The Israeli Dilemma

Dr. Herbert London, president of Hudson Institute, submitted this post as a guest blogger for The Hill.

The inflated rhetoric of the moment suggests that peace in the Middle East is dependent on a Palestinian state and cessation of the violence against Israel.  In fact, this is little more than a distraction; if a treaty were reached tomorrow, it wouldn’t have any bearing on Iran’s regional ambitions. A theological state that gives lip service to Armageddon may actually mean what it says.  It most certainly would like to wipe Israel off the map, a comment asserted several times by Ahmadinejad.

Prime Minister Olmert insists the negotiations with Abu Mazen must continue despite Kassem rockets fired daily from Gaza into Israel by Hamas supporters.  These rockets are deadly and they threaten lives indiscriminately, but however awful and intolerable they are, these weapons represent pettifogging matters compared to an Iran with a nuclear arsenal and a seeming willingness to use these warheads.

Should Israel adopt a wait and see attitude hoping that sanctions, however diluted by China or Russia or both at the Security Council, will force Iran to forego nuclear weapons?  Or should it launch a preemptive strike, one that destroys the uranium enrichment facilities and heavy water plant, but leads to retaliation in the form of chemical, biological and possibly nuclear weapons?

Even if it decides on the latter course of action, does Israel have the military capability of pulling it off?  I have not spoken to one military leader on either side of the Atlantic who has a definitive answer to this question even when they are prepared to address it.

If Israel does not act, Iran will likely secure an understanding with Arab states, notwithstanding suspicions about Persian hegemony. Shia and Sunni will be united with one goal in mind: the elimination of the Zionist state.

If Israel does act -- even if its actions are successful -- the Arab street will be aroused.  Suicide bombings would multiply.  Al Qaeda would try to destabilize Pakistan in the hope it can get its hands on a nuclear weapon.  Muslim extremism would gain traction everywhere on the globe and Israel would be isolated, perhaps even estranged from the United States with politicians decrying Israeli bellicosity.

Within Israel a government pledged to provide security for its people cannot offer that assurance unequivocally.  Events have overtaken principle.

A recent survey indicated an overwhelming majority of Israelis would sacrifice their lives for the country.  Yet with the odds stacked against it, how long can this attitude be sustained?  The spirit of Masada still resides in the hearts of Israelis, but for how long?

Will world opinion shift in favor of terrorism if the Iranians obtain the bomb?  Will Israel become the twenty-first century Sudetenland as contemporary Chamberlains line up to appease muscular Islamic nations?

Clearly the debate about the future of Israel is in full flower.  Unfortunately the answers to recalcitrant questions aren’t apparent and almost any move has grim, alas horrendous, ramifications.

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