In the every-minute-breaking-news society we live in, it’s easy to get lost in the trees and fail to see the forest; to be swamped by updates and fall short of real analysis.
This is particularly true when it comes to profound understanding of key issues on Israel’s national agenda, such as the Arab regional upheavals, Iran’s drive to nuclear weapons, and Washington-Jerusalem relations.
Three in-depth and unusually penetrating studies just published make a notable contribution in this regard, and they deserve widespread attention.
In a 8,000-word, Hebrew-language monograph just published by the BESA Center – the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies – Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror studies the storms convulsing the Arab Middle East. He looks at the long-term implications of regional chaos.
Amidror, who is now the Anne and Greg Rosshandler Senior Fellow at the BESA Center, is an important analyst, since he is the immediate past national security adviser to Prime Minister Netanyahu and previously served as chief of the Research and Analysis Division of Military Intelligence in the IDF.
Amidror sees civilizational shifts of historic proportions under way, and he argues that there is no way of knowing how long the upheavals will continue or how they will end. “We are witnessing a wide and deep struggle over the character and future of the Arab nation, and perhaps of Islam as a whole,” he writes.
The troubles go all the way back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, he writes, and to the revolution in Iran in 1979, the consequent rise of radical Islam, the attacks of 9/11 on the US, the conquest of Iraq as a response to these, and to the Arab Spring.
“To this we must add the weakness manifested by the international system, especially the US-led Western alliance; the total worthlessness of global organizations; and the ruinous activities of local forces unique to each state.”
Amidror’s conclusion is that anyone from the outside trying to influence these regional upheavals in a positive direction will find the task very difficult. “There is no silver bullet,” Amidror says, that will steer things in the right direction. “The problems are too wide and deep. This necessitates a great deal of modesty in policy planning, and security caution too.”
For Israel, he writes, the best strategy is to identify the greatest threats looming in its vicinity, and concentrate its efforts narrowly in dealing with these specific threats, and on them alone. Primarily, this means focusing on the threat from Iran, and maintaining Israel’s military prowess. “A nuclear Iran is the greatest threat to Israel, period.”
“If Israel’s power is reduced or if it loses the determination required to use that power, then it will have no place in the Middle East; it will be destroyed. We live in a brutal world in which Israel’s enemies use weapons of the 21st century, but fight and kill according to the rules of conduct of the seventh century,” Amidror notes. “It is supremely important for Israel’s blade to be sharp, and for Israel to be prepared to use it, and not only for its own sake. This is so even if the other democratic countries are not prepared to admit this publicly.”
As for local threats, Amidror writes that “any agreement with the Palestinians must be based on the understanding that no signatory and no guarantor of the agreement is likely to have the power to prevent Islamic radicalization among the Palestinians. In order to prepare for the possible scenario of a very radical government in Ramallah, in mortar range of the Knesset in Jerusalem, the security measures specified in any Israeli- Palestinian agreement will have to be extremely tough – unlike the weak security provisions of the Oslo agreements.”
“The main problem for Israel is that what weighs on the Palestinians is not the conquest of 1967 but the ‘Occupation’ of 1948.
They do not accept the existence of the State of Israel even within the borders of the 1949 cease-fire. It turns out that the slogan ‘Territories for peace’ was an illusion.
The fact that Jaffa, Tiberius and Safed are under Israeli control is more ‘oppressive’ to them than IDF roadblocks at the exits of Hebron and Nablus. The Palestinians have yet to internalize the fact that Israel will continue to exist as the nation state of the Jewish People.”
“In any case,” Amidror says, it certainly not true that the Palestinian issue is the core of Middle East troubles. Just the opposite: It is a marginal issue. Ameliorating the Palestinian-Israeli dispute will somewhat help Israel build alliances with other Arab countries, but it won’t solve any of the major problems that beset the region.”
In short, Amidror’s recipe for security in the crumbling Middle East is patience, vigilance and steadfastness.
A SECOND KEY ARTICLE to read was penned by Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (and also published by the BESA Center) on Israel’s role in the struggle over the Iranian nuclear project. This is a unique and comprehensive review from someone who has been intimately involved in tracking the Iranian nuclear program since its inception 27 years ago.
Kuperwasser was chief of the Research Division in IDF Military Intelligence, and until recently, director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry – where he played a key role in global diplomacy regarding Iran.
His paper is the most detailed, even revelatory, account yet published of how it has come to pass that the US and Israel have taken different paths with regard to the campaign to block Iran’s nuclear advance.
Put succinctly, Washington now seeks to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, while Jerusalem seeks to prevent it from having the capability to produce nuclear weapons.
Kuperwasser angrily rejects claims made that Iran’s success in proceeding toward the attainment of nuclear weapons represents an Israeli failure. “This is worthy of ridicule. Without Israel’s actions, Iran would have obtained nuclear weapons several years ago.”
What to do now? Kuperwasser is of the opinion that Israel should keep doing everything it can to prevent a bad deal with Iran, up to the very last second. But if in spite of Israel’s efforts a bad deal is signed, then Israel should multiply its intelligence attempts to know what is happening in Iran, so that it may sound the alarm; it should accelerate its efforts to develop the military capability to defend itself if necessary; and it should find ways to form a regional alliance to block Iranian attempts to translate its achievements in the nuclear realm into greater regional influence.
If a deal is not reached, Kuperwasser says that Israel should intensify its consultations with the P5+1 powers to increase the pressures on Iran. Kuperwasser emphasizes that under no circumstances should Israel accept understandings with the US which limit Israel’s ability to decide by itself what kind of actions it may take to protect itself against the nuclear threats that follow a deal.
A THIRD SOURCE for always-incisive analysis is the online intellectual magazine “Mosaic,” where Hudson Institute expert Michael Doran has been delicately savaging President Obama’s policies on Israel and Iran.
In a series of articles this past month, Doran has shown how Obama’s conception of himself is steeped in messianic arrogance; how his vision of the American role in the world is a fiction; and how his Iran deal is fundamentally flawed. (The essential flaws are the phase-out clause, false snapback provisions, and lack of real verification mechanisms.) Finally, Doran has produced the most piercing examination of Obama’s value- laden obsession with Jews and Israel. To Doran it is clear that Obama’s moralizing appeal to “Jewish and Zionist liberal values” is more politics than any true attack of moral conscience. It’s part of a concerted attempt to distance American Jews from Prime Minister Netanyahu. This, in turn, Doran posits, is meant to weaken opposition within the American Jewish community to Obama’s pact with Iran and to Obama’s pro-Palestinian policy shift.
Keep your eyes on besacenter.org and mosaicmagazine.com for the finest commentary.
Although I am biased (since I have a professional relationship with both the center and the magazine), I think that readers will truly benefit from (free) subscriptions to their publications. In a world where Israel is increasingly alone, it is comforting to know that there are wise men thinking about the right navigational path for Jerusalem.