Commentary Magazine


Israel: The Waiting Game

Israel has entered a waiting period—and waiting is never easy. It involves the admission, potentially frustrating and even demoralizing, that one’s ability to change things for the better is highly limited.

The country has been through times of perceived passivity before, especially in the decade between 1983 and 1992 following the resignation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Then, after the failure of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to exact a peace treaty from Beirut and destroy the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and the disappointment of hopes for an Israeli-Arab détente in the wake of the 1979 peace agreement with Egypt, Israel retreated into a defensive position. This policy was most associated with Begin’s successor, Yitzhak Shamir, who, as prime minister for eight of those ten years, was guided by the belief that the fewer initiatives he took, the fewer mistakes he risked making.

A reaction to the Shamir years was inevitable and came forcefully when it did, starting with the 1992-96 Rabin-Peres government and its momentous accord with the PLO. The collapse of that accord was followed, in 1998-2000, by Ehud Barak’s withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon and attempted jump-starting of a settlement with the Palestinian Authority, and subsequently, when this too failed, by the unilateral disengagement policy of Ariel Sharon, the first stage of which was the evacuation of Gaza in the summer of 2005.

None of these attempted breakthroughs achieved what was hoped for it. Indeed, as if in confirmation of Shamir’s credo, each, it can be argued, left Israel worse off than before—as did last summer’s war against Hizballah under the government of Ehud Olmert.

The war in Lebanon delivered the coup de grâce to unilateral disengagement by demonstrating in full what can happen when military control of an area is relinquished by Israel without any assurance that the area will not fall into the wrong hands. Bad enough in the Gaza Strip, the prospect of a southern-Lebanon-like West Bank, with Hizballah-style forces scant miles from downtown Jerusalem, is insupportable. Even before last summer’s war, as I maintained in these pages immediately after the seemingly successful withdrawal from Gaza,1 a second and more extensive Israeli pullback to the West Bank security fence was inconceivable without a guarantee that the new border would be recognized by at least the United States. Today, it is doubtful whether even such a promise could have outweighed the lesson of the unexpectedly difficult campaign against Hizballah, itself foreshadowed by Israel’s inability to stop the ineffective but unnerving rocket attacks from Gaza after its 2005 evacuation.

Now, after fifteen years of failed political and diplomatic activism, Israel has run out of confidence in its ability to engineer its own fate in the Middle East. It has also, concomitantly, run out of visible options for doing so. Wherever it looks—toward the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank; toward Iran; toward Lebanon and Syria—there are few steps it can take to improve its situation. And this situation itself has only become more threatening.

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The Palestinians and the occupied territories have been Israel’s most pressing concern ever since peace with Egypt removed the immediate menace of another full-scale Arab-Israeli war. Yet of the various solutions that have been proposed for the Palestinian problem, including the “two-state” formula that has been a shibboleth of international diplomacy for the past fifteen years, none has the slightest relevance any longer.

The rise of Hamas, the disintegration of the Palestinian Authority as a governing body, and the spread of civil anarchy in its place have turned the vision of a Palestinian state living peacefully alongside Israel, always an optimistic construction of the facts on the ground, into an out-and-out fantasy. The Palestinians are not undergoing a temporary crisis that soon will or can resolve itself. Just as they did not sink into their present chaos overnight, so they will not recover from it quickly. They are living the result of long-term processes of economic impoverishment, endemic corruption, a failure to build democratic institutions, the absence of a functioning legal system, a breakdown of central authority, the rule of military organizations, gangs, and clans, and the Islamic radicalization of growing segments of their population.

All of this would take years to reverse even under a strong, secularly oriented, pragmatic Palestinian regime of the kind that has no chance at the moment of being established. New Palestinian elections, even if they could be held and were to result in a Fatah victory—two doubtful assumptions—would simply reproduce another version of the standoff between Fatah and Hamas that has made it impossible for either to govern.

