Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel -- A strategic burden for the USA?

I think the day may come soon when we American Jews will have to choose between loyalty to the State of Israel or loyalty to the USA. Israel's recent actions, which are totally disproportionate to the provocations, may be nothing more than an attempt to constrain American foreign policy:

Some Questions Regarding Israel's Objectives: Is Israel Trying to Curb America's Deal-Making in Middle East?

Why is Israel pounding most of Lebanon rather than just the South and rather than pinpointing its attack against Hezbollah assets? Why the dramatic bombing of explosive fuel centers? The attacks both in Gaza and in Beirut seem made for Fox News, CNN and the next Schwarzenegger movie.

I think that there is little doubt that a significant part of the explanation can be attributed to the fact that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his more liberal partner in this effort, Amir Peretz -- now Defense Minister -- are not former field command generals and want to demonstrate that they can be responsible stewards of Israel's national security -- and that they won't be timid in using Israel's military capabilities.

But that doesn't explain it all. The Israeli response to the Hezbollah incursion is exactly what Hezbollah wanted. (my emphasis) Adversaries rarely give each other the behaviors the other actually desires unless there are other objectives involved.

My view is that three broad threats were evolving for Israel from the American side of the equation. One one front, the U.S. will be attempting to settle some kind of new equilibrium in Iraq with fewer U.S. forces and some face-saving partial withdrawal. To accomplish this and maintain any legitimacy in the eyes of important nations in the region -- particularly among close U.S. partners among the Gulf Cooperation Council states -- America "might have" tried to do some things that constituted a broad new bargain with the Arab Middle East. The U.S. had even previously flirted, along with the Brits, in trying to get Syria on a Libya like track and out of the international dog house.

There was also pressure building to push Hamas -- or at least the "governing wing" of it -- towards a posture that would move dramatically closer to a recognition of Israel. Abbas was becoming increasingly entrepreneurial in creating opportunities for the constructive players in Hamas to squirm towards eventual negotiations with Israel that could possibly be packaged in terms of "final status negotiations" on the borders and terms of a new Palestinian state. George W. Bush is the first President to actually call the Palestine territories "Palestine" and may have eventually come around on trying to pump up Abbas's legitimacy as the father of a new and different state. I am doubtful of this scenario -- but some in Israel had serious concerns about this unfolding.

Lastly, despite lots of tit-for-tat tensions and enormous mistrust, Iran and the U.S. were tilting towards a deal to negotiate about Iran's nuclear pretensions and other goals.

Some in Israel viewed all three of these potential policy courses for the U.S. -- a broad deal with the Arab Middle East, a new push on final status negotiations with the Palestinians, and a deal to actually negotiate directly with Iran -- as negative for Israel.

The flamboyant, over the top reactions to attacks on Israel's military check points and the abduction of soldiers -- which I agree Israel must respond to -- seems to be part establishing "bona fides" by Olmert, but far more important, REMOVING from the table important policy options that the U.S. might have pursued.

Israel is constraining American foreign policy in amazing and troubling ways by its actions. And a former senior CIA official and another senior Marine who are well-versed in both Israeli and broad Middle East affairs, agreed that serious strategists in Israel are more concerned about America tilting towards new bargains in the region than they are either about the challenge from Hamas or Hezbollah or showing that Olmert knows how to pull the trigger.

Keeping America from cutting new deals in the region -- which many in the national security establishment thinks are vital -- may actually be what is going on, and the smarter-than-average analysts are beginning to see that.

So what happens when the US gets mired even worse than it is now, and the public finally gets the idea that Israel is part of the reason? What happens when there's public pressure to drop support of Israel? What benefits do the United States get from its unconditional support?

Come to think of it, what benefits do most American Jews get from the State of Israel? Why should we care about a ghetto-state where the Orthodox (and the extreme right-wing Orthodox at that) have a hammerlock on the Jewish religion? A state whose president arrogantly humiliates the leader of the largest Jewish religious denomination in the United States. This is merely reflective of the arrogant way that Israel see us us as a bunch of "friers," useful idiots good only for fundraising and keeping American politicians cowed into supporting anything decided in Jerusalem.

