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Emet m'Tsiyon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Delusions of Diplomats & Generals

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PM Netanyahu has his enemies at home as well as abroad. Some domestic enemies use their supposed expertise in military matters or intelligence to criticize the prime minister. It's no secret that the Labor Party continued to have great influence over state institutions even many years after the Likud became the major party in the country or  a party of roughly equal weight to Labor. The police, judiciary, military and intelligence services still underwent great Labor Party influence, including in appointments and promotions. Lately, a group of roughly 200 retired military and intelligence officials signed a joint statement decrying Netanyahu's policies and advocating election of Yits'haq Herzog as prime minister on the list of the Zionist Camp Party, basically a continuation of the Labor Party formed in combination with the small HaTnu`ah Party of Tsipi Livni  on an ad hoc basis for this election.

These military and intelligence "experts" made all sorts of criticisms of Netanyahu, including some regarding last summer's war in Gaza. Some of these criticisms attacked the prime minister from the "right," asking why he had not crushed Hamas totally, etc. Ya`aqov Amidror, himself a former intelligence chief, responded to some of these criticisms:
One of the critics claimed the Israel Defense Forces would be able to defend any border that emerged from the negotiations. This statement holds no water because sometimes you cannot fight terrorism at the border (in case you forgot: Israel had to reconquer Judea and Samaria in 2002 to stop the wave of terrorists attacks). It is very sad to see such professionally misguided comments be used for the sake of political mudslinging.
So any border can be defended, can it? But at what price? Do we want to give the Arabs military advantages, such as strategic terrain, mountains etc, that will tempt them to start another war? These would-be peacemakers end up causing war.

Amos Yadlin, a former defense official now designated by the "Zionist Camp" to be defense minister if it wins the election, objected to Netanyahu accepting an invitation from the US Congress to address it on the issue of the Iranian nuclear project.
He agrees with Netanyahu that the Iranian nuke is a problem but offers a different way of dealing with it. He proposes talking quietly to the US foreign policy and military establishments and winning their cooperation for acting jointly against the Iranian nuke. The problem is that Israel has no way of forcing the United States to cooperate in working against the Iranian nuke. Especially if it does not want to. And we now see that the White House and the State Department and the military and national security establishments of the United States are right now interested in allowing Iran to get The Bomb. For this purpose, they are accusing the senators and congressmen who had questioned their policy of interfering with policymaking and with their negotiations with Iran although the US constitution clearly gives the Senate the right and duty to examine all treaties before signature and then to approve or reject them. On the Iran Bomb issue, the previous Bush administration was not all that active in opposing an Iran Bomb and gave Iran "one last chance" to come clean about its efforts as far back as 2003. Gilad may understand that the present US Govt wants Iran to have The Bomb but what he is saying is totally different. He is holding out the pie-in-the-sky notion that Israel with a government led by Herzog could somehow persuade the American officials to do what they have not shown a desire to do over the last 15 years. Herzog for his part, supposedly told an American journalist that he trusted Obama to get a good deal in negotiations with Iran. Many or most US senators, including many Demcrats, do not agree. Maybe we could put a cute blonde wig on Herzog and call him Pollyanna.

Then there is the diplomat, Michael Oren. He believes in unilateral withdrawal from Arab population centers in Judea-Samaria, the so-called "west bank." He would retain most settlements under Israeli control but would withdraw the army from many areas, while "Israeli troops would still patrol strategic borders." Of course, Israel would be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks and conventional military attack the more territory that it withdraws from. Moreover, some of the reasons that he cites for such a withdrawal, such as ending "occupation" of Arab-inhabited areas and Arab population growth outpacing Jewish population growth, are not valid. Israel gave up control nineteen years ago of all major Arab cities and population  centers to the "Palestinian Authority". What places is he talking about? Then it is also not true that Arab population growth in Judea-Samaria is so much greater than Jewish population growth in Israel. Lastly, we meet the main refutation of the utility of unilateralism. That is, any borders or lines that Israel withdraws or retreats to will not be recognized by the US or by the so-called international community or the UN,  EU, etc. Instead, Israel will be asked: Why don't you go farther? Why don't you go all the way? And pressure on Israel is sure to increase in such an eventuality.  Further unilateral retreat will be seen as a sign of admission of guilt for alleged "occupation of Arab lands" prior to the retreat.

Despite the stupidities of these ideas, whether or not sincerely held,  we will hear them over and over. Maybe they conceal some very cynical political calculations.
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A previous version of this post incorrectly identified Amos Gilad, who is still serving in the Israeli defense establishment, with the retired general, Amos Yadlin. Gilad is still serving as said. He is the head of the political/security branch of the Defense Ministry. He too, like Netanyahu, believes that Iran is the greatest security threat to Israel.



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