Israel has been blamed for practically every ill in Palestinian society from suicide bombing to wife beating, yet ironically, the one way in which it has most hindered the Palestinians from re-establishing a semblance of law and order is by preventing them from killing one another in greater numbers. This is because, if history is any guide, the only hope for reconstituting Palestinian society at this point would be by a massive application of force: that is, an all-out civil war whose victor would take undisputed charge. But such a war is ruled out by Israel’s very presence, which not only separates the West Bank from Gaza but, in the form of Israeli troops in the West Bank—necessary to combat terror and protect Jewish settlers—makes impossible the free movement of Palestinian combatants. Without the ability to deploy and concentrate their forces, neither Fatah nor Hamas can triumph militarily over the other, or even bring to heel the independent militias operating in Palestinian towns and villages. The current armed free-for-all is thus fated to continue with no side gaining a decisive advantage, however interrupted it may be by the periodic “truces,” “reconciliations,” and shows of unity that Arab tribal warfare is known for.

There is little Israel can or should do in such circumstances except watch from the sidelines while doing its best to keep terror to a minimum. The notion, regularly repeated in Washington and the capitals of Europe, that one can tip the balance by strengthening Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and the supposed “moderates” in Fatah against Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the rejectionists of Hamas, thereby producing a stable Palestinian government capable of negotiating with Israel, is mere whistling in the dark. Even if there are true moderates in Fatah who have genuinely internalized Israel’s right to exist, they have no ability to control or mold public opinion, much less to obtain its backing for the acceptance of minimal Israel demands—for example, unequivocally waiving the Palestinian “right of return”—the very mention of which is taboo in the Palestinian street. On the contrary: knowing that such concessions, unimplementable in any case, would spell their downfall in their rivalry with Hamas, Abbas and Fatah will never make them.

In sum, Israel cannot negotiate with the Palestinians, cannot withdraw from the West Bank, and cannot remain there permanently, not only because the world will in the long run not allow it but because such de-facto annexation would tilt the balance of Jews and Arabs within Israel’s borders disastrously in the Arabs’ favor. It can only sit tight and hope that the unforeseeable, which is another name for the future, will eventually present new solutions.

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Meanwhile, there is the specter of a nuclear Iran. As one looks back on the past fifteen years, it is evident that Iran was all along more of a factor in high-level Israeli policy considerations than was apparent to the general public. It now seems clear that Yitzhak Rabin’s startling, and to many observers inexplicable, decision to sign the 1993 Oslo agreement with Yasir Arafat was partly based on the fear, fueled by what turned out to be accurate intelligence reports, that radical Islam and Iran, abetted by an Iranian atomic arsenal in the making, were about to change the face of the Middle East and of an unprepared world. Despite his distrust of Arafat, it was Rabin’s judgment that the establishment of a secular PLO state was the best hope for containing Islamic radicalism, not only among the Palestinians but in other Arab countries as well.

Yitzhak Shamir, who was presumably privy to the same intelligence reports, would never have taken such a gamble. But then again, it was Shamir’s attachment to the status quo that put many Israelis in the impatient mood that Rabin appealed to when he took his plunge—and proved to be tragically wrong. Not only did the pact with Arafat do nothing to check Iran and jihadism, it gave them, in the form of a Hamas that Arafat refused to dismantle when he could have done so, a foothold in Israel’s backyard.

Yet it is not Hamas that Israel needs to be most worried about. It is atomic weapons in the hands of an anti-Semitic Iranian government that has supported Islamic terror, planned and financed the blowing up of Israeli and Jewish installations around the world, denied the historicity of the Holocaust, repeatedly stated that the Jewish state is a criminal enterprise that deserves to be “wiped from the map,” and chosen leaders at least some of whom are said to subscribe to the eschatological belief that the age of the Mahdi, the Shiite messiah, will be ushered in by great conflagrations in which large numbers die. It is no longer impossible to imagine, as the Israeli historian Benny Morris recently did in a much-publicized article in the German newspaper Die Welt, a “second Holocaust . . . claim[ing] roughly the same number of lives as the first,” in which, “one bright morning, in five or ten years . . . the orders will go out and [nuclear-tipped] Shihab III and IV missiles will take off for Tel Aviv, Beersheba, Haifa, and Jerusalem,” resulting in the immediate death of “a million or more Israelis” and the fatal irradiation of millions more.

Whatever the probability of this scenario, no sensible person would dispute that Israel, confronted with such an enemy, has the right to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons in any way possible, including a military strike. Israel’s dilemma in regard to Iran is not what is permissible but only what is feasible and desirable. And this can be reduced to five questions: (1) Is it possible to keep Iran from going nuclear by non-military means such as economic sanctions, diplomatic action, or regime change? (2) If not, can it be done militarily? (3) If so, will the United States do it? (4) If the United States will not, can Israel? (5) If Israel can, should it try to despite the risk, on the one hand, that it might fail and the possibility, on the other hand, that it will be hit in return not just by conventionally tipped, long-range Iranian missiles but by Iran’s allies Hizballah and Syria, and perhaps even by a Syrian ground assault on the Golan Heights?

