A Tough Room for Bibi or Tzipi (Extract

Extract from a story in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here. A famous American comedian used to mutter, "Tough room, tough room," when his audiences were unresponsive. The Israeli government may find it a tough room indeed when it tries to convince the Obama Administration of the need to take preemptive military action, against Iran or anyone else. Preemption has been a hallmark of Israel's successful wars and military operations. The Six-Day War began with devastating strikes by the Israel Air Force. The 1981 attack on Iraq's nuclear reactor at Osirak put Saddam's drive toward nuclear weapons into cold storage for years. Preemption has also proved advantageous in the conflict with Palestinian terrorism. Continual raids into West Bank cities helped break the back of the second intifada and foil planned terror attacks. Targeted assassinations have thinned the ranks of the terror groups and disrupted their activities. By contrast, whenever its adversaries attacked first, Israel suffered heavy losses or indifferent results. When Egypt and Syria struck simultaneously during the Yom Kippur War, Israel lost over 2,600 men. Hizballah's cross-border raid in 2006 found Israel unprepared and led to the bungled Second Lebanon War. Israel has clearly enhanced its security when it seized the initiative and struck first. For all his faults, President George Bush invariably supported Israel when it took preventive military action. When the Israel Air Force attacked an Islamic Jihad training camp in Syria on October 5, 2003, Bush called the strike "essential." He also respected Israel's desire for secrecy when it hit a Syrian nuclear reactor in September 2007. He supported these actions because he and the Israeli leadership agreed on the need for an offensive military posture. The incoming administration holds a different set of ideas and the the near-complete carte blanche of the Bush years is about to end. President-elect Barack Obama has clearly adumbrated his view of American military power: "I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened," he stated in his primary campaign. In a subsequent interview with US News and World Report, one of Obama's senior advisers, Susan Rice, directly criticized the previous administration's reliance on preemption: "You know, if the Bush doctrine was preemption (or more accurately, preventive war), it hasn't served us very well," she declared. Naim M. Peress is a lawyer and writer based in New York. Extract from a story in Issue 18, December 22, 2008 of The Jerusalem Report. To subscribe to The Jerusalem Report click here.