Two seemingly disconnected items actually tell the story, and a sorry one at that, of Israel today.
Item #1: The JTA news service reports that Egypt is negotiating with Hamas at Israels behest, in order to secure a truce between Israel and Hamas, thus stopping the rocket fire into Israel from Gaza and freeing kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit.
Item #2: JTA reports that an Israeli cabinet minister ruefully observes that the fighting in Beirut between the government and Hezbollah is a testament to the deterioration of Israels deterrent power. I remember the days when Syria would think twice about intervening in Jordanian affairs for fear we would respond, the minister said. There used to be an understanding that Israel would not allow a significant strategic shift in the neighborhood.
In a word, Item #1 has caused Item #2. That is, because Israel has abandoned her principles of punishing enemies who threaten her, Israel finds herself so weakened that enemies, such as Syria and Hezbollah, no longer fear Israel too much.
Because Israel negotiates with terrorists the fig leaf of Egypt doing the talking changes nothing terrorists come after Israel.
In a word: the solution to Item #2 is to eradicate Item #1. The way to restore Israels deterrence is for Israel to do what it always did before the now thoroughly discredited policies of the present and previous prime ministers of Israel. The prior prime minister thought that the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would bring peace. It only made things worse. The present PM thinks that military restraint against terrorists on its borders is advisable. This restraint translates to lack of deterrent power.
Deterrence is not only a function of the magnitude of ones weaponry. It is a function of the perception of intent to use it. Israel does not enforce that perception. Israel should long ago have invaded Gaza to wipe out every bomb factory, weapons depot and weapons smuggling tunnel there.
If Israel wants to restore her deterrent power, she must take care of business, demonstrating that she respects the security of her citizens in Sderot, by invading Gaza.
If Israel wants to further reduce her deterrent power, she will reach a truce with Hamas. We put truce in quotation marks because it will be a one-way truce. Importation of weapons into Gaza will continue just like importation of weapons into southern Lebanon by Hezbollah has continued despite the truce there.
The solutions to Items #1 and #2 are these: an Israeli invasion of Gaza that wipes out Hamas military power there; and an Israeli destruction of Hezbollahs weapons in southern Lebanon.
Any major military action is based on a cost-benefit analysis. The right factors must be factored in. The right factors in a major Israeli military offensive in Gaza and southern Lebanon are not these: the response of the UN, of the Bush administration and of the Palestinian Authority. If these were the factors, then Israel would clearly lose the cost-benefit analysis.
The correct factors actually reduce to a single one: the response of Iran. Major Israeli military destruction of terrorist and other offensive weapons in Gaza and southern Lebanon would chill Iran.
Hardly. Look at history. In 1981, Israel attacked the fledgling nuclear reactor in Iraq. The UN, the US and the entire Arab world vociferously objected. But on the cost-benefit analysis that counted the destruction of Iraqi designs on Israel Israel triumphed. The most Iraq could muster were a few relatively weak Scud missiles in 1991 (and even that only under cover of war with the US). Besides that, nothing.
Right now, the door to any potential Israeli military action against Iranian nuclear facilities is quickly closing. For if Iran succeeds in installing Hezbollah in Lebanon (as it has installed Hamas in Gaza), Israel will need to factor in to any action against Irans nuclear program attacks on Israel from her north and south.
Israel need not face that. Israel can head off that dire possibility by restoring her deterrent power, taking care of business in Gaza and in southern Lebanon. More than the security of Sderot and Kiryat Shemona, Israels deterrent power against Iran will be secured.
And years from now, Israel will be cheered in retrospect just as she was 10 years after her destruction of Iraqs nuclear reactor.
Oh yes, there is also an Item #3: cessassation of all talk of withdrawal from the Golan Heights. For a very simple reason: There already is peace between Israel and Syria. Not a peace treaty, to be sure; but something far more valuable: peace. Syria does not threaten Israel, as it used to. Syria renews the (long forgotten) UN force on the Golan Heights like clockwork, twice a year, since 1974. Why is there peace? Precisely because of yes the Israeli deterrent power in the area, that is, the Israeli occupation of the Golan Heights. Want peace or want a piece of paper? Well take the peace.