Confronting the threats

Predictions of new wars in 2007 should spur our leaders to take concrete action.

katyusha hizbullah 298.8 (photo credit: AP [file])
katyusha hizbullah 298.8
(photo credit: AP [file])
As we begin to bid good riddance to 2006, intelligence sources are now saying that 2007 will usher in new wars: in Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and possibly against Syria. Such predictions should not be taken as inevitable edicts, but should spur our leaders to take concrete actions to lessen the likelihood that they will come true. Just before Hizbullah attacked Israel on July 12, sparking this summer's conflict in Lebanon, one wonders whether the same intelligence analysts predicted war. If they did, they did not seem to inform Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz, who had planned a vacation at our northern border. Perhaps, the current dire predictions have something to do with avoiding past misestimations. Yet it would be foolish to ignore the real signs that a storm is brewing, or to do nothing about it. Indeed, security sources point out that Iran and Syria have been busy resupplying Hizbullah over the last four months, and have succeeded in transferring not only large supplies of short-range missiles but, as The Jerusalem Post disclosed yesterday, long-range missiles as well. At the same time, arms have been flowing across the Egyptian border into Gaza, where Hamas hopes to copy the massive Hizbullah buildup that proved so difficult for Israel to decisively defeat over the summer. What has Israel been doing in the meantime? Well, much attention has been paid to the legal problems of President Moshe Katsav and former justice minister Haim Ramon, to the resignations of senior IDF officers and pressures on higher-ups to follow suit, the escape of a serial rapist, a massive public sector strike and an ephemeral "cease-fire" that has seen a reduction in Kassam attacks on the South but has yet to take genuine constructive effect. As important as all these matters are, we do not as a nation seem to be devoting sufficient effort to addressing the writing on the wall. This strange silence bespeaks helplessness, as if there is nothing that Israel can do to contend with the worrisome trends that are evident to all. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has imposed unilateral restraint on the IDF in the face of Palestinian attacks, in the hopes that the declared cease-fire will genuinely take hold and develop into something of lasting value, and to lay out the lengths that Israel will go to create a Palestinian state should the Palestinians decide to end terrorism and abandon demands for Israel's demographic destruction. For now, these moves have won praise from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and eased the pressure from the US, at least, to "do something" to end the ongoing violent stalemate. Releasing diplomatic pressure, however, even if advisable, does not constitute a strategy - certainly not with respect to the array of threats facing us. In this context, it is mistake to underestimate the importance of Israel speaking straightforwardly about what the West as a whole needs to do, not just what we think the world is expecting of us. This is especially true at a moment when the US itself seems to be groping for a foreign policy, and the threats against us are from the same sources as those confronting other free nations. While there is nothing wrong with highlighting, as Olmert did in his speech at David Ben-Gurion's grave, that the true obstacle to a Palestinian state is not Israel, but Palestinian attacks and demands, this cannot be the sum total of our strategic diagnosis. At a time when no other country seems to be interested in connecting the dots, Olmert must puncture the myth that opposition to Israel is the impetus for radical Islam's jihad against the West, and that confronting the jihad's epicenter - the Iranian regime - can be avoided. Our government must therefore act convincingly on two fronts: 1) ensuring that the IDF deeply absorbs and acts upon the lessons of the past war; and 2) explaining to the world that the source of the Arab-Israeli conflict is the refusal to accept Israel, and that this refusal is just part of radical Islamist refusal to accept the West. If the worst predictions of escalating violence are to be averted, both fronts must be addressed quickly and dramatically.