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Unfortunately, attempting to answer these questions confronts one with such a dizzying array of information, disinformation, rumor, surmise, and speculation that it is almost impossible for anyone without access to the intelligence files of the countries involved to form an educated opinion. When there is, in the public realm, not the slightest agreement on such strictly factual matters as how much longer the Iranians need to build a bomb or how well-defended their nuclear installations are, let alone on such more subjective issues as how rationally their leadership can be expected to behave, there is no way of debating intelligently what the wisest course would be for a country like Israel to follow.

Nevertheless, some things seem clear in the confusion.

• Since any strike on Iran, even if Israel does not participate in it, will most probably result—as did the American attack on Iraq in 1991—in military retaliation against Israel, it is in the latter’s interest even more than in the interest of other countries to stop the Iranian nuclear program, if possible, by peaceful means.

• Apart from threatening to attack as a last resort, there is little that Israel can do to promote sanctions or other pressures on Iran. Such measures depend on the United States’ willingness to take them and on its ability to convince Europe, Russia, and China to follow suit—an ability that, to judge by developments so far, is not great.

• If Iran is to be attacked, the U.S. is better equipped than Israel to do it. Its air force is far larger than Israel’s, has longer-range bombers capable of carrying heavier payloads, and is or can be stationed closer to Iranian targets, whether on U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean or at land bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. This would be especially crucial if—as Edward N. Luttwak has suggested in these pages2>—rendering Iran’s nuclear facilities inoperative for any length of time might require not one air strike but many, repeated over days or weeks.

• Should the United States choose not to attack Iran despite the failure of non-military measures, Israel would still have to obtain American approval and support before acting on its own. Apart from needing a U.S. diplomatic umbrella, it would be at least partially dependent on America for military intelligence on Iranian installations and their defenses, and possibly for the munitions needed to penetrate them. Nor could Israel’s airplanes reach targets in Iran and return home without crossing and refueling over either Turkey (a friendly country that is unlikely to give permission), Saudi Arabia (a U.S. ally that would be deeply embarrassed by such an event), or American air space in Iraq. A fourth possible route, flying down the Red Sea and across Yemen and Oman, is probably impractically long.

• Since any secret American-Israeli collusion would almost certainly come to light quickly, it is difficult to conceive of a motive for the United States to refrain from attacking Iran while giving Israel the green light to proceed with a possibly less successful operation of its own. What benefit could the U.S. derive from such a subterfuge that would be greater than the advantages of hitting Iran itself?

The bottom line, therefore, is that, in one way or another, it will be the United States, not Israel, that ultimately determines whether an attack is launched on Iran. Nor, for fear of leaks, is the U.S. likely to give Israel a great deal of advance warning if it does strike, whether in the remaining days of the Bush administration or at a later date. This does not mean that Israel has to sit idly by in the meantime. If peaceful means of stopping Iran fail, it can and will use every channel to persuade America to opt for force. In the final analysis, however, Israel’s fate is only marginally more in its own hands vis-à-vis Iran than it is vis-à-vis the Palestinians.

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And meanwhile, too, there is Syria. Serious peace negotiations between Israel and Syria, both open and secret, go back to the Rabin years. On several occasions the two countries were close to an agreement, most recently at the “Barak-Assad” summit (Syrian president Hafez al-Assad was not actually present in person) at Shepherds-town, Virginia in the summer of 2000.

In the end these talks broke down, as did previous Israeli-Syrian negotiations, over three slivers of territory involving what are known as the “June 4, 1967 lines”—that is, the lines at the foot of the Golan Heights that separated the Israeli and Syrian armies when the Six-Day War broke out, as opposed to the internationally recognized Syrian-Palestinian frontier drawn by the French and English in 1923. Proclaiming the 1923 frontier to be a non-binding colonial diktat, Syria has claimed that this territory, too—consisting of several dozen square kilometers along the lowlands of the Jordan and Yarmuk rivers and the Sea of Galilee—is Syrian and must be returned, along with the conquered Heights, as part of any peace agreement.

