For the past three decades, Israel has charted a course that invites its own destruction by relying on two risky propositions: first, that it could extend its security perimeter beyond the reach of a devastating missile attack, and second, that it could permanently control the political debate inside its crucial ally, the United States.
srael’s current assault on Gaza is only the latest manifestation of this dangerous strategy, but – whether or not Israel succeeds in its stated goal of stopping the launching of short-range Hamas rockets – the more troubling writing for Israel remains on the wall.
If Israel continues to engender hatred across the Muslim world – and thus feeds the growth of Islamic extremism – eventually some radical government or group will get hold of a missile or some other means of delivering a payload against Tel Aviv that would wreak mass devastation.
In that event, Israel would almost surely turn to its sophisticated nuclear arsenal and launch a massive retaliatory strike. But to what end? Whatever counter-devastation could be delivered, it would not solve the strategic dilemma facing Israel.
Indeed, retaliation would likely make matters worse by engendering even a stronger determination among Muslims to eliminate whatever would be left of Israel. The situation might even be beyond the military power of the United States to set right.
Yet, this Israeli conundrum is not discussed inside the United States, where – for the past three decades – American neocons have led a powerful propaganda apparatus that demonizes any public figure who dares question hard-line Israeli strategy.
Even Americans with strong affection for Israel are denounced as “anti-Semites” or “pro-terrorist” if they challenge the Israel-is-always-right conventional wisdom that dominates modern Washington, where Democrats and Republicans alike line up to pander to the annual American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.
Former President Jimmy Carter, for instance, has become almost a political pariah although he arguably did more than any U.S. official to advance Israel’s security by negotiating the Camp David accords in 1978.
However, it was that event – the agreement between Israel and Egypt, returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a lasting peace commitment – that marked the strategic turning point for both Israel and the United States.
Though Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the peace deal, he was furious over the pressure Carter put on him.
Begin – who had led a Zionist terrorist group before Israel’s independence in 1948 and founded the right-wing Likud Party in 1973 – decided he must take steps to prevent Carter from pushing for a broader Israel-Arab peace deal in a potential second term.
Begin’s views were described by Israeli intelligence and foreign affairs official David Kimche in his 1991 book, The Last Option. Kimche wrote that Begin’s government believed that Carter was overly sympathetic to the Palestinian cause and was conspiring to force Israel to withdraw from the West Bank.
“Begin was being set up for diplomatic slaughter by the master butchers in Washington,” Kimche wrote. “They had, moreover, the apparent blessing of the two presidents, Carter and [Egyptian President Anwar] Sadat, for this bizarre and clumsy attempt at collusion designed to force Israel to abandon her refusal to withdraw from territories occupied in 1967, including Jerusalem, and to agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
Kimche continued, “This plan – prepared behind Israel’s back and without her knowledge – must rank as a unique attempt in United States’s diplomatic history of short-changing a friend and ally by deceit and manipulation.”
Begin particularly dreaded the prospect of a second Carter presidential term.