A Year After The Scuds Fell: Wrong, Naive Policy Of Restraint, January 17, 1992The Hidden Threat, January 24, 1992
The Next 'Obstacle to Peace', July 30, 1992Missile Proliferation, September 7, 1992
Start with Conventional Arms, September 13, 1992Trouble for Peace Process as Multilaterals Resume, September 18, 1992
Jewish Sovereignty and Survival, October 6, 1992All the President's (New) Men, November 12, 1992
Courage from the Left, December 2, 1992An 'Overreaction' to Strengthen Deterrence, December 18, 1992
Exile Toward Peace, December 24, 1992
AIR Force Commander Avihu Bin-Nun recently revealed that on three separate occasions, Israeli pilots sat in their cockpits ready to attack Iraq during last year's war.
Upon his retirement, Chief of Staff Dan Shomron noted that near the end of the war, Israeli commandos had been prepared to land in western Iraq, on a mission to destroy Scud missile sites.
There has been a growing realization that the policy of "restraint" adopted during the war failed to produce the expected political and military benefits.
In the US and Europe, once the military victory over Saddam Hussein had been celebrated, the war was quickly forgotten. Israelis, in contrast, are still haunted by the trauma of the missile attacks and Iraq's threats to "incinerate half of Israel" with chemical weapons, by the fear that the experience of the war might be repeated.
One year ago, as the war began, few Israelis expected to be sitting in sealed rooms and wearing gas masks for six weeks. The Iraqi missiles were primitive, and any attack would surely be met with a powerful Israeli response.
Immediately prior to the war, as Saddam's threats became more shrill and he promised that the first missiles would fall on Tel Aviv, the Israeli Air Force took to the air on a 24-hour alert.
However, the Bush administration sent Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger to Israel to ask the government to refrain from launching a pre-emptive attack. Eagleburger pledged that, in return, the Iraqi missiles would be a primary target for the US forces and that by the time this brief war was over, the Iraqi threat would be permanently destroyed.
US and British military forces did attack the Iraqi missiles and missile launchers; and in his nightly press conferences, General Norman Schwarzkopf declared that most of the launchers had been destroyed.
But the low-risk high-altitude bombing proved ineffective, the missiles kept falling, and the terror continued. The Americans also dispatched batteries of Patriot missile defense systems to Israel with crews to operate them. But despite the best of intentions, the Patriots failed to do the job (and, in fact, caused extra damage).
As Saddam's threats increased and the ground war approached, the Bush administration continued to plead for Israeli restraint and Eagleburger returned to renew the American pledges. From Washington, Israelis heard promises of greater understanding of the Jewish state's security needs.
With images of Palestinians dancing on the rooftops to celebrate the missile attacks on Israeli cities, many critics of Israeli policy, particularly in the media, seemed to change their views.
In their sealed rooms and wearing their gas masks, Israelis heard Americans acknowledging that the Middle East really is a "very dangerous neighborhood." For the first time since 1967, Israelis were seen as the victims of Arab hostility and violence.
Despite the failure to stop the Scuds, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir continued to accede to the requests of the Bush Administration, and military plans to launch a retaliatory attack were shelved. The difficulty of this decision can only be understood against the background of the Holocaust.
Indeed, during the war, as Iraqi missiles landed without response, many Israelis argued that by failing to deliver a powerful response, the raison d'etre of the Jewish state was being violated.
Strategic analysts also warned that in the absence of a military response, Israeli deterrence with respect to future Arab threats - whether from Iraq, Syria or Libya - would be weakened. As we now know, the issue was not the military effectiveness of the Iraqi Scuds, but their political and psychological consequences.
ALTHOUGH the Israeli government, in particular the prime minister, were responsible for adopting a policy of restraint, much of the postwar frustration is directed at the US government.
A year later, while Israelis live with their nightmares and anxieties, the American government has not only failed to live up to its pledges; it has forgotten about them entirely. In an angry speech last September, President Bush expressed indignation at the Israeli ingratitude regarding US "protection" during the war.
That isn't how the Israelis remember it. The Patriots served as a symbol of friendship and support, but President Bush's assertions that "American troops risked their lives to defend Israel" became a source of deep anger and distrust. Israel risked its own security at the behest of the US, but the Americans failed to deliver.
This pattern continued and even intensified after the war ended. Despite Eagleburger's promises, US troops pulled out of Iraq before any of the Scud sites and chemical or nuclear facilities had been destroyed. Bush administration officials assured Israel that Saddam would be gone within a few months, but there is still no sign of a serious challenge to his rule.
The Palestinians who cheered the Scud attacks on Tel Aviv and Haifa are now honored guests in Washington, as if nothing had happened. While Syria spends its war reward on North Korean missiles and maintains its stockpile of chemical warheads, the US government remains silent.
After the war ended, the US announced that Saddam Hussein's arsenal of Scuds, and his chemical, biological and nuclear weapons would be destroyed within 120 days. When this deadline passed at the beginning of August, administration officials told Israel that the job was almost done. A few days later, an Iraqi nuclear scientist defected and revealed that the outside world had absolutely no concept of the extent of Iraq's nuclear program.
