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Monday, January 12, 2009

Strategic incompetence

In the Jerusalem Post, Middle East expert Daniel Pipes lambastes the Israeli government for its strategic incompetence (Hat Tip: Hot Air).
An assessment of Hamas's war record depends primarily on decisions made in Jerusalem. Those decisions being the real issue, how well has Israel's leadership performed?

Disastrously. Jerusalem's profound strategic incompetence continues and heightens the failed policies since 1993 that have eroded its reputation, strategic advantage and security. Four main reasons lead me to this negative conclusion.

FIRST, THE team in charge in Jerusalem created the Gaza problem. Its leader, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, immortally explained in 2005 the forthcoming unilateral withdrawal from Gaza: "We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies." Olmert had a vital role in (1) initiating the Gaza withdrawal, which ended the IDF's close control of the territory, and (2) giving up control over the Gaza-Egypt border. This latter, little noted decision, enabled Hamas to build tunnels from Egypt, smuggle in matériel and launch missiles.

Secondly, Olmert and his colleagues failed to respond to the barrage of rockets and mortar shells. From the withdrawal in 2005 until now, Hamas has launched more than 6,500 missiles. Incredibly, Israelis endured nearly eight attacks a day for three years; why? A responsible government would have responded to the first rocket as a casus belli and immediately responded.

Thirdly, a committee of the French parliament published an important technical report in mid-December, establishing that "there is no longer doubt" about the military purposes of the Iranian nuclear program, and that it will be up and running in two to three years.

The waning days of the Bush administration, with the current president nearly out the door and the president-elect still in the wings, offers a unique moment to take care of business. Why did Olmert squander this opportunity to confront the relatively trivial danger Hamas presents rather than the existential threat of Iran's nuclear program? This negligence has potentially dire repercussions.

FINALLY, FROM what one can discern of the Olmert government's goal in its war on Hamas, it seems to be to weaken Hamas and strengthen Fatah so that Mahmoud Abbas can retake control of Gaza and restart diplomacy with Israel. Michael B. Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi captured this idea in a recent article titled: "Palestinians need Israel to win: If Hamas gets away with terror once again, the peace process will be over."

Bitter experience, however, invalidates this thesis. For one, Fatah has proven itself a determined enemy intent on eliminating the Jewish state. For another, Palestinians themselves repudiated Fatah in 2006 elections. It strains credulity that anyone could still think of Fatah as a "partner for peace." Rather, Jerusalem should think creatively of other scenarios, perhaps my "no-state solution" bringing in the Jordanian and Egyptian governments. [I disagree with that 'solution' - which was also proposed by John Bolton. CiJ]

More dismaying even than Olmert's ineptitude is that the Israeli election a month from now pits three leaders of his same ilk. Two of them (Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak) currently serve as his main lieutenants, while two (Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu) failed badly in their prior prime ministerial stints. [For those who need a reminder, here's why Netanyahu is not the answer. CiJ]

Looking beyond Olmert and his potential successors comes the worst news of all, namely that no one at the upper echelons of Israel's political life articulates the imperative for victory. For this reason, I see Israel as a lost polity, one full of talent, energy and resolve, but lacking direction.
I couldn't agree more with the last paragraph.

But what is it with people like Pipes and Bolton that convinces them that every problem has to have an easy solution? In this case, their 'solution,' giving Gaza to Egypt and Judea and Samaria to Jordan, is incapable of implementation, would take us back to the pre-1967 Auschwitz borders, and would sacrifice Israel's strategic depth for - in the best case scenario - one generation of peace.

Please consider what I said in response to Bolton's proposal to give half the country to Egypt and Jordan:
Forget for a minute that none of the Arab countries nor the 'Palestinians' will accept Bolton's ideas: Why does Bolton think there was a war in 1967 before there were any 'occupied territories'? And why does he think there won't be one again? Sure, we're 'nominally at peace' with Egypt and Jordan, but does anyone in their right mind really believe that peace will last forever?

Every war game that Egypt conducts assumes Israel is the enemy. Israelis visit Egypt as tourists and for business, but not vice versa. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in office for more than twenty years, has been to Israel exactly once - for Yitzchak Rabin's funeral in 1995. Egypt helped Hamas smuggle weapons into Gaza until the US told them that if they continued to do so, their foreign assistance would be cut.

