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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Yoram Ettinger: Israel’s Unilateral Action – a Test of Sovereignty

Netanyahu

Photo Credit: Haim Zach/Flash90

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Maintaining Israel’s independence of action – in face of Iran’s nuclear threat – is consistent with Israeli/Jewish history, with common sense, regional stability and with the enhancement of vital US national security interests.  On the other hand, surrendering Israel’s inalienable right of self-defense would undermine Israel’s sovereignty, erode its posture of deterrence, jeopardize its existence, fuel regional chaos and undermine US interests in the Middle East.

On June 3, 1967, President Johnson pressured Prime Minister Eshkol against preempting the pro-Soviet Egypt-Syria-Jordan military axis, which threatened the survival of moderate Arab regimes (e.g., Saudi Arabia) and Israel’s existence. Johnson advised that “Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone. We cannot imagine that [Israel] will make this decision.”

Johnson warned that a unilateral Israeli military preemption could trigger severe regional turmoil, transform Israel into a belligerent state, and preclude assistance by the USA. Johnson refrained from implementing the 1957 unilateral and multilateral guarantees issued to Israel by Eisenhower.  He insisted that Israel should rely on the diplomatic-multilateral option.

Eshkol defied Johnson.  He preempted the anti-US Arab axis; devastated a clear and present danger to vital Western interests; rescued the House of Saud from the wrath of Nasser; expedited the end of the pro-Soviet Nasser regime and the rise of the pro-US Sadat regime in Egypt; dealt a major setback to Soviet interests; and demonstrated Israel’s capability to snatch the hottest chestnuts out of the fire, without a single US boot on the ground.  He transformed the image of Israel from a national security consumer (a client state) to a national security producer (a strategic ally).

Eshkol realized that a defiant national security policy – in defense of the Jewish State – yielded a short-term political and diplomatic spat with the US, but resulted in a long-term national security upgrade and dramatically enhanced strategic respect.

From time immemorial, the Jewish People has faced powerful adversities in asserting its sovereignty over the Land of Israel, and by undertaking unilateral national security actions. Conviction-driven defiance of adversity has earned the Jewish People deep respect.

Israel’s contemporary history demonstrates that dramatic national security enhancement requires unilateral actions, in defiance of regional and global powers.

For example, in 1948/9, Prime Minister Ben Gurion declared independence, annexed Western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, initiated wide construction in Jerusalem and refused to end “occupation” of the Negev and absorb Arab refugees, in defiance of a US military embargo, the threat of US economic sanctions and significant domestic Dovish opposition. Ben Gurion’s steadfastness led General Omar Bradley, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs-of-Staff in 1952, to recommend reconsideration of Israel as a major ally in the Middle East.

In 1967, Prime Minister Eshkol reunited Jerusalem and launched construction projects in eastern Jerusalem, in the face of US, global and domestic opposition.

In 1977, Prime Minister Begin’s initiative to negotiate directly with Egypt, circumvented President Carter’s initiative to convene an international conference, which intended to focus on the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem.

In 1981, Prime Minister Begin concluded that the cost of a nuclear Iraq would dwarf the cost of preempting Iraq.  He realized that diplomacy would not stop Iraq’s nuclearization, and that most Arab/Muslim countries considered a nuclear Iraq to be a lethal threat. Therefore, he preempted, destroying Iraq’s nuclear reactor, in spite of the US threat of a military embargo and a nasty diplomatic US reproach, worldwide condemnation and vocal domestic opposition, especially by national security circles.

Begin’s daring unilateral initiative in 1981averted regional chaos, sparing the US a nuclear confrontation in 1991, which would have devastated vital US human, economic and military concerns.