Since then, Israelis have been watching nervously as Saddam attempts to block UN inspectors, while working to complete his bombs. The US even criticized Israeli overflights over Iraq, claiming, without credibility, that there was no need for independent reconnaissance.
During the war, Israelis who argued that the policy of restraint would not change anything, that the West would continue to sell arms and technology to the Arabs and that the threat to Israel would continue, proved correct. Those who accepted the view that by showing "maturity" and staying out of the war, Israel would gain international support and begin an era of cooperation with Egypt and Syria, were proved naive.
Instead of gratitude and appreciation, President Bush treats
Israel with disdain and anger. In retrospect, it appears that the policy of
restraint was a mistake. The next time an Arab dictator aims his missiles at
Israel, our pilots will not be ordered to sit passively in their cockpits.
THE breakup of the Soviet Union was accompanied by great concern over the control over the nuclear arsenal, which is estimated to include 28,000 warheads and bombs. The attempted coup in August, and the transfer of power from Gorbachev to Yeltsin, focused attention on the nuclear "codes." Whoever controls these codes (technically called permissive action links) can send nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles, submarine-based missiles, and long-range strike bombers hurtling towards targets in North America and Western Europe.
While the world's attention focused on these strategic nuclear weapons, and most of the arms control negotiations between the US and the Soviet Union dealt with them, the majority of nuclear weapons take different forms. Nuclear land mines, artillery shells, short-range missiles, surface-to-air missiles, cruise missiles, torpedoes, and "free-fall" bombs dropped from tactical aircraft constitute almost two thirds of the total arsenal. These are known as theater, battlefield, or tactical nuclear weapons (the definition of these terms is generally imprecise).
Unlike strategic weapons, which travel thousands of kilometers and can destroy cities on the other side of the world, tactical nuclear explosives were generally aimed at relatively close military targets. Thousands of nuclear land mines were manufactured in order to block a large-scale invasion in Central Europe. The Soviet military also produced approximately 7,000 nuclear artillery shells with ranges of from 10 km. to 30 km. These were produced in order to destroy major tank formations on the battlefield.
In contrast to strategic nuclear weapons, which are restricted to Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, tactical nuclear arms are scattered in bases in other republics that were formerly part of the Soviet Union.
Until two years ago, these weapons were also deployed with Soviet troops in Eastern Europe (including East Germany), and the Baltic republics. The coded command and control procedures, which are used for missiles and other strategic weapons, are often absent or far weaker in the case of nuclear land mines and artillery shells. In addition, while American reconnaissance satellites keep a close watch on the strategic nuclear forces, the locations of thousands of small tactical nuclear weapons is impossible to monitor from such a distance.
ALL OF this makes the prospect of the theft or transfer of tactical nuclear weapons from a military base in one of the former Soviet republics a frightening scenario. Pressed by starvation, and without other sources of hard currency, the temptation to sell or trade a "small" tactical nuclear bomb for food or oil might be irresistible. As countries in the Middle East, including Iraq, Algeria, Libya and Iran, scramble for a nuclear capability, these former Soviet republics might present a source for off-the-shelf weapons.
In addition to the relatively easier access to such weapons, their small size makes the prospect of nuclear smuggling even more plausible. Nuclear land mines are small enough to fit into a suitcase, and eight-inch nuclear artillery shells are externally indistinguishable from conventional shells of the same size and shape. Three thousand nuclear-capable tactical aircraft are also scattered throughout the republics of the former Soviet Union, and with some assistance, a pilot could conceivably fly out an aircraft and its nuclear payload to a neighboring country.
While such possibilities are scary, it is important to note that the vast majority of tactical nuclear weapons have small yields. Because they were designed to be used on the battlefield at relatively short ranges of a few kilometers, the explosive force had to be limited to avoid affecting the side that fired the weapons. Nuclear artillery shells, for example, can be as small as one tenth of a kiloton, and nuclear land mines on the order of 1/100 (one one-hundredth) of a kiloton. (A kiloton is the equivalent explosive force of 1,000 tons of conventional explosives. )
By way of comparison, the nuclear weapons that were used against Japan in 1945 were about 15 kilotons, or 150 times the size of the low-yield nuclear artillery explosives. City-destroying strategic nuclear weapons, in contrast, range from hundreds of kilotons to megatons. In other words, even if a country like Iraq obtains a nuclear land mine or artillery shell, such a weapon, while capable of inflicting significant damage, is not on the same scale as a large strategic device. Still, even a "small" nuclear bomb can do tremendous damage.
The threat posed by the theft or unauthorized access to tactical nuclear weapons has been recognized in the last year. Immediately after the attempted coup in August, President Bush announced that the US would greatly reduce its stockpile of such weapons. Shortly afterwards, Gorbachev made a similar announcement. (These are the only two countries which are known to have produced battlefield weapons. )
Since then, however, the Soviet Union has collapsed, and Moscow's central control ended before the tactical and battlefield weapons could be destroyed or neutralized. (This process is dangerous and requires sophisticated and careful handling of radioactive materials. )
The US has continued to focus attention on the safeguarding of these weapons until they can be dismantled, and arms controllers are aware of the dangers of this quick route to proliferation. Some of the funds already transferred to the newly independent republics are earmarked specifically for the strengthening of controls on the tactical as well as strategic nuclear arsenals.
