In short, Israel is neither Jonathan Pollard not Gilad Shalit. There is no reason it should allow itself to be imprisoned by a hostile American administration that curtails its freedom of movement and imperils its very survival. And there is no reason it should allow itself to be kidnapped by Hamas which exploits its international credit to prevent the country from defending itself and from acting to put an end to a condition of ongoing paralysis. Certainly there are powerful constraints that impinge upon the country’s freedom of action. Even so, as the Bard observes, “there is a tide in the affairs of men…And we must take the current when it serves,/Or lose our ventures.” Although it may have faltered in its efforts to free Pollard and Shalit, Israel itself should not behave as if it were America’s convict or Hamas’ hostage.
Israel must recognize that a possible second term for Barack Obama may bring the nation to its knees, rendering it unable to act in its own defense on any of the multiple fronts on which it is engaged. Further, the reluctance to move swiftly and decisively against Hamas permits the terrorist enclave to build up its Iranian and Syrian supplied arsenal with ever more effective, long-range weaponry—as was the case with Hezbollah prior to the 2006 war when it was glaringly evident that the many thousands of missiles Israel watched massing on its northern frontier would eventually be used against it. Another day, another missile added to the stockpile. One recalls Aluf Benn, a columnist for Israel’s left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, who, five days before Hezbollah’s unprovoked attack on Israel, praised its leader Hassan Nasrallah “whose behavior is rational and reasonably predictable,” and affirmed the “stable balance of deterrence that was created on both sides of the border.” Such imbecility often seems to have gone viral.
There comes a time when the practice of ostensible political subtleties, along with a certain timid lethargy, is self-defeating. We saw this counter-productive “strategy” at work when the Israeli government failed to support Philippe Karsenty in his ultimately successful campaign to expose the Al-Durah hoax perpetrated by the Palestinians in concert with French TV-2 and the unscrupulous journalist Charles Enderlin. The argument against determined action is that with patience, clever diplomacy and the maintaining of a low profile, an inauspicious situation may change, just “go away” and be forgotten, or yield to a more positive turn of events. Of course, things change, though often not for the better. The Israelis were the darlings of the West after their stunning victory in the Six Day War. Today they are the world’s villains and scapegoats. Tomorrow, we are often told, it may be different once again and Israel, after it has made every disabling concession demanded of it, may once again be embraced by the international community. Or so the argument goes.
Apart from the fact that this is risibly unlikely, the question is not whether things change; it is whether things change in time, and whether things change beneficially rather than adversely. The situation is far graver, obviously, than sporadic rocket fire and incursions from Gaza—which is bad enough—or any of the isolated eruptions that are constantly occurring. Despite all the difficulties and obstacles it faces, Israel cannot afford to wait upon events. It cannot wait for things to change for the better, which they almost assuredly will not, or change for the worse, which they almost assuredly will. It must prepare for worst-case scenarios of the kind imagined by Giulio Meotti, author of A New Shoah, who writes that the end of the Jewish state may be only a pessimistic fantasy, but reminds us that “Israel’s enemies are working for a world that is clear to them…a world without Israel.” The carnage he describes is as nearly inconceivable as it is wholly possible.
The overriding fact is that with Hamas to the south, Hezbollah to the north, Iran to the East and the Obama administration to the west, with the European Union, Russia and the United Nations intent on hastening the debacle from the periphery, and with a leftist fifth column at its center persistently eroding its will to survive, the only “bunkered democracy” in the world is on the cusp. “The people outside the window,” writes Israeli laureate Yehuda Amichai in a moving poem from Travels, “are the legions/of Titus: they are storming Jerusalem/ this Sabbath night, the cafes and the cinemas.”
If it wishes to preserve the miracle of its existence, Israel cannot allow its foreign policy to be imprisoned by one political actor or kidnapped by another, in whatever form the enemy may declare itself across the entire spectrum of malevolence. The Israeli leadership has no choice but to proceed with courage and fixed purpose, untrammeled by considerations of protocol or repute. For there can be little doubt that if it wishes to see its centennial in 2048, Israel must be resolutely pre-emptive and pro-active. Now.
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