many respects, unprecedented – advances over the years. In many – probably most – areas it is on the cutting- edge of human endeavor. In terms of accomplishment in science and technology, in medicine and agriculture, IT and genetics its record of performance is virtually unsurpassed – especially if its minuscule size and short history are taken into account.

Yet this impressive accumulation of achievement has done little to secure Israel from existential threats to its political and physical survival.

For the past few decades – arguably from 1977, but inarguably from 1993 – successive governments have led the country into increasingly perilous predicaments, which are inexorably bringing its long-term durability into serious question.

For this, leaders have been showered with international acclaim, and some even with a Nobel Peace Prize.

There is good reason for the poor Hatter’s head to spin and the luckless Hare’s eyes to glaze.

Googling the right to exist

To get an indication of just how acceptable it has become to debate Israel’s very right to exist, try the following: Choose the name of any county, and run a Google search to determine how many sites on the Web refer to its “right to exist.” The results are stunning and revealing.

A search I conducted hours before submission of this column yielded the following results: Only one site deals with Somalia’s “right to exist,” while three deal with Mexico’s. A search for “Greece’s right to exist” produced 171 hits. “Sweden’s right to exists” came up with 183 hits, and Syria’s 1,700. Troubled Lebanon, torn by ethnic conflict and internecine violence, came up with 25,400 sites – which sounds rather a lot until you come to Israel.

For when the “right to exist” of the Jewish state is googled – the only genuinely democratic state in the region, the only state that practices religious tolerance and societal pluralism, the only state that eschews gender apartheid and gay persecution – a staggering 6,780,000 hits are obtained.

It is difficult to imagine any starker and more compelling evidence of just how legitimate it has become to discuss, and by implication, question, Israel’s legitimacy.

Concessions counterproductive This underscores not only how futile Israel’s policy of territorial concession and political appeasement has been, but also how counterproductive it has proved.

Time and time again, it has been irrefutably shown that that no matter what Israel does – or refrains from doing – harsh international condemnation persists unabated.

To no avail, Israel has:
• evacuated the Sinai peninsula;
• relinquished its oil resources and forgone its strategic depth:
• allowed armed militias to deploy adjacent to its capital and within mortar range of its parliament;
• razed Jewish towns and villages in Gaza;
• uprooted Jewish graveyards; and
• laid waste settlements in northern Samaria.

However, rather than elicit any gesture of goodwill or reciprocity, each concession has merely caused the other side to ratchet up its demands. Every concession made merely created the expectation of yet another one; every withdrawal, the clamor for further retreat.

Yet despite the accumulated weight of indisputable evidence, no elected leader has shown real awareness of the need, much less the will, to terminate this self-defeating – and self-destructive – downward spiral.

Strategic deterioration

Despite dramatic techno-tactical advances, ever since Menachem Begin frittered away the strategic advantages and economic potential of Sinai in exchange for a few decades of uneasy and prickly non-belligerency with Egypt, Israel has been in strategic retreat.

For whatever the reasons, it has declined from being a nation that within six days could rout three regular Arab armies (plus reinforcements from numerous other countries), obliterate the enemy air power and armor, and seize vast tracts of lands, to one that fails – repeatedly – to silence bombardment of its civilian population by small, lightly armed irregular militias, which have no air support (or even air-defense systems), armor or navy.

In many ways, the emerging situation facing Israel today would have been inconceivable at the times when the decisions that that precipitated it were taken.

Thus it is inconceivable that Menachem Begin would have agreed to evacuate Sinai if he had envisaged that it would degenerate into a lawless noman’s land, in the grip of Islamist warlords and ruthless criminal gangs pressing up against Israel’s long southern border while an Islamist regime was ensconced in Cairo. It is inconceivable that Yitzhak Rabin would have agreed to the far-reaching concessions made in the Oslo process, had he foreseen the kind of realities they would bring about.

His final address to the Knesset, in which he conveyed his vision of the permanent solution with the Palestinians, would be dismissed as unrealistic extremism, were it adopted today by any incumbent politician.

But as the status quo deteriorated, Israel’s leaders resigned themselves to the new circumstances, and merely braced for the next deterioration – until it has become almost impossible to imagine different realities or even different trends in realities, certainly none reminiscent of pre-Oslo or pre-Camp David conditions.

After all, for most Israelis, these former realities are not even a distant memory.

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  • Josie

    I suspect Israel has a shadow government just like the U.S. They make the decisions.

  • EthanP

    Don't blame Israel or it's Gvt too much. Israel is and always has been dependent on the good will of the USA and Western Democracies. These have always been unreliable allies at best. Ask the Hmong, Karens, Rwandans and all the others. Israel is thus limited in her options by dependence upon military aid.
    Remember those German Subs. And EVERY Israeli combat aircraft debands on engines supplied by the USA.
    I wish I had a solution to this.
    Oh, and the USSR, I mean Russia of course, is sponsoring new UN talks on a "nuclear free Middle East.
    They have also made statements abouy attacking any nation attackin Iran or Syria.