In many weapons, depending on the design, the radioactive
material inside the bombs will decay independently and become less powerful over
a period of 10 to 20 years. The other less sophisticated weapons, however, will
maintain their explosive potential for many years or perhaps decades unless they
are rendered inoperative. As political control over these weapons weakens, the
dangers will continue to grow. If certified destruction does not take place
soon, within a few years, no one will know how many still exist and where they
are located. The result will be global nuclear chaos.
WHEN Yitzhak Rabin replaced Yitzhak Shamir as prime minister, many commentators expected the tension between the US and Israel to end.
Indeed, on issues such as settlement policy, loan guarantees and the peace talks, agreement quickly replaced conflict. But in other areas, such as Israel's security requirements and arms control, disagreement continues, and is likely to increase regardless of the personalities and chemistry between leaders.
Arms control has become a major focus of foreign policy in the US and a central part of the "New World Order" the Americans hope will replace the Cold War.
Now that the great victory over Iraq has been exposed as a farce, the Bush administration has sought to highlight the steps it has taken to lower the threat of nuclear war and global destruction.
The Bush-Yeltsin agreement to reduce American and Russian nuclear arsenals is a major part of this process. In addition, France, China and South Africa have joined the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), and North Korea is opening its nuclear facilities to inspection.
Other US policy successes include the completion of the global chemical weapons convention, and the missile technology control regime, which have expanded the scope of arms control.
The Middle East, however, is a glaring exception that could undermine all the other achievements. The Arab and Islamic states are still developing a variety of weapons of mass destruction, and every American official who mentions arms control is told that any cooperation in this sphere depends on ending Israel's nuclear program.
Most of the Arab states, including Iraq, Libya and Syria, have signed the NPT, but from Israel's perspective it is meaningless.
Many policymakers in Washington naively believe that Israeli policy is "goading" Iraq, Iran and Syria into developing nuclear weapons and missiles, as if limitations on Israel would end these Arab programs.
The Americans have even provided some support for the Mubarak plan, which calls for the "elimination of weapons of mass destruction from the Middle East." In reality, the objective of this plan is to force Israel to give up its nuclear option, exposing it again to Arab threats of destruction.
The US has steadily increased its pressure on Israel. Many Israelis point out that arms-control measures such as the NPT have been counterproductive in the Middle East, allowing totalitarian and oil-rich states such as Iraq to acquire nuclear technology and chemical weapons. Furthermore, the possibility of nuclear options is necessary to prevent Arab attacks, both conventional and unconventional, which could destroy Israel.
There is evidence that the nuclear option convinced Sadat that continued military efforts were suicidal, and deterred Saddam Hussein from using chemical warheads with his missiles. No government leader will relinquish this capability until peace has been achieved, the neighboring countries become open democratic societies, and the threat to survival has been removed.
OFFICIALLY, American policymakers profess to understand the Israeli point of view. They agree that serious arms-control can only come about in the last stages of the peace process, when the Syrian and Iraqi threats have ended.
However, many US policies are inconsistent with this rhetoric. In May 1991, President Bush issued a Middle East arms-control initiative, which, while mentioning conventional as well as unconventional weapons, seemed to endorse the Mubarak plan.
On July 13, 1992, Bush formalized the end to US production of the major ingredients required for nuclear weapons - plutonium and enriched uranium - and called for similar actions by other states. This provided additional support for the Arab campaign to strip Israel of its deterrent.
In other areas, the Bush administration exploited legislation to pressure Israel to accept limitations on exports of missile-related technology, and is trying to limit the Israeli missile and space programs in the name of non-proliferation.
The legislation was actually designed to block the sale of Chinese and North Korean missiles to Syria and Iran, and to punish the European firms which armed Saddam. However, no action has been taken against Iraq's suppliers, and the US failed to stop Syria from obtaining Scud-C missiles.
The net result will be to lower Israel's deterrence capabilities, with no comparable impact on the Arabs. While states such as Sweden and Switzerland have been provided with the benefits of membership in the missile technology control regime, the US has not supported Israeli membership.
In a recent speech on Middle East arms control, Dennis Ross, who heads the State Department's policy planning staff and is one of Secretary of State Baker's senior advisers, presented an ambiguous plan which ignored all these difficult issues. His analysis was reminiscent of Jimmy Carter's approach, and it was difficult to imagine a member of a Republican administration taking such an unrealistic and "soft" approach to such a critical security issue.
Although he was speaking only a few days later, Ross made no mention of Bush's July 13 initiative. He termed the multilateral negotiations on this subject successful, ignoring the Egyptian effort to again isolate Israel on the issue of Dimona.
In their zeal for a "new world order" characterized by stability and an end to the threat of nuclear war, the Americans are likely to continue to ignore the realities of the Middle East and press Israel for concessions, particularly on the nuclear issue. The confidence of Americans that they know what is best for us has not been shaken by the abject and continuing failure to disarm Iraq.
As long as this American policy continues, clashes with Israel
are inevitable, no matter who is in charge in Jerusalem. The conflicts will end
when the US works with Israel to develop a realistic approach, combining Israeli
security requirements and the realities of the Middle East with the longer-term
interests in arms control.
