Monday, June 27, 2011

Israeli Hardliners Debate Strategy

If the distance from right to left in Israeli politics is a mile, then the hardliners currently holding the media spotlight for uncommon public remarks on Israeli strategy are close enough to touch each other. And yet, they are putting some critical issues--war against Iran, return to 1967 borders--on the table as now "politically corrrect" topics for discussion. Now, where are the liberals?

Former Mossad Chief Dagan continues to speak out publicly about key issues regarding Israeli national security, evidently believing that the free marketplace of ideas is the place to debate fundamental issues of national security. Given the record of national strategic decision-making in Israels smoke-filled rooms (e.g., the 1982 invasion of Lebanon that provoked the rise of Hezbollah, the 2006 invasion of Lebanon that gave Hezbollah a helping hand toward domination of the Lebanese government, the 2006 coup against a democratizing Hamas that drove it back into radical opposition), he has a point.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, another hardliner, evidently prefers the smoke-filled rooms, noting recently:

I do not think one should voice a strong opinion on whether an attack on Iran is required now, or other options. There are arguments in both directions, obviously there are disagreements, but what is important is keeping them inside the room and not outside it.

Another hardliner, ex-IDF intelligence chief Amos Yadlin, was quoted recently as observing cryptically:

Israel knows how to develop technological solutions and answers to threats and needs now to initiate diplomatic steps to its benefit.

While avoiding Dagans bluntness, he seems to have been suggesting a similar message the warmongering attitude of Netanyahu is unnecessary because Israel already has technological solutions (Stuxnet?) and could, if it would make the effort, develop diplomatic steps as well.

Given Israels propensity for unilateral and egregious violence, perhaps it should start its diplomatic steps in a modest way, e.g., by talking with the ominous writers and peace advocates and members of various European parliaments on the latest Gaza Flotilla instead of attacking them. That accomplished, Israel could listen to Turkish FM Davutoglus ideas about good neighborliness. Who knows where the new policy might lead! A creative regime in Tel Aviv might even figure out a logical, positive-sum approach to the upcoming U.N. debate about Palestinian statehood. {OK, OK! I am just musing theoretically here; I have absolutely no expectation whatsoever that Tel Aviv will actually break that far out of the box.}

With hardliners criticizing each other and key strategic assumptions in public, one wonders when we may hear an authoritative perspective from those not wedded to violence for the preservation of Israel. Such Israeli intellectuals are numerous and profound; it is Israels misfortune that none seems able to snatch the media spotlight from the hardliners who are now arguing about the amount and timing of violence in defense of Israeli superiority rather than focusing on fundamental questions such as how to move past violence to long-term safety and how to protect imperiled Israeli democracy.

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