  • Bert

    As they say, 'When all else fails READ THE INSTRUCTIONS!!'
    In this spirit, most Jews fail to understand that our instruction book is the bible.
    By ignoring the bible by violating all of its teachings and advice we Jews always remain at the mercy of our enemies.
    May I suggest a visit to another voice that is worth considering. Please go to http://www.jewishisrael.org

  • matt

    Just wait…Israel will back off only so much…then watch out Hamas..total and non stop destruction. Israel isnt going ANYWHERE!

  • Infidel Prime

    America is, or was, 5-10 years behind Europe on strategic stupidity but we now seem to be catching up at breathtaking speed. our moral compass is broken, political correctness is for all purposes a national suicide directive that at least half of my countrymen seem to be hell bent on embracing rather than common sense. Our universities and now primary schools are nothing more than liberal, socialist indoctrination centers rather than places of cognitive thought and the best places to excell at academics as they once were. America is on a death spiral towards mindless serfdom or a 2nd Revolution to save ourselves.

    Israel is probably no more than 5 – 10 years behind us on their journey into liberal hell. Israeli universities with professors that would seem more at home in America's most leftist colleges and politicians and media that act like Hamas and Palestinians pep squad or cheerleaders.

    Israel and America are and should be perfect companion countries. our traditional values are the same, we both wish nothing more than to embrace our unique cultures and advance what we know is right and good. Moral relativism, cultural relativism and political correctness are foul language to us. we now find ourselves and our futures being held hostage by elements in our societies that lack common sense and wish to appease those that openly declare their wish for our destruction. we Patriots of both our nations must work hard to return to our traditional way of life, regain our moral compases and put an end to the revisionist history that is destroying us slowly but at an ever increasing speed. we can and must turn the leftist juggernaut around and save our nations. we have to put an end to the apathy that destroys and make our youth care for our countries like they should. i realize that Israeli kids aren't as far down the road of cultural apathy as we are in America but Israel is not far behind.

  • Len_Powder

    To comprehend the inexplicable attitude of the Jewish people towards their annihilation is a monumental challenge. How does one understand the docile march into death camps under Hitler? How does one comprehend the willingness to be bombarded with rockets without launching a war against the barbarians who do so? Are there any people on earth, or in human history, who so willingly and passively accept their potential extinction, as the Jews? It seems that the Jews and Israel have a subliminal death wish, incomprehensible and bewildering to those who are not Jewish. Even Netenyahu, who I always considered the valiant knight ready to insure Israel's survival at all costs, has now succumbed to this cultural death wish. I hope that God is with Israel because Israel is not.

  • matthew sparks

    to compare the begin and rabin agreements is an exercise of extreme opposites. begin did torah! rabin did anti torah! even the paradise conditions of yaakov and his family in egypt turned out to be the israelites worst nightmare. what yaakov did (in going down to egypt) was absolute truth. what begin did with sadat was also absolute truth. what rabin did at oslo was an abomination(anti-torah-truth)!!

  • http://www.israelolivetree.org Susan Warner

    Thanks for this article. You are right on target.
    However, since I have been reading several well- meaning, post – war criticisms about how Israel is its own worst enemy, I am concerned about a few issues. It is likely that much of the blame for this nagging ‘war’ can be laid at Israel’s feet. But I am concerned that we, who are Israel’s few and shrinking bank of friends, don’t fall into the trap of joining the Israel’s enemies by harping on these ‘well-meaning’ criticisms.

    As commentators, journalists and pundits, it is important to remember that Israel is a sovereign nation. Those of us who are Israel’s few friends, might learn to accept that fact and try to act as friends rather than accusers.

    Some time ago I read a very cleverly worded column that accused Israel of acting like a battered wife. The idea was so ‘cool’, and I used it often in my conversations. In my lifetime, I have known some of these poor battered souls, so I eventually asked myself how helpful it was for me to join the batterers with my ’helpful hints to battered wives’ list.

    After reading and relishing your article “Tactical Brilliance, Strategic Imbecility”, I had a sudden guilt attack over joining my ‘amens’ with the crowd who was piling up on the victim all in the name of love. I realized that even this kind of loving and cleverly turned criticism can provide fodder for Israel’s real enemies both foreign and domestic.

    I know you make your living by writing and speaking, and you certainly are entitled to write about anything you desire, but I urge you to give some thought to what support of Israel might look like if we refused to get on the Battering Bandwagon of intellectual assault on Israel’s psyche and motives.

    ‘Christians United for Israel’ promotes a healthy philosophy. Supporting Israel is to recognize it as a sovereign nation who has every right to exercise its sovereignty in keeping with its own needs, real or imagined. Since we do not live in the land under daily threat of bombings, we certainly cannot know the ‘right path’ from our armchair perch. Of course you, Mr. Sherman, are fighting in the fray, but your readers are not.

    We certainly have enough to criticize in the US of A to keep us busy for a lifetime without finger pointing at our friends who are struggling to try to fight their way out of complex and trying dilemmas from every side. That said, I loved your succinct and poignant insights.

  • Ghostwriter

    Israel has a right to exist,no question. I wish other had the same view.