The situation in the Middle East is, perhaps, the most exigent in the last 50 years. Syria is engaged in a civil war; Egypt is under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood; Iraq is being ravaged by ISIS, which is a very militant branch of Al Qaeda; and Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. All of this violence and instability poses a very real threat to the security of moderate Muslim states, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, and to Israel, our one reliable ally in the region.
The US has done nothing to defuse these crises. For the past six years, its policy in the region, indeed all over the world, has been characterized by indecisiveness, appeasement and leading from behind. In trying to make everyone our friend we have succeeded in making no one our friend. No country fears or respects us. Our enemies continue to hate us and seek to destroy us regardless of how many concessions we grant. They feel they can do what they want with no fear of repercussions, and our allies have become fearful and mistrustful. With respect to the Middle East, by withdrawing from the area, both militarily and politically, we have exacerbated the situation by emboldening militants, such as Syria, Iran and ISIS.
I believe that the biggest loser in all of this will be Israel. From its very birth as a nation in 1948 Israel has existed under the constant threat of attack by its Arab neighbors. They deny its very right to exist, and they would annihilate it if they could. Indeed, in the last 66 years Israel has been engaged in constant conflict. It has only survived through its own determination and fighting prowess and the strong, unwavering support of the US. In 1948 the US was one the first countries to recognize Israel as a State. It took President Truman all of 11 hours to do so. The US has continued to provide money, material and encouragement. Virtually, every serious US politician has been on board with this policy. Israel and the US have a symbiotic relationship. Israel has relied on the US’s support, and, in turn, it has provided the US with its only reliable ally in the region.
At this point, I would think that Mr. Netanyahu and his ministers are wondering just how “strong” and “unwavering” the US’s support will continue to be. Mr. Obama has been neutral, at best, and, arguably, downright hostile toward Israel with respect to the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. I am reminded of the interchange between Golda Meir and President Nixon in the early 1970’s. Supposedly, during one of the times when Israel was negotiating to buy weapons from the US, President Nixon asked Ms. Meir why Israel needed so many weapons since the US has always provided Israel with its unwavering support? Ms. Meir replied something like “Mr. President, in the future we just want to make sure that we can survive until you decide to provide that support.” It is well-known that the current administration’s support has not been nearly as strong and unwavering as that of every other administration since 1948. According to the Washington Post, Mr. Obama has been laying the groundwork to blame Israel if the peace process talks were to fail. He has been attacking Israel for what he views as its intransigence. Furthermore, he has characterized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas as “a man of peace,” and he warned Mr. Netanyahu that the US could no longer “protect Israel” were the talks to fail. Evidently, Mr. Obama is too blinded by his antipathy towards Israel and, perhaps, Jews as well, to realize that a negotiation is a two-sided affair. If I were Israel I would doubt just how reliable a supporter the US will continue to be prospectively.
CONCLUSION AND PREDICTION
It is well-known that Israel has considered a pre-emptive strike against Iran to diminish its nuclear capabilities and the threat they represent both to it and the region as a whole. They have executed pre-emptive strikes before, and it is the smart thing to do, militarily. It is in their nature to act decisively rather than to dither, which is what Mr. Obama’s modus operandi is. Of course, there would be political repercussions, but, traditionally, Israel has not let that stop it when it believed its national security was being threatened. I believe that the Administration has been restraining them by promising to “handle the situation.” Well, the US has not “handled” the Iran situation, and, now, the ISIS invasion of Iraq has heightened the threat to destabilize the entire region.
So, that is Israel’s dilemma. What does it do? Does it follow its natural inclination and make a preemptive strike while it can and risk angering its one ally? Or, does it continue to trust the US and let things play out with the risk that matters will deteriorate beyond anyone’s ability to resolve them? It is not an easy answer, a “Hobson’s Choice,” if you will. Quite possibly, Israel’s very survival depends on the answer.