While at least three Israeli prime ministers (Rabin, Barak, and Shimon Peres), and reportedly a fourth (Benjamin Netanyahu) conveyed to the Syrians that they were willing to yield the entire Golan, all resisted—if at times less than firmly—including the June 4 lines in the bargain.
Why Syria has been so adamant about these lines is not a puzzle when one considers that they would place it astride Israel’s main water sources. The real mystery is why Israeli diplomacy does not appear to have grasped that, by insisting on them, Syria has in effect withdrawn its recognition of the 1923 frontier, thus giving it no stronger juridical claim to the Golan Heights than has Israel. Even if one is of the opinion that the Golan should be surrendered for a peace treaty (and poll after poll has shown only a minority of Israelis believe this), advertising Syria’s abrogation of the international border would have been, at the very least, sensible public relations.

Now, after five years of Ariel Sharon, who was not inclined to make offers to the Syrians, there have been reports of behind-the-scenes talks in which the Golan is back on the table. Although the contacts initiated so far have apparently been low-level ones that both governments deny being parties to, Syria is clearly interested in upgrading them, as is evident from President Bashar al-Assad’s repeated calls on Israel to resume the negotiations broken off at Shepherdstown.

Assad’s overtures, it has been alleged, have been spurned by Israel under pressure from Washington, which wishes to keep the Syrians isolated because of their support for the insurgents in Iraq, Hizballah, and Hamas. Yet voices have been raised in Israel, not all of them on the dovish Left, criticizing the Olmert government for not responding. The Syrians, these critics have declared, show every sign of being serious and have even hinted that, while remaining unyielding about the Golan itself, they might back down on the June 4 lines. Here, then, is a golden opportunity for Israel to break the logjam and remove the threat of war from its northern front, not only in regard to Syria but also vis-à-vis Lebanon, where Hizballah would be rendered harmless by a withdrawal of Syrian backing.

But the biggest payoff in a deal with Syria, it is argued, might be in terms of Iran. As argued by the American-Israeli historian and political commentator Michael Oren in a recent op-ed in the New York Times:

More crucial still, by detaching Syria from Iran’s orbit, Israel will be able to address the Iranian nuclear threat—perhaps by military means—without fear of retribution from Syrian ground forces and missiles. Forfeiting the Golan Heights, for . . . Israelis [who support such a move], seems to be a sufferable price to pay to avoid conventional and ballistic attacks across most of Israel’s borders.

To which Oren added:

The potentially disparate positions of Israel and the United States on the question of peace with Syria could trigger a significant crisis between the two countries—the first of Mr. Bush’s expressly pro-Israel presidency. . . . But if trust is established on both sides and the conditions are conducive to peace, a settlement between Syria and Israel may yet be attained and a clash between Israel and Washington ignited.

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It would indeed be ironic if Israel’s first crisis with the Bush administration were caused by its trying harder to make peace than America thought it should, when previous crises with Washington have stemmed from the American perception that it was not trying hard enough. And yet, of all the reasons why Israel should not give up the Golan Heights, fear of angering the United States is surely the last.

Far more important is the fact that the Golan is a plateau, easily crossed by mechanized divisions, whose eastern cliffs tower strategically above Israel’s northern valleys and crucial water sources; that it was conquered in 1967 after Syria launched a war of aggression from it following years of firing at Israeli settlements, farmers, and fishermen from its heights; that even if it were demilitarized, it could be reoccupied in a matter of hours by Syrian troops moved from bases around Damascus; and that at its northern end, a 7,200-foot peak of Mount Hermon gives Israel an invaluable forward viewing and listening post into the Syrian borderland that would serve as a jumping-off point for any new attack on Israel.

And that is just the military aspect. The Golan is also an area of great natural beauty that Israelis love to visit and tour in and are heavily invested in emotionally. It has now been in Israel’s possession for 40 years, almost as long as it was in Syria’s, and 20,000 Israelis live in it in over 30 locales, including 8,000 in the city of Katzrin. The roughly equal number of Arabs living alongside them are Druze, a religious community with a record of good relations with Israel, who—although some of them might prefer to be in Syria—pose no demographic threat, enjoy Israeli citizenship, are economically well-off, and suffer none of the ills or indignities of occupation inflicted on the Palestinians. Moreover, the Golan was officially annexed by a vote of the Knesset in 1981 and is, along with east Jerusalem, as much a part of Israel according to Israeli law as are Tel Aviv and Haifa. And its 300 square miles represent only one half of one percent of the total area of Syria, which, as I have mentioned, has in effect renounced the border that included the Heights within its territory.