Sir, - In their op-ed article, "Winking at missile proliferation" (August 19), Gary Milhollin and Gerard White demonstrate a moral blindness that is no better than that of the policy-makers they condemn.
Like other self-righteous abolitionists, the authors are "country blind," failing to distinguish between legitimate Israeli deterrence requirements and the aggressive acquisitions of Iraq, Syria and Iran. Stripped of its deterrent, Israel will again be exposed to attacks on national survival.
An effective approach to non-proliferation must be based on
the realities of the Middle East, and when all forms of Arab military threats
cease, Israel will no longer need missiles or other deterrents.
ARMS control is an essential part of the peace process. But the arms control working group of the multilateral negotiations, which reconvenes in Moscow tomorrow, has yet to agree on an agenda.
The participants have conflicting goals, concepts and expectations. For many years, the Arab states used arms control forums to try to limit Israel's nuclear deterrent, or at least put Israel on the defensive and gain a public relations advantage.
In the first sessions of the working group in Washington, the Egyptian delegation raised this issue, violating an earlier agreement to limit the meeting to an academic seminar. If the Europeans are allowed to participate in the arms talks, they are likely to support the Arab position, further increasing pressure on Israel.
Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and the impact of the Gulf war, arms control in the Middle East remains very complex. While nuclear arms-control negotiations during the Cold War were essentially limited to the two superpowers, the conflicts in the Middle East can involve over 20 states, from Algeria to Iran.
Efforts to develop and implement limitations on the transfer of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and technologies, as well as missiles, have failed in the Middle East. Indeed, many of the arms limitation efforts to date have been counterproductive, resulting in an increased level of arms and higher risk of conflict. Israeli policymakers therefore tend to see arms control proposals as part of the Arab effort to curb the country's deterrence capabilities and gain unilateral military advantage, rather than serious efforts to secure mutual benefits and prevent war.
In contrast, discussion of conventional arms limitations provide a useful way to begin negotiations. The threat posed by the massive Arab conventional forces to Israeli security and national survival is still greater than the danger of missiles and other weapons in the region. Indeed, the Israeli nuclear capability was developed to deter a massive Arab conventional attack, and this threat must be removed before the Israeli strategic capability can be phased out.
In addition, conventional limitations are inherently easier to negotiate and implement than other control measures. The geographic requirements for conventional limitations are relatively restricted. Tanks, artillery and most tactical fighters are confined to relatively short ranges, in contrast to missile-borne strategic weapons. While limitations on nuclear and chemical weapons would require the compliance of over 20 states, effective conventional arms limitations could be developed within a relatively small group of countries in close proximity.
AS a first stage, conventional arms negotiations could begin between Israel and the "confrontation states" - Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. (Militarily, Iraq must also be included in this group. As long as Iraqi arms acquisitions and deployments are effectively controlled by outside powers, Iraqi compliance can be externally guaranteed.)
Libya and other states in the region have acquired large conventional forces but they are too far removed to have much of an impact on the Arab-Israeli conventional balance.
Verification is a necessary aspect of any arms limitation agreement, often requiring the presence of inspectors and intrusive intelligence gathering. However, limits on major conventional platforms - such as main battle tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers and combat aircraft - can be verified with relative ease.
A significant change in the balance of power would require the clandestine acquisition of hundreds of tanks and tens of advanced aircraft. The number of potential suppliers of major platforms is relatively small. Thus, a limitation agreement that includes both suppliers and recipient states can be effectively monitored and verified.
The parties to any arms agreement must define the quantitative and qualitative limits, a process which will pose a number of difficulties. In 1949, the US, Britain and France issued the Tripartite Declaration, prohibiting the sale of weapons to the Middle East; but the Declaration allowed for transfers which were necessary for a "stable balance of power" and for "legitimate self defense."
The ambiguity of these terms was exploited by the suppliers to justify arms sales to Iraq and Egypt in pursuit of their own economic and political goals in the region, and this entire effort failed. The US and Britain continue to justify multi-billion dollar arms sales to Saudi Arabia in terms of the regional "balance" and "legitimate self-defense."
To overcome this obstacle, a conventional arms limitation agreement could be based on a freeze on the number of major platforms (main battle tanks, artillery, armored personnel carriers, combat aircraft and perhaps naval craft). These numbers are relatively well known, and significant changes could readily be detected.
In this way, the issue of comparability between systems (such as the MiG-29 vs. F-15, or T-72 vs. M-60A3) can be avoided. Although a reduction in the number of tanks in Syria (over 4,000) is desirable, the current conventional military balance among these core states (and the continued prohibitions on Iraqi acquisitions) is relatively stable, and these states can probably accept a freeze at current levels. Replacements for damaged or destroyed platforms would be allowed, at least in the first stages of this process, but significant upgrading (exchanging a MiG-21 for a MiG-29 or F-15, or T-55 for a T-80 or M-1 tank) would be prohibited.
A freeze on major platforms would also avoid the problems posed by indigenous arms industries. Although Israel, Egypt, Iraq and Iran have local industries, none are capable of the independent production of advanced platforms, such as main battle tanks and combat aircraft. (The Israeli Merkava tank uses a US-made engine, and Israeli-made aircraft, such as the Kfir, are also powered by imported engines.)
