Intransigence is the best policy

Caroline Glick (in a piece that is scary, even for her) wrote,

The Mavi Marmara demonstrated that on the one hand the IDF cannot enforce its blockade of Gaza without the use of force. On the other hands [sic] it taught Israel’s enemies that by forcing Israel to use force, Iran, Turkey and their allies incited a UN-EU-US lynch mob against Israel.

One thing that is clear about the lynch mob is that its members don’t believe the story that Israel acted ‘disproportionally’ or worse. It is certainly 100% clear to the intelligence services of the US and the European nations that the incident was a trap set at the highest levels of the Turkish government.

Therefore, we have to conclude that the incident is being used in the West to advance predetermined strategic goals: to prevent Israel from defending herself, to force more concessions to the Palestinian Authority, and — in the case of the European players (and we hope not the US) to legitimize Hamas.

Israel has already agreed to loosen restrictions on goods being transferred to Gaza and the US, in return, has made a statement that it really would be nice of Hamas to return Gilad Shalit to his family. Of course the US has zero leverage on Hamas. The loosening of restrictions will probably have little direct effect on security, but does reduce Israel’s bargaining power with regard to Shalit. So on balance, Hamas wins and Israel loses.

The UN’s investigation of the incident will certainly be a Goldstoning, and will be used in the same way as the Goldstone report. The announcement of Israel’s own investigation — even including foreign participation — predictably had no effect on UN plans.

The lesson for Israel is that it should not have tried to placate its critics for the Mavi Marmara episode. They already know Israel was attacked. Their complaints are disingenuous.

The appropriate response would have been to go on the offensive, to call for an international investigation of Turkey, and to offer to reduce restrictions on Gaza only in response to the release of Gilad Shalit.

Now that the flotilla has been shown to be effective,  there will be more flotillas — from Turkey, Iran, etc. — and there may be more attempts to provoke Israel. As Glick points out, this could be enormously dangerous, even providing pretexts for war. The thought of war involving Iran and Turkey in addition to the usual suspects of Hamas, Hizballah and Syria is more than just ‘scary’.

Such an eventuality would be very bad for everyone in the Middle East, and indeed for the whole world. And I think that all of the major players know this.

Which bring us to what I think is the real threat facing Israel today. Despite the bellicose rhetoric coming from Turkey, Iran and Syria, all would prefer to avoid a shooting war. Along with the Europeans, Russia and the US, they want to ensure that oil and natural gas keep flowing, although Iran would not be averse to the oil costing a bit more. And despite its size and relatively competent military, even Turkey would be badly mauled in a war with Israel.

In my opinion, Iran, Syria and Turkey want to bring the region to the brink, but not push it over. The real damage will be done by the more ‘responsible’ powers, in response to the crisis that the radical states will provoke.

I expect that they will spring into action to promote ‘peace in our time’: a mostly-Western diktat that will all but dismember Israel.

The sponsors of a latter-day Munich compact will not want to take Israel’s interests into account any more than Czechoslovakia’s were in 1938, but in the US it will be sold as an effort to ‘save Israel’ and world peace. I expect that the Turks, Iranians, etc. will make maximal, even crazy, demands and the US, Russia and Europeans will offer to split the difference, with the result being doubleplus ungood for Israel.

My suggestion is that Israel should respond to all of this — the flotillas and the diplomatic attacks — with strength, not weakness. Policymakers should keep in mind that acquiescence to demands will only bring further demands. Compromises will never be enough; there will always be another compromise required.

But Israel has a few more cards that it can play than Czechoslovakia did. For one thing, it is still the most capable military power in the Middle East.

Israel is always falsely being accused of intransigence, when in fact it is overly accommodating. I am suggesting that the best policy is real intransigence.

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One Response to “Intransigence is the best policy”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    I may be wrong but I think that the U.S. Administration cannot be dismissed as wholly negative in reaction to this incident. They support the investigation Israel will conduct into the affair. They still recognize Hamas to be a terrorist organization, and so uphold the fundamental condition of the boycott. They have just conducted a joint- naval exercise with Israel.
    They do not in other words signal that they are about to abandon their friendship with Israel.
    As for the Turks , Erdogan has reaped the reward of great popularity in Arab and Islamic worlds. Whether these ‘rewards’ are more important than losing the favor of the U.S. Congress and the support of Israel and American Jewry is another question.