In his interview to Israeli TV last Tuesday night, President Obama emphasized the theme of what he considers excessive Israeli fear. He referred to “balanc[ing] a politics of hope and a politics of fear,” said that “politics and…fears are driving the [Israeli] government’s response” to regional developments, and referred to “an Israeli politics that’s motivated only by fear….”
The upshot: if Israelis weren’t so full of fears, instilled by their government under four-times-elected Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, they would make peace with the Palestinians, help get a Palestinian state established in the West Bank and Gaza with a corridor between those two parts, and then have little or nothing to fear.
Obama’s words have been well picked apart by (among others) Times of Israel editor-in-chief David Horovitz—who is not a right-winger—in this riposte. Horovitz refers, among other things, to the upcoming Iran deal, which basically lets Iran keep all its nuclear facilities and indeed evokes wall-to-wall fears in Israel; to Obama’s negotiators’ failure to get a good deal with Iran when it was truly reeling from the sanctions; to the “Arab Spring” and what would have happened if Israel had given the Golan Heights away to Syria back when it was constantly hectored to do so; and to Obama’s failure to take the Palestinian Authority to task publicly for one single iota of its ongoing annihilationist incitement against Israel.
Good points all. And since then—less than a week ago—things have gotten even worse.
On Saturday a rocket fired from Gaza hit southern Israel, without causing damage. It was only the seventh rocket fired from Gaza since the Israel-Hamas war last summer, but one of several recently. And it wasn’t fired by Hamas.
The Jerusalem Post reports that “Hamas does not appear to be behind the latest increase in rocket fire on southern Israel, and is in fact attempting to quell the attacks….” Instead the rocket-firers are a “radical Jihadi-Salafi group calling itself the Omar Hadid Brigades,” part of pro-ISIS elements in Gaza that want to “see Gaza become another front for the worldwide caliphate jihad movement….”
Those of us who’ve been trying to counter the Palestinian-state dogma by saying that the West Bank would—just as Gaza was—be taken over by Hamas, need to update the argument. In the New Middle East, it’s not just Hamas—a vicious jihadist group that has some elements of a rational, deterrable actor—that wants to be Israel’s next-door neighbor before overrunning it, but ISIS.
Why should people for whom Hamas, as a neighbor, is becoming a lesser evil have fears? Especially when we have a constant stream of visiting Western leaders, and President Obama in our TV screens, to tell us—just establish Arab sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza and your troubles will be over.
About this latest rocket fire, Netanyahu had this to say:
I didn’t hear any international actor condemn this rocket fire, and even in the UN no one is opening their mouth…. It is interesting whether this quiet will continue when we act in full force to defend ourselves. Let it be clear, the hypocrisy spreading in the world will not tie our hands when it comes to defending Israeli citizens. This is how we acted in the past, and how we will continue to act.
Was “when we act in full force to defend ourselves” a generality, or did Netanyahu have something more specific in mind? It’s hard to know, but another report suggests Netanyahu may have been referring to something rather specific.
The Israeli website Arutz Sheva says it has “learned from knowledgeable sources” that
[Israeli] security forces are currently rehearsing and preparing for a scenario in which Israel’s enemies launch a “carpet” missile attack that Iron Dome will be unable to counter, due to the sheer number of missiles involved. In this scenario, up to 4,000 Israelis will be killed in the first days of the attack, which could happen as early as this summer.
Arutz Sheva goes on to quote from a special briefing Netanyahu reportedly gave journalists at the end of last week, in which he reportedly said:
Iran is seeking to cover Israel with intense fire….
In Lebanon, the Iranians are inserting the most advanced weapons in the world, and strengthening Hezbollah, so that it can hit any spot in Israel…. They are trying to build a second front in the Golan, and of course, in Gaza.
Iran again—the country that’s supposed to get a nuclear deal and massive sanctions relief, tens of billions of dollars just to start with, in a few weeks. Israel—always harping on those fears—has been lobbying hard at least to get the deal delayed, with Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz calling it a “disaster.” In reply, notes Bloomberg, “the U.S. insists it will stick to a June 30 deadline.”
The fears of Iranian expansion and nuclearization are so great that Saudi Arabia is now jointly expressing them in public with Israel, and a survey finds that “53% of Saudis named Iran and 22% named the Islamic State group as their main adversary, while only 18% said Israel.”
Since the Saudis don’t have Prime Minister Netanyahu to poison them with fears, one wonders how President Obama explains the fact that they see things the same way.
For Israel, all this is combined with the growing strength of the BDS movement, which seeks to annihilate Israel stealthily by delegitimizing and demonizing it on U.S. campuses and elsewhere and causing its total stigmatization.
Is it the Palestinian-state dogma that prevents Obama and so many others from seeing Israel and its challenges as they really are, or something more insidious? Whatever it is, the democracy that’s on the front line against barbarism has little to no hope of getting the sort of backing it needs when the chips are down, quite a lot of fear, and an understanding that it is mainly on its own.
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