A conventional weapons freeze will not be easy to negotiate or implement, and will require a major policy change by the US and the other major arms producers. Such a freeze will not solve all the problems of arms control in the Middle East.
Ultimately, if there is to be a full peace agreement,
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons will also have to be limited. However,
given Israeli security requirements, discussion of a freeze on tanks, artillery,
and short-range combat aircraft is a good way to begin the process.
While the bilateral negotiations with the Syrian and Palestinian delegations were resuming in Washington, the multilateral working group on regional security and arms control met in Moscow. In this important area, there are signs that the peace process is in trouble.
Syria and Lebanon have boycotted these meetings, leaving Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan as the major Arab participants. Israel and the United States have stressed the need for beginning with confidence building measures, such as the establishment of a crises hot-line, or measures to prevent naval clashes in the Red Sea. This would being the Saudis directly into the process, allow Egypt to reinforce its commitment to peace, and serve as a modest example from which to build.
However, the Arabs, led by Egypt, again used these talks to stress the issue of nuclear weapons, with a particular focus on Israel. This campaign diverts attention from confidence building. It also allows Cairo to ignore the huge stockpiles of conventional weapons in the Arab countries, and the erosion of the Israeli qualitative advantage which is necessary to balance the arsenal.
Although the policies of the Bush administration initially seemed to support the Egyptian campaign, the American delegation now realizes that Israel cannot be expected to discuss territorial concessions while its military capability is being undermined. Unless the Egyptians drop the nuclear issue by the next set of meetings, the clash could endanger the overall peace process.
To complicate matters, the Chinese foreign minister used his visit to Jerusalem to protest the American sale of F-16s to Taiwan, and to announce that his country is pulling out of the Middle East arms control forum involving the five permanent members of the United Nations.
Beijing has always argued that the American were using these talks to gain a larger market share. Now it will be easier for the Chinese to sell nuclear technology to Iran, Syria and Algeria, billions of dollars of weapons to Iran, and maybe reinstate the sale of M-9 missiles to Syria.
At the same time, George Bush's use of F-15 sales to Saudi
Arabia as a means of gaining votes will also not help persuade France, Britain
and other arms producers to act with restraint. Together, this evidence
indicates that arms control in the Middle east is still mostly rhetoric, while
the arms race continues.
THE purpose of Zionism and the establishment of Israel was the creation of a sovereign Jewish homeland. The nature of this "Jewishness" and its religious, cultural, and legal expressions may be subject to continuous dispute, but Israel is indeed a Jewish state. Hebrew is the dominant language, the calendar and working week are based on Jewish tradition and, as clearly emerges in the period of the High Holy Days, the atmosphere and culture are Jewish.
For many foreign diplomats stationed in Israel, however, this essential characteristic is easily overlooked. Few speak Hebrew, and thus are unaware of the importance of this language to relearning and extending Jewish culture. Most live in the Herzliya and Kfar Shmaryahu area, and their embassies and offices are located in north Tel Aviv. In these international enclaves, many aspects of Israeli society, from the wide availability of kosher food to the special nature of Shabbat, are missing.
Confined to these areas, diplomats can easily spend years in Israel without seeing or visiting any of the thousands of small neighborhood synagogues on a Shabbat or holiday. They can fail to notice and appreciate the special atmosphere of Yom Kippur when, in many cities and communities, there are no cars moving in the streets and radio and television are silent. In essence, they can leave Israel without having really been here.
The degree of contact between diplomats and the central Jewish character of Israel is not merely of academic interest. To understand the force behind Zionism and Israel, it is necessary to see and comprehend the importance of a sovereign Jewish state.
This is the only place in the world where Jews can live without the constant intrusion and imposition of foreign customs, language or calendars. Stripped of this environment and special status, Israel is all too easily dismissed as an artificial Western or European outpost, awkwardly and even incongruously placed at the edge of the Mediterranean and the Arab world.
When the Jewish aspects of daily life are invisible, as well as the holidays, the language and the customs, it is possible to miss the link between the survival of the Jewish people and the role of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel.
IT is, indeed, the effort to deny the particular importance of Jewish sovereignty in Israel and the dominant role of Jewish culture, both secular and religious, that lies at the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
From the beginning, the Arabs have ignored and rejected the legitimacy of Israel and the deep Jewish ties to this land. Most Arab leaders and intellectuals have little knowledge or interest in the Jewish aspects of Israel, realizing that once these characteristics were acknowledged, it would be impossible to pretend that Israel was an artificial and temporary Crusader state.
When foreign diplomats visiting or stationed in Israel overlook the Jewish character of the state, they are all too easily able to embrace the Arab perspective.
This process is facilitated by the consistent refusal to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Officially, most states refuse to recognize Jerusalem because of its "indeterminate status" under international law, dating from the pre-1947 Partition plan.
However, there seem to be additional reasons for maintaining this outdated position. In accepting Jerusalem as Israel's capital city, the political leaders of the world would also be accepting the importance of the Jewish people's link to this city, and its role in Jewish religion and culture. (Similarly, the essential Arab nature of Syria is apparent in Damascus, and Egyptian culture has its core in Cairo.) If diplomats and foreign envoys lived and worked in Jerusalem's Jewish neighborhoods, they would not be able to ignore the particular Jewish nature of Israel.
