The comparison between PM Golda Meir’s Yom Kippur War debacle and PM Netanyahu’s nuclear Iran debacle does a great disservice to Golda. Golda was surprised, Golda was misled; Netanyahu had the information and he also had yours truly, who attempted in every way possible to explain to him the significance of the information that he had.
Netanyahu’s fiasco is exponentially bigger than Golda’s. But not because he didn’t succeed in ensuring accords more favorable to Israel. Netanyahu failed when he transferred Israel’s Iran problem to the international arena.
These are the hardest times that Israel has ever faced. If we ask the average Israeli in Tel Aviv what the danger is, he will likely answer that he has no plans to turn into radioactive fallout together with the rest of the first Hebrew city in the modern State of Israel.
If we take the trouble to ask someone with a bit more depth, he will explain that a nuclear or nuclear-threshold Iran will necessarily trigger a nuclear and conventional arms race in the Middle-East. In the crumbling Arab expanse, in the Middle East that has shed the mask of modern nation-states and is returning to its original state, the first leader to achieve a nuclear bomb will become the next Salah-a-Din.
The American weapons industry (most of the weapons in the world are manufactured in the US) is already rubbing its hands in anticipation of the fat American orders – ‘remuneration’ to the Arab states that fear a nuclear Iran. The array of terror organizations under Iranian auspices are also waiting – for the billions of Iranian petro-dollars now being freed. All in all, our deep thinker will tell us that our entire region – Shiites and Sunnis, the radicals and the pseudo ‘non-radicals’, declared terror organizations and the pseudo-states – all of them will now be flooded with the most advanced weapons, to be followed by nuclear weapons. This, he will tell us, is the great danger threatening Israel’s next generation.
They are right, of course. But in the face of the above ‘technical’ dangers, some will claim that all we need is a technical solution. Just like we have gotten used to putting cement blocs at bus stations to prevent terrorists from running over the people standing there, so we will position Iron Domes in the face of the nuclear threat, and we will all live happily ever after.
That is absurd. No anti-missile missile system can seal Israel’s skies from a partially nuclear, consolidated rocket attack. The huge expanse of the Middle East has an inherent advantage over central Israel, whose future is now causing the ayatollah’s fingertips to itch.
But this entire discussion still misses the real danger: the danger that is not technological, but rather, essential. The essential danger is the Jews’ loss of legitimacy for their very existence as a nation; for the very existence of a Jewish state on the globe.
The Iranians are threatening to destroy us. Our parents have already experienced the fulfillment of a similar threat. Historically, the unthinkable has already happened – not that long ago.
When did the Holocaust begin?
With the breakout of the war on September 1st 1939?
On Kristallnacht in November ’38?
Not at all.
The Holocaust began with Hitler’s hate speeches in the German Reichstag after he was elected in 1933.
When a head of state publicly announced his intention to destroy the Jews (and afterwards, even hosted the Olympics in Munich) Jewish existence became illegitimate. It was specifically on that backdrop that destruction of the Jews could be perpetrated, with the cooperation of almost the entire world; whether it was gas chambers, Ukrainian farmers or allied forces that didn’t bomb the train tracks. The root of all of it was the loss of legitimacy for the existence of the Jewish Nation, a loss that the German destroyer created when he dared declare his intention to destroy the Nation of Israel – and nobody reacted.
This is the declared premise (sadly) upon which Israel has based the essence of its existence.
Since Israel was founded, it drags every hapless visiting dignitary straight from the airport to the Israeli Temple: the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. “Look,” Israel says to the world, “when we cannot defend ourselves, nobody does it for us. We created a state so that the horror of the Holocaust will never happen again.
And the world was convinced.
Traditionally, Israeli governments have always safeguarded the principle that dictated that only Israeli soldiers would defend the State of Israel. According to the principle, if we would have to bomb the enemy’s destructive weapons, we would not be forced to rely on American or British pilots.
That principle was not broken by PM Netanyahu, but rather, by a different Likud prime minister (and the best one of them all): Yitzchak Shamir.
In the first Gulf War (Jan. 1991), President George Bush (Senior) pressured Shamir not to allow the IDF to react to the Scud missile attack on greater Tel Aviv. It was important to the US to forge a coalition that would include a number of Arab countries, and Shamir agreed to play along. For the first time in Israel’s history, Israelis wrapped themselves up in plastic sheeting and allowed foreign armies to protect them from a direct attack on its cities. Israel’s archenemy, the PLO under the chairmanship of Arafat, firmly supported Sadaam Hussein. Logically, Israel, which cooperated with the victors, should have enjoyed the fruits of the victory, while Arafat should have been made to pay a price for his support of the side that lost.
But just the opposite occurred. After the end of the war, the US applied tremendous pressure on Shamir and dragged him to the Madrid Conference, recognition for all practical purposes (albeit not yet official) of Arafat’s terror organization and the paving of the way for the Oslo Accords.
From the moment that American and British soldiers endangered their lives for Jewish existence, the Jew once again became a pawn in the hands of foreign interes.t He was forced to pay in hard currency for his right to breathe air on the face of the globe.
At the time, I wrote that Gulf War fiasco was worse that the Yom Kippur war, but nobody understood. The threat against which Shamir restrained the IDF was not existential. Strategically, it was nothing more than a nuisance.
