How Israel must talk

I recently wrote two posts — part I and part II of “How Israel must fight” — discussing the special situation of Israel fighting asymmetric wars, in a hostile political and media environment, and with the ever-present threat of intervention by outside powers.

My conclusion was this:

The primary goal, therefore, in future wars must be as complete a victory as possible: the enemy’s army must be shattered, its leadership killed or captured, its arms and installations destroyed. Victory must obtained as quickly as possible, before outside powers intervene; and it must be achieved with overwhelming force, to multiply the psychological effect. Humanitarian concerns will necessarily take a back seat.

But this same philosophy should be applied to the less-violent arena of  diplomacy. Sometimes it seems as though Israeli policy is driven by so many forces other than the national interest: the desire to prove to the world how civilized Israel is, the need to mollify the US administration, and of course domestic political considerations.

For example, take the outrageous prisoner exchange demanded by Hamas for Gilad Schalit — 1000 or more terrorists including multiple murderers. Israel seems to have chosen to negotiate about which and how many prisoners will be freed in exchange; but the negotiations should be based on which and how many Hamas leaders will be executed if Schalit is not released!

The futility of the current approach was demonstrated today by Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal:

Those who were able to capture Schalit and hold him safely for more than three years are capable of capturing “Schalit and Schalit and Schalit until there was not even one prisoner in the enemy’s jails,” Mashaal said.

Another example of self-defeating policy is the suggestion by some that Israel should launch an official investigation of the charges in the Goldstone report. Is it not a forgone conclusion that any exculpatory conclusions that such an investigation might produce will be either ignored by the anti-Israel media or be slammed as biased? So what advantage is to be gained by keeping the false accusations made in the report in the public eye?

Yet another is any tendency to take seriously the absurd demands of the PA. Israel should make crystal clear that negotiations will not progress until the PA unambiguously states — in Arabic and English — that it recognizes Israel as the state of the Jewish People, and that all demands for ‘right of return’ are forever off the table.

I think that the Netanyahu government has acted more or less correctly so far, although it may not be able to resist the demands to bring Schalit home at almost any cost.

I’m hopeful that it will be able to turn around the apologetic and defeatist attitude that has characterized Israel’s diplomacy in recent years, and present to the world a picture of a nation confident of its power and legitimacy.

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2 Responses to “How Israel must talk”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    Once again it seems to me that the major lessons elaborated here in regard to future possible wars ( which I pray will never take place) should be considered and studied by the IDF. Clearly we have not been doing it in the right way for some time now.

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    I think nonetheless there is a difference between ‘tough acting’ and ‘tough talking’. I am not sure that the latter would help very much. It is clear that things that the Arab and Islamic world are allowed are not allowed to Israel. For Israel to make threats and bluster the way the Arabs and Islamists usually do would simply win condemnation.
    Israel has been at its best when it acted first and explained later.
    I do agree that we have put ourselves in a hole by agreeing to outrageous conditions in regard to prisoner- exchanges and even information regarding prisoners. The tough position would be to simply refuse to negotiate on the basis of these outrageous demands. But our weakness is our commitment to care for the life of each soldier; and the public pressure that commitment entails.
    I do not know how one could begin to change the position of our own people on this issue.