Of course, it may be easier for many to see Tel Aviv as the embodiment of the Jewish state. Tel Aviv is a largely secular city, newly created on sand dunes, without any of the historical baggage of Jerusalem, or even Safed or Tiberias.
Last year, US Secretary of State James Baker rushed to leave Jerusalem and Israel a few minutes before the beginning of Yom Kippur. At the time, relations between Washington and Jerusalem were very strained, and Baker was seen as particularly unsympathetic to Israel. Even after many visits and close contact with our leaders, it is not clear how much Baker really understands about Israel.
Had he stayed here one more day, he might have learned
volumes about the nature of this country and broadened his understanding of the
essential purpose of the Jewish state.
WHILE much attention has been focused here on US president-elect Clinton's likely nominee for secretary of state and the impact of the elections on the Middle East peace talks, changes in American defense policy are of greater importance to Israel.
The conflict with Iraq is still unsettled, and Saddam Hussein remains unbowed. He is certain to test Clinton's resolve soon after January 20, either through violations of the "no-fly zones" in northern and southern Iraq or a renewed attempt to intimidate or disrupt the UN inspection teams.
Other threats may arise from Iran, which is spending billions of dollars a year to arm itself with everything from missiles and submarines to nuclear weapons, and has already moved to take possession of disputed islands in the Gulf.
In addition, with King Hussein's health deteriorating, a succession crisis is likely in Jordan. This could result in another civil war led by the Palestinians, with direct Iraqi or Syrian military intervention.
Each of these scenarios would require the Clinton administration to decide whether and how to use force.
Although President Bush's record in dealing with Saddam Hussein was mixed at best, he did act forcefully after Iraq invaded Kuwait. Many Democrats in the Congress, however, opposed the use of force, in a manner reminiscent of the policies pursued by Jimmy Carter. The Carter administration eschewed military action when facing Iran; its policies were based on an idealized view of international relations, one in which all disputes could be settled peacefully.
Carter sought to reduce military spending, even though his efforts to gain reciprocity from the Soviet Union were ignored. Israeli military requirements and the need to deter threats posed by continued military build-ups in Syria and Iraq were poorly understood in the Carter White House, and Israel was repeatedly pressed to "act with restraint."
Clinton has stressed that his policies will be different from Carter's. Not all Democrats are inherently idealists, or naive with regard to the role of the military in the Middle East. Indeed, in 1967, Lyndon Johnson understood the danger that Israel faced when Nasser threatened a war of annihilation and gave it what amounted to a green light to destroy the Arab threat.
(Similarly, not all Republicans are realists. Eisenhower punished Israel for going to war in 1956, and Bush's policies verged on appeasement until the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. )
Clinton has indicated a solid understanding of the dynamics of the region, and after initial hesitation, endorsed the Bush administration's policies and the war against Iraq. His vice president, Albert Gore, is a leader of the "hawkish" wing of the Democratic Party, and is sympathetic to Israel's military requirements.
From this perspective, the key appointment for Israel and the Middle East will be that of secretary of defense. Names that have been mentioned include Sam Nunn, who has headed the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Les Aspin, who has held the parallel position in the House of Representatives.
Both are serious, well informed, and realistic about the threats that can arise in the Middle East, and elsewhere. Neither advocates isolationist policies that would greatly reduce American military responsibilities around the world. Both can be expected to advocate a swift and powerful response to any efforts by Saddam Hussein to defy UN inspectors or reassert military power.
Nunn and Aspin are also likely to maintain US military capability and the infrastructure necessary to intervene with force around the world.
STRATEGIC cooperation between Israel and the US is another area of importance.
Under Reagan and, to a lesser extent, Bush, strategic cooperation increased and became institutionalized. Periodic meetings between Israeli and American representatives have helped to coordinate policy, allow Israel to develop long-term programs to use American military aid efficiently, and to pursue joint research and development projects that are important to both states. The Arrow missile defense system is a case in point.
At the same time, strategic cooperation is still marked by many uncertainties, and shown to be vulnerable to political tension and conflicts. In the last year of the Bush administration, following the end of the Cold War, there was a tendency among some American officials to dismiss the benefits of cooperation with Israel.
State Department allegations that Israel had sold American technology to third countries was not only unsubstantiated, but demonstrated a tendency to belittle Israeli technological capabilities. In addition, Bush's arms sales policies were inconsistent with his pledge to maintain Israel's technological superiority.
Nevertheless, the Defense Department, under Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, understood the importance of continued cooperation with Israel, and these links survived. Although Israel may hope for less political conflict with the Clinton administration, a secretary of defense who understands the benefits of such strategic cooperation is vitally important.
In addition, the State Department under Bush was notably unhappy about Israel's nuclear deterrent capability, and pressured it to accept the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But Cheney and his staff understood the importance of deterrence in preventing war in the Middle East.
During the Gulf war, when Saddam Hussein threatened to use chemical weapons against Israel, Cheney publicly warned him about the possibility of Israeli nuclear retaliation.
On this issue, a Democratic administration may exert even more pressure on Israel. A secretary of defense who is well-versed in the importance of deterrence can play an important role in countering these pressures, and in focusing American attention on the dangers posed by the continuing nuclear programs in Iraq, Iran and Algeria.