When Mahmoud Ahmadinijad began to threaten to destroy Israel, presenting his plans for all to see, the world stood agape, expecting Israel to react. The veterans of Israel’s War of Independence, Operation Kadesh, the Six Day War, Yom Kippur War and Entebbe bequeathed to our generation the gift of existence as a matter of fact. No question mark hovered over Israel and whoever threatened to destroy rendered his own existence vulnerable and illegitimate.
The world remembered Begin’s attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor well, and was sure that Israel would react in the same way this time. Nobody would have publicly applauded an Israeli attack on Iran. Surely, we would have been roundly condemned. But the world also condemned Israel for attacking the Iraqi reactor, then got used to the idea and even appreciated Israel’s pre-emptive strike.
But Israel hesitated, and Ahmadinijad’s chutzpah (he even came to Israel’s northern border to publicly threaten our country) intensified. The process of de-legitimization created by Hitler’s speeches began to slowly sprout once again.
Netanyahu did everything to create the impression that the military option was still on the table. For that reason, the process of de-legitimization that more or less ran parallel to Iran’s threats of destruction was slow and much more subtle than what the Jews experienced in the thirties.
But Netanyahu effectively transferred the responsibility for Jewish existence to the hands of the world powers. Instead of being a state that takes responsibility for its own fate and retaliates against foreign threats, Israel turned into something like Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Munich Accords.
Czechoslovakia (a strong and progressive state) was forced to wait outside the door while the powers conferred with Hitler as to its fate. Czechoslovakia was sacrificed for the sake of the interests of England and France. Just like Obama, Chamberlain presented the Munich Accords as a great achievement, claiming to have weakened Hitler (in exchange for nothing more than the Sudetenland).
Within a short time, Czechoslovakia lost its sovereignty – without even one shot being fired. States that cannot defend themselves exist thanks to the kindness and interests of other states. When those melt away, they exist on borrowed time.
More than I fear war, I fear that there will be no need for it…
The great danger that Israel faces – a danger even greater than a nuclear Iran – is the process of de-legitimization that the Iranian threat of destruction and the preparations for its implementation have created.
Now, after Israel has ceded responsibility for its security to the world powers in the face of the most terrible existential threat;
Now, when the world powers have taken that responsibility and reached an agreement with Iran – Israel has lost the legitimacy it previously had to attack Iran.
Obviously, Netanyahu will not attack now. It is clear to all who won and who lost.
We have thrown the legitimacy batteries, powered by the blood of the veterans of the War of Independence and the Six Day War, into the rubbish heap. We bequeath to our children the strongest state in the Middle-East both economically and militarily. But in essence, we bequeath them a state that has not been this weak since the War of Independence. Now that the agreement with Iran has been signed, Israel will rapidly lose the remnants of its existential legitimacy and the ability to preserve its sovereignty.
Israel’s ability to deal with Iran has been replaced with empty, arrogant declarations that ‘the IDF will know how to deal with any threat’. The military aspect of the threat is only a small part of the problem and it behooves us to remember the ‘capabilities’ demonstrated by the strong yet de-legitimized IDF in Operation Defensive Shield and the Second Lebanon War.
Now that we understand the depth of the danger, we can discuss plans for dealing with it. As above, the enemy is not the Iranian bomb, but rather, the Iranian regime. (Just like the enemy is not the tunnel or the Gazan rocket, but the Hamas).
Our attempts to escape our identity have made us lose our sense of legitimacy. Israel has also developed the bad habit of fighting the weapons of the enemy instead of fighting the enemy.
The handshake between Arafat and Rabin and then Netanyahu effectively lent Israeli recognition to the justness of the Arab claim on our Land, pulling the vital foundation of justice of our cause out from under our feet. As a result, the only value for which we can fight is the principle of self-defense. We do not allow ourselves to attack a populated building that serves as a rocket launch-pad. We only allow ourselves to attack the rocket while it is still in flight. Soon we will invent a method of destroying the terrorist’s bullets before they hit their targets.
For the same reason, we seek to destroy the nuclear reactors in Iran. But the reactors are not the enemy. The heads of the Iranian regime, who call for Israel’s destruction and do all they can to implement it are the enemy. And they must – and can be – eliminated. The answer to the horrific threat is to turn the tables and to make the existence of those who wish to destroy us – illegitimate.
Won’t such a step drag Israel into a world war, international boycott and the like? Isn’t it impossible? We will have rockets flying here from near and far, the world will hate us and who know what will happen? Unfortunately, that scenario is already playing out before our eyes. It is happening because we are not reacting to the threat against us. It is happening slowly; slowly enough to allow us to ignore the connection between cause and effect.
Everybody from the Prime Minister, down to the ministers of strategy and senior army officials explained to us that sanctions against Iran would be sufficient to stop their nuclear program. I told all of them that ultimately, the sanctions would be lifted and Israel would find itself both threatened and isolated.
That is exactly what happened.
When we protested against the Oslo Accords, they also told us that no missiles would be fired into Ashkelon.
When we tried to prevent the retreat from Gush Katif, they said that it would strengthen Israel’s security.
They also said that we had to release terrorists in exchange for Shalit. We have just recently buried more Israelis as a result.
They always have ways to scare us. They will always appear as the wise ones, the moderates, the realists. And they always push Israel down the slope of an intolerable loss of life and legitimacy.
The time has come to listen to the only voices that have proven to be truly realistic.
We cannot give up on our country.
We owe our children the little that we received from our parents.
We must raise our country off its knees, straighten its back and stand it on its feet.