Once again, during the year that is drawing to a close, there was no country that was more harshly criticized, no state that was more frequently condemned than Israel.
“The demonization of Israel increased during the past year,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, told me.
As a direct result of continuously one-sided and often false media reports from Israel, a great deal of uncertainty has been created for many of Israel’s friends. Here is the situation on the ground as I see it:
Illusion and reality
For decades, Israel has attempted to integrate itself into the Middle East. Politicians have long dreamed of the “new Middle East” as a zone of freedom and democracy. The facts that have been established in the meantime are sobering: The sweeping failure of the Islamic world to offer a better form of politics is alarming.
The belief that the challenge in Middle Eastern countries would end positively as a result of the mechanisms of democracy was an illusion. The developments did not have any positive consequences for Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s words in his explanation to me were, “The Arab rebellion has developed into an anti-Israeli, anti-liberal and, above all, completely undemocratic wave.”
Peace with Egypt — quo vadis?
What has changed concretely is the situation in the Sinai. While just 10 or even five years ago, an average Israeli family could take a vacation on one of the peninsula’s beaches, a series of terror attacks has shattered this possibility. Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt, Zvi Mazel, explained, “Egypt has gone from being a military dictatorship to a dictatorship of Islamists.”
The peace treaty with Egypt that was concluded by Menachem Begin 32 years ago withstood the change of regime after the murder of [Anwar] Sadat. It is extremely probable that it will also withstand the revolution of Tahrir Square because Egypt needs this peace no less than Israel does. Umpteen millions of Egyptians are unemployed, millions of university graduates cannot find work in their area of specialty, and the country is dependent upon the United States, which provides $2 billion a year in foreign aid. For this reason, the new regime in Cairo can’t afford to clash with Israel, especially at this point in time, but the dangers for the future are great.
Putting the brakes on peace
Mahmoud Abbas has turned out to be a chief obstacle for any progress in the peace process. In comparison to Hamas, Fatah is regarded as the moderate wing of the Palestinian Authority. And not rightfully so.
As I know very precisely from research before the production of the film “One Day in September,” Abbas had a central role in the terrorist attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972. He does indeed act in a more charming and cultivated way than his predecessor, Arafat, but his political goals are exactly the same.
“Our goal has never been peace,” said Kifah Radaideh, a confidante of Abbas in Fatah. “Peace is a means; the goal is Palestine.” A new diplomatic tug-of-war at the U.N. with regard to the efforts by Abbas to receive nonmember status appears to be imminent.
Iran’s most important ally
The civil war in Syria makes it clear how full of hatred the Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites are toward each other. Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad is Iran’s most important ally. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have their headquarters there, and the Damascus airport was the trans-shipment point for tens of thousands of rockets for Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, emphasized, “The most valuable weapons come from Syria — not just in Lebanon, also in Gaza.” It seems to be in Israel’s interest to massively reduce Iranian influence on Syria. Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. for many years, Dore Gold, stressed to me, “The old order will be replaced by chaos. Chaos never represents a positive opportunity.” King Abdullah of Jordan formulated it this way: “Syria’s chemical weapons could fall into enemy hands.” This danger is concretely present, because according to Israeli estimates, Hezbollah possesses an arsenal of 70,000 rockets with which weapons of mass destruction can be used.
What about Jordan?
Jordan consists of a vague but totally real possibility for a new arrangement. There are voices in the Middle East that prophesy that King Abdullah’s time will come after the end of Assad because the chances of a revolt by the Palestinians, who make up 70 percent of the population of Jordan, exist in concrete terms.
In Israel, the greatest supporters of the Hashemite monarchy and all those who consider Jordan to be a strategic asset for Israel also know that a change of regime could bring an anti-Israel government to power. Israel’s friendship with the Hashemites has historically been based upon the mutual knowledge of the Palestinians as an adversary of both sides. If the circumstances change, then Israel’s strategy would also have to change. Jordan could become another “Hamastan” and resort to weapons in the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict.
Aryeh Eldad, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset, views this differently, and he explains in that regard: “That would be a way out of the impasse in which the Palestinians find themselves. They understand that in view of the internal problems of the Palestinian Authority and the endless postponing of elections, it is improbable that they will be able to found a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital, but a viable Palestinian state could exist in Jordan.” Parts of the West Bank could be incorporated into it.
Iran’s nuclear arms
An Iran with nuclear weapons is one of the worst things that could happen to Israel. If the arming of Iran with atomic weapons is not stopped now, then we will find ourselves in a Middle East that is completely armed with nuclear weapons. Atomic capacities could fall into the hands of terrorists. The effects of such a development would be extremely serious.
“One single atomic bomb will be the final stroke on Zionist history,” Akbar Rafsanjani, Iran’s fourth president, has said. “In contrast to that, the Islamic world numbers 1.5 billion people and dozens of countries.”
With full acknowledgement of the massive military assistance from the United States, Netanyahu emphasized that Washington’s strategy of sanctions and diplomacy has come dangerously close to failure.
“Without the credible threat of a military intervention, diplomacy and other strategies with which the nuclearization of Iran is to be stopped or delayed would in any case be ineffective,” explained Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin.
Only if the mullahs really believe that the U.S. will never allow Iran to develop atomic weapons would they be able to decide that the problems that are caused by sanctions are not offset by continued rabble-rousing propaganda against Israel.
Upon pressure from Israel, Obama finally ensured that if Israel refrains from an attack on Iran and if Iran crosses a certain red line, then the U.S. will actively react. In order for this policy to be effective, both Iran and Israel have to take this declaration seriously. No one disputes that an attack is to be considered only as the least of all means and even then, it would still be problematic. Israel would bear the brunt of an Iranian reprisal.
A stain on humanity
The most recent Tehran summit of 120 nations will go down in history as “a stain on humanity,” as Netanyahu said.
Five kings, 27 presidents, eight prime ministers and 50 foreign ministers took part in the summit in Tehran. India, the world’s most populous democracy, was present with 250 delegates, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon traveled to Tehran. In his speech there, he did in fact condemn “threats by any member state to destroy another or outrageous attempts to deny historical facts, such as the Holocaust.” But through his presence, he lent Iran legitimacy, instead of supporting the efforts at its isolation as an ostracized state whose regime serves as the starting point for global terrorism.
On the occasion of the inauguration of the conference, the top leader Ayatollah Khamenei once again delivered an anti-Semitic harangue in which he asked the world without restraint to “eliminate the cancerous tumor of Israel.”
Pressure on Israel
These events during the year that is drawing to a close have emphatically underscored the futility of Israel’s trust in the international community to be able to resolve potential conflicts. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than the prominent role that Syria, Iran, Libya, Cuba and comparable dictatorships have taken on in the formulation of the policy of the U.N.’s so-called Human Rights Council.
We must resolve this New Year that Israel does not have to submit to pressure from those who have attempted to prevent it from taking the necessary steps to counter the threat to its survival. “We have learned from bitter experience that we have to rely upon ourselves,” explained Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya’alon. “We have to prepare ourselves as if no one else will stand up for us.”
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