In a broad sense, the success of the peace talks depends on creating an atmosphere in which Israel has the freedom to consider concessions and compromise, particularly with regard to Syria, without the fear that these will be used as a basis for mounting more attacks. At the same time, the Arabs will not negotiate unless they realize that they have no military option against Israel, and that the US will maintain a strong military presence in the region.
Thus, the defense policies adopted by Clinton will be the key
to determining the future of the peace talks and the stability of the region.
FOR years, Peace Now leaders as well as the left wing of the Labor Party and allied political groups blamed Israeli policy for the absence of peace with the Palestinians.
After Yasser Arafat's November 1988 speech in Geneva, in which he seemed to renounce terror and accept the legitimacy of Israel, many in the Left claimed that the Palestinians had changed. Their leaders were seen as ready to make concessions and negotiate a formal peace agreement, while the prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, was charged with missing an unprecedented opportunity by refusing to negotiate with the PLO.
The Left welcomed American pressure on the government, and nodded in agreement when President Bush and Secretary of State Baker called the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria "the greatest obstacle to peace." They eagerly met with Palestinian leaders and joined in declarations condemning "Israeli intransigence." After the peace talks finally began in October 1991, Israeli critics blamed the Shamir government's inflexibility for the lack of progress and the acrimonious atmosphere.
This position reflected a combination of ideological, political and, more importantly, psychological factors. As long as Israeli policies were responsible for the absence of peace with the Arabs, the situation was not hopeless. In contrast, if Arab hostility was responsible for the conflict, there was little hope for the future, and Israel could do little but defend itself, while waiting, perhaps for decades or centuries, for the Arabs to change.
After the June elections, the Labor Party, under Yitzhak Rabin, had an opportunity to implement its own policies. Foreign Minister Peres declared that peace was at hand, and dreamed of a common market for the Middle East. The government immediately announced a freeze on "political settlements" and accepted the formula of "land for peace."
The concept of autonomy for the Palestinians was extended greatly, and included discussion of local police forces and participation in decision making with respect to water and land allocation. In Washington, the Israeli negotiators agreed to extend the size and powers of the proposed Palestinian Self-Governing Authority, despite the fear that this would provide the basis for a subsequent parliament which could make claims for independence and sovereignty. Israel also ignored the increasingly transparent participation of the PLO in the negotiations.
THESE concessions, however, did not lead to comparable changes in Palestinian behavior. Instead of responding to Israeli proposals, the Palestinians have remained "unengaged."
When the negotiations began, the Palestinians explicitly accepted the two-stage formula, beginning with a five-year period of limited autonomy, in order to demonstrate an end to the policy based on terror and warfare aimed at eliminating the State of Israel.
However, as soon as the talks began, these conditions were forgotten. Instead of addressing the substantive issues in the negotiations, the Palestinians have exploited the negotiations primarily for anti-Israel propaganda. The public forums and media opportunities are used to highlight allegations of "Israeli human rights abuses."
The Palestinians have focused exclusively on their demand for sovereignty, totally ignoring justifiable concerns that a Palestinian state would become a base for large-scale terrorist operations.
Now, after one year of negotiations, and almost six months after the departure of Shamir, Arafat's Fatah organization is still mounting terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, with increasing frequency. At the same time, the Palestinians are threatening to end their participation in the talks, charging that "the Israelis are not serious." If the talks end in failure, the question of responsibility will become central.
Using past behavior as a guide, there will be strong pressure to place most, if not all, of the blame on Israel, thereby setting the stage for increased isolation and pressure. There are enough people in Washington, and many more in the capitals of Europe and the Middle East, who will repeat the Palestinian claim that Israel did not do enough to encourage negotiations, and that only unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the "occupied lands" can lead to peace.
In this stage, the role of the Israeli Left will be crucial. If intellectuals, academics and political leaders cling to the comforting view that more Israeli concessions are all that is necessary to bring about fundamental changes in the attitudes of the Palestinians, their authority will be cited in the effort to pressure Israel. Now, as in the past, it is psychologically convenient for many Israelis to cling to the idealistic (or naive) hope that "just a little more flexibility," and the Arab-Israeli conflict will be brought to a peaceful conclusion.
Although this temptation will continue to exist, it is possible that the Israeli Left, including members of Peace Now and Meretz, will acknowledge that responsibility for the end of the talks, if this occurs, lies with the Palestinians.
Over the past six months, the thesis that Israeli policy is to blame for continued conflict has been found to be false. It will take a great deal of honesty for leaders of the Left to admit that they were wrong, that the PLO is still engaged in terror and has not given up the goal of eliminating the State of Israel.
However, if they can bring themselves to make this
admission, they could force the Palestinians to deal with Israel more
substantively in the future.
THE expulsion of over 400 Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists is primarily an attempt to quickly strengthen the level of deterrence through a strong "overreaction."
Israeli strategy has always been based on a policy of rapid and forceful responses to Arab threats and attacks, to demonstrate the ability to act offensively and prevail militarily. The logic of deterrence is based on the assumption that the other side will realize that it is too weak to continue the conflict, and will back down first.