An Israeli-Syrian peace is certainly to be desired. Yet why Israel rather than Syria should be expected to pay for peace in the coin of the Golan, or why the two countries should not divide the area between them, is not so self-evident as it is thought to be in many quarters. Moreover, given the volatility of Arab politics in general, and the narrow base of the Syrian ruling class in particular, there is no guarantee that Syria will not eventually fall into hands—of Muslim radicals, for example—that will repudiate such a peace. When moderate Egypt, which has scrupulously kept its peace agreement with Israel for the last 30 years, nevertheless continues to build a large army whose military doctrine and maneuvers concentrate on Israel as the sole enemy against whom a future war might be fought, why be sanguine about a traditionally immoderate Syria?

Furthermore, the notion that Syria can be detached from Iran and Hizballah by the return of the Golan has a pronounced element of wishful thinking. Why should the Syrians, always intensely concerned with maintaining their suzerainty over Lebanon, necessarily give up their close ties with Shiite Hizballah, their main Lebanese ally, and with Shiite Iran, Hizballah’s patron, just because the Golan is theirs again? And suppose not Israel but America strikes at Iran’s nuclear installations, in which case a Syrian riposte against Israel is unlikely: the “sufferable price” of a deal with Syria would then consist of having given up the Golan to forestall what would not have happened anyway. And what message would Israel send the Arab world by yielding sovereign territory to avoid the risk of war? Would not that message be that such readiness can and should be exploited by the Arabs again?

Indeed, the reasoning of today’s Golan-for-peace proponents strikingly resembles the thinking behind the 1993 Oslo agreement. Like that thinking, it proceeds from an exasperation with the status quo, seeks to regain the initiative for Israel, and wishes to instill new hope by a bold, conciliatory move that would reconfigure the Middle East and thwart great dangers, the worst of which emanate from Iran. And as with the Oslo agreement, its adoption by Israel’s policymakers would be a grave error.

America’s reservations aside, there is no reason why Israel should not talk with Syria. But these talks should be used to convey to the Syrians that they cannot get all they want, and that peace demands territorial compromise on their part as much as on Israel’s. Until they accept this, Israel should be prepared to stay put. With its army on the Golan, fifty miles from Damascus, it, not Syria, is the stronger party.

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Should Israel, then, revert to the “bunker mentality” of the Shamir years? This is not such a fearsome prospect. Those years were in fact not so immobile and were certainly not such bad ones.

They saw a high degree of political stability; modest but real economic growth once the hyper-inflation of the early 1980’s was ended; peace on Israel’s borders; the difficult but ultimately successful putting-down of the first Palestinian intifada of 1987-91; and a slow but steady improvement in Israel’s international position, which had reached a nadir during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and righted itself in the course of the decade, especially after the PLO supported Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf war and Israel showed restraint in not responding to Iraq’s Scud missile attacks. Most spectacularly, there was the enormous Russian immigration of 1989-91, during which a million newcomers poured into Israel and changed the face of its society.

True, this immigration was a product of perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and had no more to do with Shamir’s policies than did Yasir Arafat’s backing of Saddam. But precisely this, one might say, bore out Shamir’s point: namely, that if one waited long enough, others would trip up or provide unexpected opportunities. Widely mocked at the time for its do-nothingism, this strategy worked surprisingly well.

The Israel of 2007 is a different society from the Israel of the 1980’s and is faced with different problems; nor is it politically as stable. Indeed, never in its history has the Israeli political system been in such disarray. It is badly in need of electoral reform; its once-major parties, Labor and Likud, have been reduced to shadows of their former selves; its current ruling party, Kadima, an ad-hoc creation, is unlikely to endure; and many of its prominent figures have been discredited for incompetent performance, corruption, or other infractions. The next few months may witness Ehud Olmert, whose first year of office has seen him plummet to single-digit approval ratings, forced to resign by financial scandal, the poor score given him by a commission of inquiry into the failures of last summer’s war, or both.

