Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Between Arak and a Hard Place

by Prof. Ron Breiman

The discord between the United States and Israel over the Iranian nuclear program is grabbing headlines, and the gap between how these two countries understand the reality of the situation needs to be discussed.

The Americans in general and the Obama administration in particular are making mistake after mistake in their analysis of the developments in the Middle East. Because of this they are perhaps surprised at the results of their words and actions, while their allies, who know the region and are more in tune, are proved right.

There are plenty of examples: Obama's Cairo speech; excitement about the "Arab Spring"; the manner in which they handled the regime changes in Egypt; their handling of the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons; the way they have fallen for the charms of the new Iranian president's smiles; their eagerness to reach a deal with Iran, which strengthens their adversary in Tehran; and standing alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his cohorts (Secretary of State John Kerry is threatening Israel with the renewal of the Oslo War -- or in other words, a third intifada).

The assumption that totalitarian regimes will think and act like Western democracies crashes over and over into the hard wall of reality, unfortunately for those democracies and for all of humanity. The most prominent example, but not the only one, has been known for 75 years: the Western powers' fateful courtship of Hitler in Munich in 1938. On Sept. 13, 1938, then-British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain wrote a detailed letter to King George VI. After touching on Hitler's belligerent speech from the night before and after reminding the king of reliable intelligence reports concluding that Hitler had already decided to attack Czechoslovakia and continue eastward, he quoted a report submitted by the British representative in Berlin saying that Hitler would be prepared to accept a diplomatic solution. Against this backdrop, Chamberlain proposed the dramatic and surprising step of going to meet with Hitler, with the goal of changing the situation and reaching an Anglo-German understanding. The rest is known: The Munich Conference at the end of that same month, the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia and the deterioration into all-out world war.

Meanwhile, things now are much the same. On one hand, the axis of evil: Iran-Syria-Abbas and Abbas' friends in the Palestinian Authority (one of the faulty basic assumptions of Oslo was the baseless distinction between the "good" terrorists in the PLO and their "bad" terrorist brothers in Hamas, while both work towards "liberating" all of "Palestine" and cleansing it of Jews. The only difference is in the style and method). In the face of these determined and sophisticated forces, the Chamberlain-like Western democracies of our time have sent out naive representatives who lack an understanding of the reality: John Kerry (and Obama), EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni. When this is the lineup, it is not surprising that the representatives of the axis of evil are able to outmaneuver them and become bolder in their demands. 

We are told that no deal is better than a bad deal. This is true over the Iranians and Syrians, and no less so over the Arabs in the Land of Israel. None can be met with hesitation and we must not blink first. Hesitation is perceived immediately as weakness and as an invitation to increase demands. Arriving at a bad deal means we have failed. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is displaying determined leadership and is reading the map of the situation correctly in his handling of the Iranian nuclear bomb threat. He would do well to show similar resoluteness when handling the Palestinian bomb, which is also an existential threat to Israel. We can only hope that the government shortens the rope it has given Livni. 

Ron Breiman is the former chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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