But doubling back to how the different strategies interrelate, Halutz explained that there are subparts to the use of force. A useful way to psychologically exercise the use of force option that doesn’t actually require military action against the opponent is through what he called “force projection.”
That is important, and one way to utilize force projection is through joint military exercises. Such joint efforts show the enemy – including the enemy’s allies and the general population – that one side has not only impressive military equipment, but also impressive and intimidating allies backing each other. It shows, he said, “that we mean business, because you can’t convince the Iranians only through diplomacy to come to the table, to negotiate, and agree.”
But misteps also have consequences.
Halutz pointed out that “reducing the volume or size of exercise between the Israeli forces and the American forces is an indication in the wrong direction.” That was a clear reference to a “massive” reduction of US troops sent for a joint exercise with Israel, reported at the end of last month.
Another point J Street pushed is that Prime Minister Netanyahu is very foolish for picking a fight with President Obama over the Iran issue. In fact, in J Street’s view, apparently, Netanyahu is more damaging to Israel than what some perceive of as Obama’s poor treatment of Israel.
Wednesday night a J Street official tweeted, “Dani Halutz: current political fight over Iran policy threatening most impt rel. Israel has – with US.” Halutz did say that Israel’s relationship with the United States is the most important one it has, and, further, that, “we [Israel] need the US more than they need us.”
But when pushed on Tuesday by James Kitfield from National Journal Magazine and Michael Adler of the Wilson Center to comment on the apparent high level of discord between the Israeli and American heads of state, Halutz refused to take the bait.
“The importance of the good relations between the American people and the American Administration to the Israeli people and Israeli Administration is of the highest importance to Israel. Period.” But he refused to place all the blame on the Israeli prime minister. In fact, he said “both sides took part in climbing too high.”
He suggested that “in some areas the relations are excellent, and in some areas, mainly the political level, it suffers from declaration and counter-declaration that are made here and there, some of them are serving the internal politics of each country, some of them are serving the case itself.”
Halutz tried valiantly to make the argument we have all been hearing from Israeli leadership for years. That is, that a nuclear-armed Iran is not only a problem for Israel, it is a problem for the entire Middle East, and for all of western civilization. He emphasized that if Iran achieves its goal it will lead to a race to acquire nuclear weapons for countries throughout the Middle East, starting with Turkey, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. “No one will leave [Iran] to be a nuclear super power in this region.” That regional instability would have global repercussions.
But the truth is, as Halutz reluctantly admitted, it may be that Israel will have to “go it alone.” Ironically, what may be forcing that result more than any perceived military eagerness on the part of Israel is the international reluctance to take tough intermediate steps now. The unwillingness to impose firm, wide and globally-imposed sanctions, the sugared coffee instead of real teeth diplomacy, and the reduced ability to present a “force projection” may combine to cause exactly what no one wants, and that is the need to move – sooner rather than later – to the “last, last, last, last” option.
If that is the case, Halutz made clear at each talk, “no one should ever underestimate Israel’s capability.”