The legitimacy fallacy

If waiting would impair Israel’s ability to hit Iran effectively, the costs outweigh the benefits.

August 27, 2012 14:38
Guerre imminente?

Israël, Iran. (photo credit: Reuters)

Of all the arguments against an Israeli attack on Iran, the most inane has to be the “legitimacy argument.” This argument, beloved of leftists like Haaretz columnists Sefi Rachlevsky and Ari Shavit, holds that Israel lacks either domestic or international legitimacy to attack Iran because it hasn’t done everything possible to show itself a peace-seeker. Without such legitimacy, they argue, an attack can’t succeed. Therefore, Israel must launch a far-reaching diplomatic initiative on the Palestinian front, and at the very least postpone any strike until spring, to satisfy U.S. demands for more time to try nonmilitary means of stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
This theory is so patently historically false that it’s hard to believe anyone could seriously propound it – which is precisely why most proponents eschew any attempt to provide evidence. Just consider the “proof” offered by those who do make the attempt, like Shavit: Israel, he claims, won in 1948 and 1967 because both the world and Israelis themselves “recognized the legitimacy” of its actions, but failed in 1973 because its “inflexible” policies undermined its domestic and international legitimacy.

In reality, Israel certainly didn’t enjoy international “legitimacy” in 1948, despite the recent destruction of European Jewry in the Holocaust and its adoption of the UN Partition Plan (which the Arabs rejected): Its declaration of independence had so little international support that the entire world, including the U.S., slapped an arms embargo on it, even as Britain was pouring arms into the five Arab armies attacking it. Israel won a decisive victory not because of international “legitimacy,” but thanks to a global arms smuggling network run by pre-state leaders and Jewish supporters worldwide, bolstered by Czechoslovakia’s courageous decision to sell it planes despite the embargo.


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