In short, Israel’s political system is hard-pressed to provide the leadership the country needs. Economically, on the other hand, Israel is better off today than it was in the 1980’s and perhaps than at any time in the past. Growth, practically unaffected by last summer’s war despite predictions to the contrary, is in the enviable neighborhood of 5 percent annually. Per-capita income, though still much lower than that of the United States or Western Europe, is only slightly beneath New Zealand’s and is above that of Greece, South Korea, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. And this figure is deceiving, since Israel has large ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations with high birthrates and low participation, particularly of women, in the labor force, so that income per working Israeli is closer to a European level. For the same reason, while poverty remains high—one out of five Israelis lives below the official poverty line—its rate drops sharply when these two sectors are subtracted.

Unemployment, now at 8 percent, has been declining slowly but steadily. So has the national debt. The budget deficit for 2006 stood at less than 1 percent, probably the lowest in Israel’s history. Inflation was zero. The value of exports, half of them high-tech products, in which Israel is now a world leader, approached that of imports, bringing the country within reach of an even trade balance for the first time. Foreign investment was $21 billion, twice that of 2005. Foreign-currency reserves have never been higher. Over the past year, the shekel—Israelis still blink at this—has strengthened against the dollar by more than 10 percent.

A major explanation for these figures lies in the free-market reforms of recent years, with their cutbacks on government spending, removal of currency restrictions, lowering of taxes, deregulation, and privatization—an approach pushed by Benjamin Netanyahu, who was minister of finance for most of Ariel Sharon’s term of office. Not surprisingly, these policies have shown that when, like others, Israelis are given a chance both to keep and to produce more wealth, they will produce more in order to keep more. They have also shown that the conventional wisdom of the Israeli Left—that without peace, Israel’s economy cannot take off—is quite simply wrong. Of course peace with Syria or the Palestinians, apart from its other benefits, would have economic advantages. Yet its absence, barring all-out war on a level never reached by the campaign against Palestinian terror or last summer’s conflict with Hizballah, is definitely compatible with impressive economic progress.

The same holds true for other areas of Israeli life. There is no reason why the changes that Israeli society is badly in need of should have to wait for the Palestinians to develop democratic institutions or give up their dream of the refugees’ return, or for the Syrians to understand that what they lost by their own doing 40 years ago cannot now be restored in its entirety. Projects like the rebuilding of Israel’s two major parties; the overhaul of its political system to strengthen local government and voters; the development of economic mechanisms to put the poor to work at better wages; the reform of the country’s poorly functioning schools and universities; the fuller integration of its Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations into national life, and so on, need not depend on the beating of all swords into plowshares.

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Israelis have always lived with danger and been good at it. The difference now is that they will have to live without the illusion that it is in their power to make danger go away. This holds true above all for the wild card of Iran. It may be that the Iranian nuclear program will be stopped at the last moment by military threats and economic and diplomatic pressure. It may be that the United States or Israel will attack Iran, and that Israel will be hit in return and possibly plunged into war with Syria. It may be that neither of these things will happen, but that Iran will successfully develop nuclear weapons and Israel will then have to live in the shadow of an atomic holocaust, hoping that its deterrent power will keep this from happening just as America relied on mutual assured destruction during the cold war. It may even be that an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons would eventually undergo a political evolution, or revolution, ridding it of its current rulers and the peril to Israel. But whatever comes to pass, it will not be mainly up to a decision made by Israel.

There is a sense of gloom among thinking Israelis today that has to do with the realization of this fact. The fear has been voiced, for example, that in order to eliminate Israel, Iran would not even have to drop the bomb; Iran’s very possession of nuclear weapons, it is said, would strike such helplessness into Israeli hearts that the country would slowly unravel, its best sons and daughters leaving to live abroad, its economic life struck with creeping paralysis, outsiders unwilling to invest. Perhaps this very thing, it has been mooted, rather than nuclear conflagration, is what Iran’s leaders really have in mind.

Perhaps. Certainly, feelings of helplessness produce anger, and anger, when not turned outward, turns inward and causes depression. More anger at their enemies, long gone from most of their discourse, would do Israelis a world of good. To feel it, however, they would first have to recover a belief in the fundamental justice of their cause that many of them, seeing their country repeatedly indicted for its reputed sins, have lost.

Israel must now wait for the future to unfold, and it will wait best if it waits both patiently and with a sense of purpose.


Footnotes

1 “Israel After Disengagement,” October 2005.

2 “Three Reasons Not to Bomb Iran—Yet,” May 2006.

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