I. Bye, Bye Peres (I)
Gershon Baskin, a prominent left-wing activist and the architect of the outrageous Gilad Shalit prisoner swap, tells a story of learning of a series of tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor. According to Baskin’s account, the information came from a senior security official in Gaza, a year after arriving in the coastal strip with the chief PLO terrorist Yasser Arafat. The tunnels had been constructed by Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority was asking for Israel’s assistance in located and destroying the underground smuggling network.
But when Baskin called the prime minister to report on his finding, he was met with a stony silence. Israel chose to ignore the warning, as it did with other indications at the time that the PLO was using its “temporary authority” to create a terrorist army in the heart of the Land of Israel. It was the heyday of the Oslo years, and individuals who produced evidence to question the wisdom of the land-for-peace formula were virtual enemies-of-state.
The Foreign Minister at the time was Shimon Peres, who’s retirement from the presidency today at age 91 will mark the end of his career as an elected official in Israel. Ironically, Peres leaves the stage during a conflict that points directly to his political legacy: Israel’s willingness to build foreign policy based not on intelligence information and cold analysis of actual situations,but rather on hopes. Residents of the south and coastal regions have been paying for that approach for more than a decade, and dozens of IDF soldiers have lost their lives in repeated battles as a result.
As Peres leaves elected political life, one can rest assured that he will continue agitating for Israel to continue the willing blindness policy from outside politics, and that local and international media will give him an open platform for his message. But if Israel is to avoid a future, more serious flare up (likely in 18 months or so), the country would be wise to let Shimon Peres fade into the sunset and live out his life in peace and good health, and to leave foreign policy to leaders who will deal with political realities in the region as they are, rather than as we wish they were.
II. Nations Don’t Have Friends, Only Interests
US and international media announced this week an $11 billion arms deal between the United States and Qatar. According to reports, Qatar will buy US Patriot missiles, including a free, introductory US offer of 10 Patriot batteries, 24 Apache helicopters, 500 Javelin anti-tank missiles and more. In addition, reports indicated that Washington is hopeful that the current sale is a precursor to a second stage, in which the Gulf state is expected to award a lucrative fighter jet contract to US companies. In every way, the deal will be a boon for US companies.
The huge arms deal is relevant, particularly in light of President Shimon Peres’s statement Wednesday that Qatar’s financial support for Gaza makes the Persian Gulf state the “the world’s largest funder of terror.” Given Qatar’s ongoing support for Hamas, is it unreasonable to suggest that some of the anti-tank missiles delivered to Doha could actually make their way to Gaza, or even to Ramallah? It is a truism of international relations that nations do not have friends. They only have interests. In that light, the US – Qatar relationship is relevant to those individuals who insist that Jerusalem and Washington enjoy a “special relationship,” and that Israel is a central American “ally” in the Middle East. In actual fact, while Washington has indeed given Israel much-needed political support on the international stage for many years, the fact is also that US businesses who arm both sides of the Israel-Arab divide have much to gain from keeping that conflict alive.Meir Halevi Siegel