Op-Ed: More Than Ever, Israel Must Rely Upon Itself
After "Palestine", as Moshe Ya'alon clearly understood, the regional correlation of forces would become markedly less favorable to Israel.
In his recent public remarks about American foreign policy, and U.S.-Israeli relations, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon simply stated the obvious. Under no circumstances, Ya'alon correctly maintained, should Israel ever consent to sub-contracting its core national security obligations to the United States.
This assertion was not meant to suggest that Israel and the U.S. should in any way depart from their long and mutually gainful relationship on vital defense matters. On the contrary, it represented a thoroughly prudent extrapolation from American President Barack Obama's own declared views of the Middle East.
In essence, whatever else might be disclaimed in Washington, Mr. Obama still subscribes to the most narrowly Palestinian narrative of an Israeli "occupation." Without any intended prejudice against the orthodox Israeli account of pertinent history and law, he somehow remains convinced that this protracted regional struggle between an existing Jewish State, and an aspiring (23rd) Arab state, concerns two equally-reasonable claims. Accordingly, in the President's own sweepingly deductive logic, each side is now entitled to a state of its own.
Nothing, he confidently believes, could be more fair.
But the premises of this argument are either erroneous or contrived. In consequence, the President's position is constructed upon assorted historical and legal misunderstandings.
At some point, when the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas are finally able to smooth over their most refractory internal disagreements, they will jointly announce the arrival of "Palestine." The U.N. General Assembly already elevated the PA to the status of a "non-member observer state," but this particular elevation fell far short of granting authentic statehood.
Nonetheless, this expected Palestinian announcement, with predictably full support of President Obama's "Peace Process," will mock critical expectations of codified international law, especially the governing treaty on statehood, known as The Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, or (less formally) The Montevideo Convention (1934).
A new state of Palestine - any new state of Palestine - will promptly seek territorial extensions beyond its initially constituted borders. Assuredly, however, the "civilized" world will then look away. After all, according to the ritualistic Palestinian narrative accepted by President Obama, any such extensions would be consistent with the presumptive interests of "fairness."
The official PA map still shows all of Israel as part of Palestine. The official logo of PA Television still shows all of Israel as Palestine, with the Palestinian capital in Jerusalem. Fatah's official insignia is Israel smothered by a grenade, bayoneted rifle, and sub-machine gun. All PA school textbooks still use a map of the Middle East in which Israel simply does not exist, and has been conspicuously replaced by "Palestine".
Fatah's Charter states unambiguously: "Our struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished, and Palestine is completely liberated." Fatah effectively controls the Palestinian Authority.
Any Palestinian Arab state would have a deeply injurious impact on Israel's physical survival. After "Palestine", as Minister Ya'alon was entirely correct to anticipate, Israel would require ever-greater increments of self-reliance. In turn, such requirements would demand, among other things: (1) a more complex nuclear strategy involving deterrence, preemption, and war fighting capabilities; and (2) a corollary and inter-penetrating conventional war strategy.
As any Palestinian Arab state would make Israel's conventional capabilities more problematic, the national command authority would likely need to make the country’s implicit nuclear deterrent less ambiguous.
Taking the Israeli bomb out of the “basement" could enhance Israel’s security for a while, but ending “deliberate ambiguity” could simultaneously heighten the chances of actual nuclear weapons use. If Iran is allowed to “go nuclear,” as now seems certain (thanks, in large part, to naive agreements fashioned in Washington), resultant nuclear violence might not necessarily be limited to the immediate areas of Israel and environs.
A nuclear war could arrive in Israel not only as a "bolt-from-the-blue" surprise missile attack, but also as a result, intended or inadvertent, of escalation. If an enemy state were to begin "only" conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem might then respond with fully nuclear reprisals. If this enemy state were to begin with solely conventional attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem's conventional reprisals might still be met, in the future, with enemy nuclear counterstrikes.
This outcome would become possible only if a still-nuclearizing Iran were spared any residual forms of Israeli or American pre-emptive attack. A persuasive Israeli conventionaldeterrent, to the extent that it could prevent enemy state conventional and/or biological attacks in the first place, would likely reduce Israel's overall risk of exposure to nuclear war.
After "Palestine", as Moshe Ya'alon clearly understood, the regional correlation of forces would become markedly less favorable to Israel. Then, the only credible way for Israel to deter large-scale conventional attacks would be by maintaining visible and large-scale conventional capabilities. Enemy states contemplating first-strike attacks upon Israel using chemical and/or biological weapons would be apt to take more seriously Israel's nuclear deterrent.
Whether or not this nuclear deterrent had remained undisclosed, could also affect Israel’s threat credibility. In this connection, however, Washington's only predictable posture would be to endorse continued nuclear ambiguity, a posture sorely contrary to Israel's long-term deterrence requirements.
A strong conventional capability is needed by Israel to deter or to preempt conventional attacks, attacks that could lead via escalation to unconventional war. Here, President Barack Obama’s Peace Process would impair Israel's strategic depth, and, when recognized by enemy states, Israel’s associated capacity to wage conventional warfare.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon merely stated the obvious. Acknowledging America's evident fiasco of lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Washington's significant impotence vis-à-vis Russian aggression in the Ukraine, Jerusalem must finally come to terms with the core imperatives of national self-reliance.
To be sure, Israel should continue to do everything possible to maintain meaningful mutual defense arrangements with the United States - advice that would be fully endorsed by Mr. Ya'alon himself - but it must also remain aware that in any still-evolving matters of existential urgency, American support should never be taken as absolutely necessary or sufficient
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. He is the author of ten major books and several hundred journal articles on international relations and international law, including publications in Israel National News;The Jerusalem Post; The Atlantic; U.S. News & World Report; The Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs; The International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence; The Brown Journal of World Affairs; and the Harvard National Security Journal (Harvard Law School). The Chair of Project Daniel (Israel, 2003), Professor Beres was born in Zürich,Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.