In 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu is aware that sanctions against Iran are inherently ineffective due to non-compliance by Russia, China, India, Japan and some European countries.  He recognizes that sanctions provide Iran with extra-time to develop/acquire nuclear capabilities.  He knows that sanctions did not prevent Pakistan’s and North Korea’s nuclearization. He concluded that Iran’s time-to-develop/acquire is unpredictable and uncontrollable. He realizes that a nuclear Iran would doom the pro-US Gulf regimes; would traumatize the supply and price of oil; would accelerate nuclear proliferation; would provide a tailwind to Islamic terrorism and scores of sleeper cells in the US; and would entrench Iran’s military foothold in America’s backyard – Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico. He understands that a military preemption – with no boots on the ground – is a prerequisite for regime change in Iran. Just like Begin, Netanyahu is convinced that the cost of a nuclear Iran would dwarf the personal, diplomatic, political, economic and military cost of preempting Iran.

Just like the aforementioned Prime Ministers, Netanyahu is cognizant of the cardinal Jewish proverb: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If not now, when? (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14).”

Originally published in Israel Hayom, http://bit.ly/OqqP7C

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About the Author: Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger is consultant to Israel’s Cabinet members and Israeli legislators, and lecturer in the U.S., Canada and Israel on Israel’s unique contributions to American interests, the foundations of U.S.-Israel relations, the Iranian threat, and Jewish-Arab issues.


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10 Responses to “Yoram Ettinger: Israel’s Unilateral Action – a Test of Sovereignty”

  1. The picture is by no means as clear as Mr. Ettinger would like to paint it. While he is, off-course correct regarding the need for Israel to maintain its sovereignty, it is certainly in dispute that the demonstrations of sovereignty enumerated here were actually the right decisions. Certainly with regard to 1967 in retrospect, we can say that the 6 Day War victory was probably one of the biggest desasters that fell upon Israel – we have emburdened our country with a huge hostile Palestinian population, given rise to fundamentalists, both Muslim and Jewish and are nowhere near a solution of difficulties which would never have come into being had we not preempted in 1967. We do not, off course know what would have happend had we not fought the war but there appears to be a consensus among historians that Nasser did not want the war. With regard to the bombing of Osiraq in 1981 it is pretty certain that the bombing of the reactor didn't destroy a then apparently non-exisiting bomb project. It delayed the production of fissile material but served to initiate a bomb project, in earnest. The program was only shut down when Bush invaded Iraq in 1991. We certainly proved our sovereignty but at what cost?

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    Actually the sanctions against Iran appear to be quite effective; the Iranian economy is suffering badly and may be near collapse. The question is how much the mullahs are willing to put their people through in order to get a nuclear weapon.

  3. pfff…Iran will win. Viva Iran

  4. They aint gunna make weapons..thats 4 sure

  5. Rick Sharon says:

    Brilliant analysis. We will have to take care of ourselves and choose the moment.

  6. Linda C Gorby says:

    Israel must do what it must to protect itself; however, also remember, G-d's protection. Praying for the Peace of Jerusalem and Israel. Shalom.

  7. Linda C Gorby says:

    Sanctions hurt only the people; it does NOT change the dictators at all, they will do whatever it takes to make a nuclear weapon. Agreed.

  8. Linda C Gorby says:

    Whoever comes against Israel, in the endtimes, is destroyed supernaturally. Israel is G-d's chosen country and people forever. Only Israel wins in the end. Sorry, you don't understand this. You will one day when you see it in the news. Interesting times for sure.

  9. This time is not similar to anything Israel has ever had to face.

    A nuclear Iran means the end of Israel.

    Sanctions have hardly ever worked to change regimes anywhere and have zero chance of changing the fanatics in Iran.

    Considerations of American Political reaction to an Israeli strike are important normally but not when weighed against a nuclear Iran.

    The only real question is what can Israel accomplish by a solo strike.

    I think we will see the answer to that question very soon.

  10. no………when moses told the children of israel to fight with him to get the holy land..they said no.. u and ur god go and fight. Its not their land. We muslims are the last ummah and we will go to heaven. Those who practiced judaism or christianity properly will also go to heaven.

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