But most important, let's look at what the Egyptian people think of peace with Israel.

But then I rememebrd that we- the majority of us anyway- don't want peace with Israel, and are not interested in any real dialogue with them. We weren't then and we are not now. The Entire peace process has always been about getting the land back, not establishing better relations. Even when we do get the land back, it's not enough. People in Egypt lament daily the Camp David treaty that prevents us from fighting. In Gaza they never stopped trying to attack Israel. In Lebanon Hezbollah continued attacking even after the Israeli withdrawel. And the people- the majority of the arab population- support it. Very few of us are really interested in having any lasting Peace or co-existance. I mean, if our left is asking for war, what do you think the rest of the population is thinking?

I think that the Israeli want peace with us because they don't want their lives disrupted. They don't want to have the IDF soldiers fighting in Gaza, rockets coming into their towns from Hamas or having to go to wars against Hezbollah to get their soldiers back. I think they want peace because they want their peace of mind. They view us as if we were a headache. We view them as if they are a cancer.

Menachem Begin assumed that Anwar Sadat would remain President of Egypt. But Sadat was murdered by the Muslim Brotherhood and Hosni Mubarak took over. Sadat was a man of peace. Mubarak is a man of power. And if the Muslim Brotherhood takes over from Mubarak or his son.... Do we really want an Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood staring across the sand at Sderot?

Then there's Jordan. In Jordan, as in Egypt, the tourism is all one way: From Israel to Jordan. If King Abdullah comes to Israel at all, it's in secret. In Jordan, professionals who do business with Israel are ostracized from their trade unions. Recall the incident last year when an Israeli journalist was expelled from a press conference with a Lebanese singer in Amman because he was Israeli. And one week ago today, the Israeli flag was burned in the Jordanian parliament. These aren't isolated instances. They reflect the Jordanian psyche.

In Jordan, as in Egypt, peace was made with one man - King Hussein - and not with a people. The Jordanian people have no interest in peace with Israel.

But most importantly, like Egypt, the Jordanian regime is not a rock of stability. Jordan is 70% 'Palestinian.' Jordan is an undemocratic state that is a coup d'etat waiting to happen. And when it happens, the battle cry will be "itabach al-Yahud," kill the Jews.

Israel cannot give up its security based on the assumption of the stability of the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes.

Worst of all, John Bolton has gone the way of the State Department and suddenly believes (apparently) that our conflict is about land, and not about Israel's existence as a Jewish state on the Jewish homeland. And that's the saddest thing of all.
And apparently Dan Pipes has gone the same way as Bolton.

Hey Dan - this isn't about land - it's about Israel's existence as a Jewish state in the Jewish homeland in a sea of Arabs and Muslims. Why do you think Iran wants to nuke us? They don't want to nuke us so that they can set up a 'Palestinian' state. If they nuke us, the fallout would make much of this country uninhabitable for years and would it would likely kill as many Arabs as Jews.

No, Dan, they want to nuke us because they cannot bear the thought of a Jewish state amidst the Muslim ummah. They can't bear the thought of a Jewish state Jews living as anything other than dhimmis on one sixth of one percent of the land mass on which the Arab and Muslim countries are located. One sixth of one percent! And you think this is about borders? If you don't understand what this conflict is about, how are you supposed to exude strategic competence?

Hey Dan - while you're at it, please go vote for my blog as the Best Midsize blog in the 2008 Weblog Awards by clicking here.


At 1:15 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

All good points you made before Carl - that I don't think John Bolton and Daniel Pipes grasp. There is no good reason to think the relatively friendly regimes to Israel's south and east will be around forever. And if they disappear, Israel's strategic situation will change dramatically. That's why giving up territory in depth as defense is a fool's errand. Israel cannot trust its security to a set of circumstances that can literally change overnight. And it has in the PA now that Mahmoud Abbas term as President has expired. Its doubtful the Palestinians would re-elect him today and odds are good Israel would wind up with someone not even committed to the farce of negotiations that have existed for years. There's nothing left for Israel to give. And if the conflict is really about land, why is Iran so obsessed with destroying Israel? The native Persians and the Jews have never had territorial rivalry - and the two countries were on good terms before the Islamists took over Iran.


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