There's a lesson from the Tnakh about this:

In his days, Nebudchandnezzar, king of Babylonia invaded. [King] Jehoiakim [descendant of David, king of Judah] became a vassal to him for three years, but then he reneged and rebelled against him. HaShem incited against him troops of Chaldeans...and sent them against Judah to annihilate it, in accordance with the word of HaShem, that he had spoken through his servants the prophets.

2 Kings 24:1-2

In this season of Tisha B'Av, we should remember that God had a good reason for destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, and that one of those reasons was that the Jews betrayed their ally and leige lord. Just as Jehoiakim was crazy to think that he could stand alone against the power of Babylon without divine help, Modern Israel should not be so arrogant as to think that a few nuclear weapons will really protect them from the wrath of the world if Hashem isn't protecting them.


Anonymous ahmedinajad said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Chaim said...

which are totally disproportionate to the provocations...

Listen, shmuck. When someone attacks you across the border, that is an act of war. Israel's responses are not disproportionate at all. Do you think America would (or should) react in a proportionate manner if Mexican guerrillas attacked across the border, killing 8 people, and the Mexican government did nothing to stop them?

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Listen, shmuck.

A really nice way to starty a dialogue, eh?

When someone attacks you across the border, that is an act of war. Israel's responses are not disproportionate at all.

Oh yeah? Hezbollah is in Southern Lebanon, why is Israel bombing central Beirut?

Do you think America would (or should) react in a proportionate manner if Mexican guerrillas attacked across the border, killing 8 people, and the Mexican government did nothing to stop them?

Maybe you ought to read US History. Pancho Villa raided Columbus New Mexico in March 1916:

"President Woodrow Wilson responded by sending 6,000 troops under General John J. Pershing to Mexico to pursue Villa. In the U.S., this was known as the Punitive or Pancho Villa Expedition. During the search, the United States launched its first air combat mission with eight airplanes. [4] At the same time Villa was also being sought by Carranza's army. The U.S. expedition was eventually called off as a failure, and Villa successfully escaped from both armies."

"While the expedition did make contact with Villista formations and killed two of his generals, it failed in its major objectives, neither stopping border raids (which continued while the expedition was in Mexico) nor capturing Villa."

Let's face it, the real reason for these Israeli raids is to ensure that Israel will never have to recognize Hamas or Hizbollah or remove any more illegal West Bank settlements. It probably also makes it more likely that Bush and the crazies advising him will start an impossible-to-win war with Iran. The blowback on American Jews when all of this hits the fan will not be pretty. Personally, I'm considering moving to France.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous conservative non-apikoris said...

Israel is acting in Israel's interests. And its actions have a firm military logic to them. Hezbollah does not control only South Lebanon; it also controls parts of Beirut, and its supply routes run through Beirut. The Lebanese government has done nothing to interfere with that control and those supplies, so weep not for the Lebanese government. The parts of Beirut that are being bombed are the supply routes used by, and the neighborhoods controlled by, Hezbollah.
As for blowback, I don't fear American resentment of Israel. If American politicians don't understand the mendacity of Arab governments, then Israel's actions will in the long run protect the US by keeping it from giving in yet again to that mendacity.

9:19 PM  
Anonymous Antiquated Tory said...

I was about to say, the Israeli tactics are probably a lot simpler than all this faffing about with American foreign policy options.
1) Cut off S Lebanon from everyplace else;
2) Destroy everything in Lebanon that HB (HA? Which do you prefer?) could use as an asset, regardless of who the owner is of the asset, since Lebanon is legally responsible for the actions launched by HB on its territory;
3) Switch air/artillery targets to purely HB assets and blow the Hell out of as much as you can;
4) Send a shitload of troops over the border in a large-scale version of what General Sir Bindon Blood called 'butcher and bolt' operations.
5) Repeat 1-4 again as necessary until HB no longer attacks Israel.

As other people in the blogosphere have said (at 'Aqoul, I think?) the Israelis are master tacticians but crap strategists. They've just poisoned relations for the next 20 years with a country that might have ended up their ally in another 5-10, if it became clear in Beirut that working with Israel to disarm HB would be in their best interests.

9:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a great story. Waiting for more. »

4:18 PM  

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