A strange thing happened in a matter of a week to a “senior Israeli officer.”
A week ago, he briefed military reporters and commentators and when asked about the crisis on the Korean Peninsula he kind of shrugged his shoulders and said it doesn’t have serious ramifications for Israel. This week, he changed his mind, or at least rephrased his estimate, explaining that Israel could bear the brunt of an escalation in tension in the relations between Washington and Pyongyang. The escalation and the military build-up accompanied by an inflammatory war of words are of concern to the Israeli security establishment.The main fear is that if there is a military escalation between the US and North Korea, the US would have to shift its focus and security resources from the Middle East to Northeast Asia.Not to mention that, in the worst case, if the US is deeply involved in a war, it might reduce the military aid to Israel just cemented last year to the tune of $38 billion over 10 years. After all, President Donald Trump is highly unpredictable, and during his election campaign declared that he would reduce the US aid.Another part of the story is that North Korea is a supplier of missiles, and maybe even nuclear technology, to Iran.This, however, is nothing new and has long worried Israel.When the Korean War broke out in 1950, Israel was considered to be sympathetic to the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc satellites who had supported the creation of the state and provided weapons during the War of Independence.But the war in Korea gave the government of David Ben-Gurion a pretext to support the US and the Western war effort in Korea under the UN umbrella and break away from Israel’s image as a pro-Communist country.If the US goes to war against North Korea, shifts its focus away from Israel and the Middle East and downgrades the strategic alliance with Israel, it would be a historic reversal.But that probably won’t happen because neither Washington nor Pyongyang wants a war.The US is flexing its muscles and attempting to use what can be called “coercive diplomacy” to force the tyrannical regime of Kim Jung Un to change its behavior in the international arena: to stop developing nuclear capable, long-range ballistic missiles and stop threatening its neighbors South Korea and Japan.The possibility that Israel will be affected is very slim.
North Korea holds artillery drill as tension spikes (credit: REUTERS)