The Arab world is profoundly dysfunctional. How can any society compete with Israel or the rest of the West if it oppresses half its population? And wastes the energy of the other half keeping them oppressed?
No matter how much oil money pours into the Gulf, they cannot buy the future. For the average Arab there is no future. The Arab Spring was a cry of frustration and look how quickly it’s been taken over in so many countries by Islamists. No matter what they try to do, they fail and it’s their fault. And human beings have trouble admitting when something is their fault, whether it’s individuals or an entire society. They blame the rich and powerful and successful. They blame the Jews. They blame Israel. They blame the West. Instead of rolling up their sleeves and fixing things, the Arabs wallow in an ecstasy of blame.
Israel faces threats on all fronts, including a possible nuclear one from Iran. Do you believe Israel is capable of handling them all?
When it comes to the Arabs, yes, for now and the intermediate future Israel can deal with them. The Arab states surrounding Israel are much less capable of launching a serious war against Israel than they were three years ago. They are doing a very good job right now of thwarting themselves. Although the Arab Spring or Winter has created dangers, it’s also turned the Arab states inward. At least for now, the Arabs are wrestling with their future. And when they’re wresting with each other, they’re not wrestling with Israel.
The Iranian nuclear threat is of an entirely different order. The IDF has the military capability to set that program back but not to terminate it. The danger from my perspective as a military man is that the IDF has the power to start a conflict but not to finish it. Should the Israelis attack, the Iranians will respond by trying to launch rockets at Israel. But they’ll also respond asymmetrically by attacking the world’s oil supplies, closing the Straits of Hormuz, attacking Arab gulf oil facilities, oil fields, and ships.
The Iranian response will be calculated to drive the price of oil off the charts in the confidence that if it happens, the Iranians won’t be blamed even though they did it. The world will blame Israel. And so my feeling is that if it has to be done I’d rather see America do it, even without Israeli participation.
Hizbullah, backed by Iran, is also a crucial problem – its rockets in the present and its future possession of weapons of mass destruction. The problem in the past with Hizbullah isn’t that Israel was too aggressive. The problem is Israel wasn’t aggressive enough. When your enemies are determined to kill you, you have to kill them.
Is there anything Israel can do to combat the anti-Zionism so rampant on college campuses here and around the world?
Focus on better public relations. Take the Hollywood film “Exodus.” It was a tremendous tool for bringing Israel’s foundation story to Middle America, to someone like me out of the coal towns of Pennsylvania. I grew up in a town where there was one Jewish family and then comes this movie with its brilliant packaging and casting.
In its early desperate days, Israel understood the power of good PR. The challenge is to bring Israel’s complex and rich and inspiring current reality to Middle America, to reach the average voter and convey that Israel is a vital part of our civilization, that Israel deserves our support, that Israel is us. Israel has dropped the ball in telling its story. You’ve got to tell your story.
Secretary of State Kerry has been eager to revive the 2002 Arab Peace Israel Initiative, based on an Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders, with minor revisions. Is this rehash of an old plan a non-starter or does it pose any danger to Israel?
It’s a non-starter. Israel can’t do that. It’s so infernally frustrating that you have all the politically correct people in the West who want to create a Palestinian state which would basically rape Israel’s security. Israel cannot evacuate the West Bank. I can’t see how Israel can be remotely defensible unless it controls the Golan Heights and has control of at least a demilitarized Jordan River Valley.
About the Author: Sara Lehmann, a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, was formerly an editor at a major New York publishing house.
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