Magazine article The American Conservative

How We Became Israel

Magazine article The American Conservative

How We Became Israel

Article excerpt

Peace means dominion for Tel Aviv- and now for us.

Peace means different things to different governments and different countries. To some it suggests harmony based on tolerance and mutual respect. To others it serves as a euphemism for dominance, peace defining the relationship between the strong and the supine.

In the absence of actually existing peace, a nations reigning definition of peace shapes its proclivity to use force. A nation committed to peace-as-harmony will tend to employ force as a last resort. The United States once subscribed to this view. Or beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere, it at least pretended to do so.

A nation seeking peace-as-dominion will use force more freely. This has long been an Israeli predilection. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, however, it has become Americas as well. As a consequence, U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This "Israelification" of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, its not likely to be good for the United States.

Here is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describing what he calls his "vision of peace" in June 2009: "If we get a guarantee of demilitarization ... we are ready to agree to a real peace agreement, a demilitarized Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state." The inhabitants of Gaza and the West Bank, if armed and sufficiendy angry, can certainly annoy Israel. But they cannot destroy it or do it serious harm. By any measure, die Israel Defense Forces (IDF) wield vasdy greater power than the Palestinians can possibly muster. Still, from Netanyahu's perspective, "real peace" becomes possible only if Palestinians guarantee that their putative state will forego even die most meager military capabilities. Your side disarms, our side stays armed to die teeth: mat's Netanyahu's vision of peace in a nutshell.

Netanyahu asks a lot of Palestinians. Yet however baldly stated, his demands reflect longstanding Israeli thinking. For Israel, peace derives from security, which must be absolute and assured. Security thus defined requires not simply military advantage but military supremacy.

From Israel's perspective, threats to supremacy require anticipatory action, the earlier the better. The IDF attack on Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 provides one especially instructive example. Israel's destruction of a suspected Syrian nuclear facility in 2007 provides a second.

Yet alongside perceived threat, perceived opportunity can provide sufficient motive for anticipatory action. In 1956 and again in 1967, Israel attacked Egypt not because the blustering Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser possessed the capability (even if he proclaimed the intention) of destroying the hated Zionists, but because preventive war seemingly promised a big Israeli payoff. In me first instance, the Israelis came away emptyhanded. In die second, they hit me jackpot operationally, albeit with problematic strategic consequences.

For decades, Israel relied on a powerful combination of tanks and fighter-bombers as its preferred instrument of preemption. In more recent times, however, it has deemphasized its swift sword in favor of die shiv between the ribs. Why deploy lumbering armored columns when a missile launched from an Apache attack helicopter or a bomb fixed to an Iranian scientists car can do the job more cheaply and with less risk? Thus has targeted assassination eclipsed conventional military methods as the hallmark of the Israeli way of war.

Whetiier using tanks to conquer or assassins to liquidate, adherence to this knee-to-the-groin paradigm has won Israel few friends in me region and few admirers around the world (Americans notably excepted). The likelihood of mis approach eliminating or even diminishing Arab or Iranian hostility toward Israel appears less man promising. …

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