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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The picture painted by our intelligence agencies of the year ahead, in a presentation to the cabinet on Sunday, was not a pretty one. Such semi-public assessments, by their nature, attempt to straddle the line between sounding the alarm and not being too alarmist. Yet the underlying realities that were highlighted cannot be ignored, and it is far from clear that sensible and necessary steps are being taken to address current threats.
The intelligence community predicted that Iran would continue to forge ahead with its nuclear program, and noted that a coalition of Arab states is emerging that is increasingly concerned by the Iranian threat. The Mossad and IDF intelligence reportedly disagree on whether there is a possibility to disrupt the Iranian-Syrian alliance by engaging in negotiations with Syria.
In general, the Mossad testified, the extremist camp - Iran, Syria and Hizbullah - is gaining strength. This camp believes, said the Mossad, that it has found the strategy to undermine Israel: terror and military action. At the same time, Middle East moderates and pragmatists are weakening.
None of this is a great surprise to anyone paying attention to the news. The question is not what is happening, but what Israel and other threatened countries are going to do about it. There is a dangerous sense of helplessness in the air that needs to be dispelled with well-conceived strategies backed by action.
For example, the security services have been warning for months that Hizbullah is rearming and Hamas is trying to follow its example. The weaponry for these buildups is coming from outside Lebanon and Gaza, through Syria and Egypt. Can Israel do nothing but watch and wring its hands? What will the next commission of inquiry say after the next war?
The truth is Israel is not helpless. The problem is that our government leaders seem to be too preoccupied with the stability of their coalition and the next day's headlines to develop and follow a national security strategy.
Such a strategy would be begin with what has become the central lesson taken from the last war: the folly of allowing our enemies to amass huge arsenals on our borders. Israel need not demonstrate the need to prevent this from happening; the international community agrees that allowing Hamas and Hizbullah to arm is a mistake. In Lebanon's case, the UN Security Council has even imposed an embargo to prevent the flow of weaponry to Hizbullah.
What is missing is an Israeli commitment to take effective measures against such smuggling if diplomatic methods fail, or are not even seriously employed. Are the American, French and Lebanese governments being told that Israel will take action against the ongoing weapons buildup if Resolution 1701 is not enforced? Is Israel demanding that the US use its diplomatic and economic leverage with Cairo to stop the arms flow that is encouraging Hamas to follow Hizbullah's playbook?
Even these are stopgap measures that do not substitute for addressing the overarching threat to Israel and the region from Iran. Confronting Iran's proxies in Lebanon and Gaza does not deal with the main source of these problems, the mullahs in Teheran.
The Iranian file, of course, is already on the international docket, as illustrated by yesterday's six-nation meeting to decide how to tighten sanctions following Iran's defiance of the latest UN deadline for ending uranium enrichment. Even though Israel cannot and should not take the lead at the current diplomatic and economic stage of confronting Iran, this does not mean that there is nothing Israel can do.
The task of isolating Iran should not be left to the world's leading governments, but should also be pursued from the ground up, like the campaign against other dictatorial regimes. Also, governmental action should not be limited to Iran's nuclear program.
The Security Council should also be acting against Iran's international aggression through its support for terrorist proxies. And the signatories of the Genocide Convention (almost all nations) should be seeking an indictment of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for incitement to genocide, which is a punishable crime under Article III of that treaty.
There is, in short, much work for Israel to do, both publicly and behind the diplomatic scenes. Our government should be doing more than reacting to this or that political or diplomatic fire. The times demand comprehensive thinking, a coherent strategy and concerted action.