Arm thyself!

Moving forward Israel’s choices are narrowing, its options diminishing, time is quickening toward decision. Adversity demands action, and here lies the silver lining.

US Air Force F-16 during takeoff 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Air Force F-16 during takeoff 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In any competition it is always the actor that can orient the quickest to changing circumstances that can take the initiative and overwhelm his opponent.
Politics, statesmanship and the national discourse are no different. With the dust still settling on the interim agreement signed in Geneva between Iran and the western powers, Israel now needs to swallow these bitter herbs, take stock and with a steadiness of spirit, chart a new path for itself, by itself.
Observing this bitter reality, a slow but steady march to this momentous impasse between two historic allies will no doubt be studied for decades. Yet sorting out the reasons, motives and actions that led to this rupture does nothing to help Israel today, or tomorrow.
Now is the time for a dynamic national conversation inside Israel. A discourse demanding of its influencers sturdy initiative. More clearly, what is Israel’s next move? A nation reborn out of the ashes of extermination, pogrom and wilderness, Israel understands more than most the cynical pathos of the might makes right philosophy. Never again is not just a slogan in Israel, it is a national ethos. For those who compare Geneva to Munich, they have misinterpreted the reality we find ourselves in today. Israel is no lightweight.
Unlike Czechoslovakia of old, Israel maintains one of the most effective fighting forces on the planet.
Until now Israel’s deterrence vis-a-vis Iran sprang from its ability to surgically strike the Iranian nuclear infrastructure.
Backing this threat up was its US alliance that served as the backbone to this threat. It was believed that credible US military and diplomatic support could contain any Iranian retaliation for such a surgical strike. Even this posture, as we now know, did little to deter the Iranian nuclear program, only affecting the pace of the build-up. The Iranians correctly judged the west to be paper tigers, lacking in credibility, to be managed, pacified and brought to heel.
Today, without American support, the security calculus has dramatically shifted inside the region. Now is the time for Israel to pivot, make its own way and fill the deterrence gap generated by the West’s hasty exit.
For Israel to establish a credible deterrence to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel will need to arm itself. Only a rapid upgrade to the IDF’s capabilities, on a scale sufficient to threaten battle directly on Iranian turf, will reorient the deterrence equation. Israel, instead of being satisfied with containing the Iranian proxy sitting patiently on its own frontiers, should seek the means to vigorously threaten the prime mover.
Such a spending program will obviously put a dent in Finance Minister Yair Lapid’s and Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s political programs. But history has shown that necessity has a life of its own. In the absence of US support, an immediate and substantial arms buildup is Israel’s only answer to a world that has left it without recourse, alone to face a determined belligerent.
Compelled to make this momentous strategic shift, Israel has reached a defining moment where it can turn away from US dependency by embracing real independence.
With its unique geography, Israel sits between the two main oceans of the earth, providing it a strategic opportunity to enhance its strength with the use of sea power. A blue-water navy that could continuously disrupt Iranian supply routes, threaten blockade and wreak havoc on its coastal regions is the sort of paradigm shift that can orient Israel to a new regional landscape.
It should be pointed out that such a decision on a military build-up will be derided by many in the international community as warmongering. Yet just the opposite is the case. Common sense prescribes that when faced with a clear and present threat, such action is self-defense.
There can be no apologies for defending oneself; instead, Israel should be livid, shaming its supposed friends for their complicity with murderous tyrants.
Now is no time for hesitancy and timidity; as the prime minister last week made clear Israel is the “light” and Iran is the “darkness,” this is a conflict to the death and Israel’s struggle is not only one of preservation but a moral imperative for all civilized peoples. Now is not the time to quibble, it is the time for clarity, for Israel to remove the duct tape and speak truth to power, everywhere, anywhere and all the time.
Moving forward Israel’s choices are narrowing, its options diminishing, time is quickening toward decision. Adversity demands action, and here lies the silver lining. Far from being a passive spectator to an ignominious fate, Israel is powerful, and if it decides can influence events that so directly affect its destiny. As anyone who has been intimate with Israel knows Israelis love life too much not to be willing to fight for it, love their freedom too much not to defend it, and love their independence too much not to be rigorous in its preservation.
The writer is co-founder of the JNI (Jewish National Initiative).