This strategy was used, with some success, in the 1950s to persuade Jordan to prevent terrorist raids. As defense minister, Moshe Dayan used similar tactics to end a wave of Palestinian terror following the Six-Day War, and against Egypt in the War of Attrition. Eventually, Israel developed a reputation for retaliating strongly, despite international protests, and thereby limiting the willingness of the Arab states to risk another war.
However, at the beginning of the intifada five years ago, large numbers of Palestinians demonstrated a willingness to take unprecedented risks in confronting the army. At the time, Yitzhak Rabin was defense minister, and his initial response was to order the IDF to react strongly and to "break the bones" of the leaders of the intifada.
The process took a long time, and seemed to demonstrate a decline in deterrent capability. In debating the lack of a strong military response to Iraqi missile attacks during the Gulf war, some military analysts feared it would lead to further erosion in the credibility of Israeli deterrence.
In the past few years, the increase in suicide attacks by Hizbullah in Lebanon continued to raise problems with respect to deterrence. Fanatics who are willing, even eager, to sacrifice their lives and those of their families for the cause are difficult to deter. As a result, Israel was forced to raise the level of violence after each Hizbullah attack, showering strongholds with hundreds of mortar rounds and artillery shells, and bringing a large number of tanks and other weapons into southern Lebanon before gaining a temporary halt to the attacks.
As the attacks on soldiers increased over the past few weeks, including this week's kidnapping and murder, both Rabin and Chief of General Staff Lt. -Gen. Ehud Barak feared that without an immediate strong "overreaction," the level of violence would grow, and would lead to other military challenges.
The number of activists expelled is clearly designed to raise the stakes, and to demonstrate that in the long term, Israel will continue to be much more powerful than Palestinian rejectionists and fundamentalists.
The government is aware that the expulsions will not prevent
further Hamas attacks, but it is expected that the support its cells receive
from the Palestinian community will dry up for fear of provoking further Israeli
WHEN the government decided to deport more than 400 Hamas activists for two years in response to the wave of terrorism, it was well aware of the international criticism that would follow. In making their decision, the government and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. -Gen. Ehud Barak decided Israel would simply have to weather the storm.
Yitzhak Rabin and the other ministers knew their decision would be condemned by the UN Security Council and denounced by the US State Department. They also understood that the images of the Palestinian deportees would be shown repeatedly on CNN and other television newscasts throughout the world.
No one expected the media to cloud the sympathetic picture of exiled Palestinians by reminding viewers that the deportees were members of an organization of fundamentalists and terrorists dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel.
Experience also demonstrated that when attention shifted to the exiles, the brutal kidnapping and murder of Nissim Toledano would be quickly forgotten.
For Rabin, the recognition that this action would renew Israel's international isolation was particularly bitter. In July, in his first speech before the Knesset after becoming prime minister, Rabin argued that the Likud government, and Shamir in particular, had seen Israel as "a nation that dwells alone," unnecessarily isolating the Jewish state.
Rabin acted immediately to improve relations with the US and enhance Israel's image in the media by freezing most settlement construction and by attempting to accelerate the peace negotiations. Now, it appears as if most of this work has been reversed. Israel is again the target of condemnation, and the image of hundreds of Palestinians exiled and stranded in "the bitter cold" dominates the headlines.
From this perspective, it is clear that the government's decision meant that there were no better options. The jails are already overflowing, and the other alternatives - including using the death penalty or loosening the rules regarding opening fire for the military - would have been even more costly for Israel, and probably less effective in terms of deterrence.
The decision to deport these activists for up to two years was therefore considered the least damaging of the available policy choices.
BEYOND the immediate issues, the Israeli action and the willingness to endure international condemnation should also be seen in terms of the broader relationship with the Arabs and the peace negotiations.
By demonstrating that even he is impervious to pressure from the US, the UN and the media, Rabin is attempting to create the conditions to allow for an end to the impasse in the peace talks. In the past year, the Palestinians have attempted to use these talks as a platform for gaining international sympathy and pressure on Israel.
The primary focus of Palestinian strategy has been to isolate Israel, both from the US and from the rest of the international community, until it was weakened sufficiently to accept a Palestinian state. However, in exiling hundreds of Hamas members, regardless of the international response, Rabin has shown that his government, like Shamir's, is prepared to respond to this strategy.
For decades, Arab leaders sought to use international pressure to weaken Israel by forcing Jerusalem to make unilateral concessions. In 1949 and 1956, the combined pressure of the US and the UN made Israel give up land without getting any form of peace in return.
After the 1967 Six Day War, the Arabs adopted the same approach, seeking to use international pressure to gain unilateral Israeli withdrawal from captured territory: at that time, the government held firm, and has continued to do so for the past 25 years.
In 1977, President Sadat recognized that, if Egypt wanted Sinai back, there was no choice but to recognize Israel and to negotiate directly. Now, the Palestinians (and Syrians) must reach the same conclusion.
Indeed, from this perspective, the ability of the Israeli government to stand firm in the face of criticism and condemnation over alleged "human rights abuses," particularly from the US, will contribute to eventual progress in the peace process.
In this action, painful as it is, Israel has demonstrated that in defending its population and vital national interest, it is impervious to propaganda, and diplomatic or media pressure. Only a real change in Palestinian actions, beginning with an end to terror, and including explicit recognition of Israeli security requirements, will lead the government to adopt different policies.