War in Ukraine should be a wake-up call for Israel - opinion

The war in Ukraine should certainly promote a reconsideration in Israel of a lot of positions which it thought of as “gospel” over the last two decades.

 RUSSIA’S AMBASSADOR to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, attends a meeting of the Security Council on Sunday, at which a vote was taken to hold an emergency special session of the General Assembly to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. (photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)
RUSSIA’S AMBASSADOR to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, attends a meeting of the Security Council on Sunday, at which a vote was taken to hold an emergency special session of the General Assembly to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
(photo credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)

The famous neoconservative Irving Kristol once coined the term “mugged by reality.” It means that regardless of one’s theories or ideologies, sometimes the reality of a situation forces a dramatic rethink.

The war in Ukraine should certainly promote a reconsideration in Israel of a lot of positions which it thought of as “gospel” over the last two decades.

The first and most obvious is that we cannot and should not expect any international forces to fight for Israel or provide any type of defense should it be under attack. For too many years, Israel relied on a strange notion that international or peacekeeping forces should be placed in or along borders of conflict to keep the peace.

Whether UNDOF, UNIFIL, TIPH, EUBAM or many others that have been stationed in or near Israel, all were completely ineffective, even when enemies fire from right under their noses.

During 2004, in the lead up to the Gaza Disengagement, US president George W. Bush and prime minister Ariel Sharon exchanged letters of assurance which contained a firm American guarantee to help Israel defeat and “dismantle terrorist organizations, and prevent the areas from which Israel has withdrawn from posing a threat that would have to be addressed by any other means.”

 A destroyed Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier vehicle is seen in front of a school which, according to local residents, was on fire after shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 28, 2022. (credit: Vitaliy Gnidyi/Reuters) A destroyed Ukrainian armoured personnel carrier vehicle is seen in front of a school which, according to local residents, was on fire after shelling, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine February 28, 2022. (credit: Vitaliy Gnidyi/Reuters)

We now know that during its many operations to root out Hamas and other terrorist organizations, backing for the Jewish state has been weak and short.

Another reality is despite Israel hearing from the West constant talk of international law and recognized boundaries being sacrosanct, for most of the world, these issues are largely meaningless. Russia just invaded the sovereign territory of another nation and there is no serious UN Security Council resolution, no investigation by the UN Human Rights Council and no plans to raise the issue in the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court.

NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who have spent the last couple of years obsessively making the case that the State of Israel is the ultimate and unique global evil and an Apartheid state, are quiet, weak-willed, and vacillating on Russia.

Finally, the ideas of compromise, negotiated solutions and concessions are terms that excite certain think-tanks and foreign ministries in the West, but in the real world, the overwhelming majority of the international community does not believe in or hold by them. 

In most of the world, might is right. 

It is irrelevant whether one thinks this is a good or bad thing, it has been the stock principle throughout most of history and is still the guiding principle across the globe.

Condemnations, threats and sanctions do not work either. They will not stop the determined autocrat with a powerful army at their command. Of course, it remains to be seen how the war in Ukraine will play out.

Nevertheless, it is clear that the West underestimated Vladimir Putin, obsessed with notions of compromise, negotiations, and peace.

I think the event that encapsulated this the best was when all Secretary-General Antonio Guterres could do with news of the Russian invasion was quote the 1969 song by John Lennon “Give peace a chance.”

This statement, nor the dozens of others by western or global leaders, had any effect on the Russian war machine. It rolled over these inconsequential declarations as easily as its tanks crossed the Ukrainian borders.

While Israel is not Ukraine, like much of the world, it should be learning the lessons of this unprecedented attack. It is almost certain that facts on the ground will be made through the use of force.

Putin has exposed the West’s cobweb of hopes and dreams about conflict resolution. Thus, our conflict with the Palestinians has to be looked at differently. The Jewish state is inarguably a more dangerous and unpredictable neighborhood than Eastern Europe, and what is true today may not be so tomorrow.

Trying to negotiate a solution to our conflict without completely and permanently breaking Palestinian violent rejectionism of Jewish sovereignty and their will to continue their war will just mean at some point it will start up again.

No one thought that after the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s Russia would try and conquer former Soviet states, but here we are. It is now clear that expansionist dreams are still a mainstay of the Russian leadership. They were not ended by conferences or signed agreements.

The only way to ensure that the Israel-Palestinian conflict is ended once and for all, is through victory. Anything less ensures that, while there could be periods of relative calm and quiet, the conflict will not end. The Palestinian dream of eliminating the one Jewish state will remain, and who knows what will come in the future that can give them greater hope of achieving their war aims.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine should be a sharp wake-up call that concepts such as defeat and victory are not a thing of the past, but very much part of the global lexicon. Putin might be attempting to conquer Ukraine, but he is also mugging the West of its reality. Israel should take note.

The writer is executive director of World Herut and a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency.