Inside Out: Taking responsibility

There is nothing to be gained by engaging in debate as to whether a military strike, either US or Israeli, is a necessary course of action.

IAF F-15s refueling midflight 390 (R) (photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
IAF F-15s refueling midflight 390 (R)
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
The advent of a new Jewish year is always a good opportunity for Israelis, as individuals and as a people, to take stock of where they stand while looking ahead responsibly toward the challenges that lie ahead.
In the past number of months public discourse has focused to a great extent on the Iranian nuclear program, the prospect of a preemptive Israeli military strike and the hope that one might be averted by the curtailment of Tehran’s program. Tensions between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration, which flared in previous years over Israeli settlement policy and the stalled negotiations with the Palestinians, have gradually mounted once again as a result of the differences of opinion over public American policy vis-à-vis Iran and its nuclear program.
Given the public’s lack of first-hand access to credible information about either the current state of Iran’s nuclear program or the offensive and defensive capabilities possessed by Israel and Iran, there is nothing to be gained by engaging in a debate as to whether a military strike, either American or Israeli, is a necessary and prudent course of action.
Only a handful of top Israeli and American officials have any way of making an educated guess about either the impact that a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities might have or the true extent of the collateral damage that an ensuing war is liable to inflict on Israel and the region. The rest of us lack sufficient information to make a credible assessment.
The public does, however, possess the ability to judge the impact that the increasing tension in relations between Israel and the United States is liable to have on Israel in general, and not only insofar as pertains to public American policy vis-à-vis Iran.
Relations between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration in recent months have repeatedly been described by officials on both sides as suffering from a “crisis of confidence.” The importance of good relations between Jerusalem and Washington to Israel’s continued well-being cannot be overstated.
Israel relies heavily on American military and diplomatic support against a hostile world.
Antagonizing the Americans is clearly liable to cost Israel dearly on all fronts. As such, it is imperative that the government do everything in its power to repair those relations with utmost haste.
As in any relationship, personal or national, the easy way out is to blame the other side. The Netanyahu government has excelled at that.
The merits of Israel’s complaints about the US administration notwithstanding, the efficacious response to a crisis in relations is to take responsibility for one’s own contribution to the tensions and soured atmosphere, and to take action to resolve differences, so as to restore trust, goodwill and open communication.
The perceived slights to Israel by the Obama administration cannot absolve the Netanyahu government of its own contribution to the deterioration in relations with Washington.
Even if one truly believes that the administration was unfair in its treatment of Israel over its settlement policy, its actions and its positions on negotiations with the Palestinians and American policy vis-à-vis the Arab world, that does not change the fact that the Israeli government’s public policy has also damaged to relations with the US.
Publicly chastising US policy on Iran, leaking information from classified American intelligence reports and calling into question the sincerity of the president’s oft-repeated commitment that he will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons have all been enormously damaging. Regardless of the Obama administration’s contribution to tensions and mistrust, the Netanyahu government must shoulder responsibility for its own contribution and desist from that destructive behavior immediately.
Israel will continue to need staunch American support not only in preventing the Iranian nuclear program from producing nuclear weapons, but also in halting ongoing Palestinian and international efforts to undermine its legitimacy and to ostracize it diplomatically.
Israel has enjoyed a number of years of relatively little violence from the Palestinians on the West Bank. A firm policy adopted by Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad against violent resistance to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, born to some extent as a result of the devastating impact of the Israeli military suppression of the second intifada, has contributed to that.
Israel, however, cannot continue to work on the assumption that the Palestinians – in the absence of a visible political horizon, continued settlement growth and rampant acts of vigilante Jewish terrorism that have been given the euphemistic appellation of “price tag” actions – will remain subdued.
In the course of the past week large numbers of West Bank Palestinians took to the streets, roiled by the rising cost of living and the state of the Palestinian economy. Most of the popular anger was directed at Fayyad, who responded on Tuesday by lowering VAT and the price of fuel, among other measures. But Israeli media outlets also reported about mounting concerns within the security establishment lest the Palestinian disgruntlement come be directed once again against Israel in the form of a third intifada.
If that happens, Israel will need American political support. It is imperative that the Netanyahu government not make do with merely laying blame for the current state of affairs on the Palestinians and decrying the international community’s supposed unfairness, however true that is believed to be.
The government has to shoulder its responsibility and take real steps to allay the doubts harbored by the US administration and other members of the international community about the sincerity of its intentions to bring about the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Good relations with America are crucial to Israel’s continued well-being. A failure by the government to do everything within its power to end the current crisis of confidence with the Americans is not only foolish, but is the epitome of irresponsibility.The author is a veteran Israeli writer and translator.