A Few Things Israel’s Government and Citizens Should Know

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

As the government of Israel casts itself once again in the role of a sole rational, realistic and honest player in the world’s latest theatrical production of “We, the Cynics”, it may be a good time to familiarize the government and people of Israel with a few basic, yet essential, facts of life:

1)   Israel is not free to operate as it wishes, and cannot attack Iran without major international or at least American support. Ranting and raving is fine as a venting vehicle, but anybody with a semblance of a brain in his/her head – hopefully within Israel’s government as well – knows that Israel – like it or not – is a vassal state. Its welfare and well-being, indeed, its very existence, depends on the good will of an increasingly shrinking number of countries, whose patience with Israel is thinning rather fast.

Yes, Israel can, undoubtedly, wreck a great deal of destruction and suffering onto others, as well as onto its own citizens – for that its military machine is more than adequate; Israel, however, cannot survive for any length of time as anything remotely resembling a normal, modern, industrialized country – the kind some of its citizens like to think they live in – without the continuous, active military, diplomatic, economic and moral support of many Western countries, including most of Europe and the United States.

As things stand now, many Western countries are increasingly weary, even scared, of Israel in its current (and evolving) incarnation. Formerly well disposed, even appreciative nations progressively see Israel as a menace to their economic well-being, security and international relations in an increasingly complex world. Israel’s incessant, fear-based, threats against nations near and far, its endless stream anti-Semitism accusations leveled reflexively against any external expression of dissent with its views or policies, and the growing wave of un, even anti-democratic laws and regulations issuing out of Israel’s executive and legislative branches, are beginning to give rise to doubts in many quarter regarding the country’s ability to collaborate constructively and productively with other countries.

Israel’s habitual dual role as the world’s ultimate victim nation and people, combined with its increasingly belligerent posture, complete with military threats and hints of its own unconventional power is at best confusing, at worst alienating.

Hopefully, the government of Israel, or at least Mr. Netanyahu, despite, or in spite of his almost habitual bellicose rhetoric, understands these simple facts. It’s one thing to thump your chest and declaim Israel’s “independence” from every podium; it’s an entirely different thing to start believing such dangerously delusional rhetoric.

2)   As a signatory of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran is entitled to develop and use nuclear energy for civilian purposes[1]. Israel may cast doubt on the Iranian’s honesty and/or intentions; it does not, however, have much of a leg to stand on regarding the Iranian’s right to develop, research and produce nuclear energy. While uranium enrichment is not explicitly allowed, it is also not explicitly prohibited. Demanding a tough control and verification regime is realistic and understandable; demanding a program rollback is a non-starter. Continue demanding it, and most of the world will stop paying attention.

3)  With all due respect to Israel’s vaunted intelligence organizations (the very ones who can listen to every toilet bowl in the Middle East and beyond, yet have also developed the disastrous, pre-Yom Kippur War “They Will Never Dare Attack Us” doctrine, totally failed to foresee the “Arab Spring”, were utterly surprised by the Iranian revolution and by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait), they are not the only ones who know the truth about what is happening in Iran and with Iranians. No amount of venomous, insulting references to Chamberlin and WWII will help here. If Israel possesses some game-changing information, it should present it in the proper forums and trust other responsible analysts and policy makers to have at least the same capability for data-integration, analysis and conclusions.

4)  Even if Iran somehow gets to spring on the entire world a nuclear device surprise, along with its delivery platforms, detonators and associated support systems, the likelihood that it will use such a device within the boundaries of Israel is below minuscule. The Iranians, devout Muslim that they are, are unlikely to drop a nuclear device anywhere in the remote, incidental vicinity of the Al Aqsa Mosque. Doing something like that may very well result in their destroying one of Islam’s holiest landmarks, winning themselves an eternal place of infamy in the eyes of every Muslim, including themselves. Also, the Iranians are anything but suicidal. They know the consequences of them presenting the world with a surprise nuclear weapon after a decade of declarations by every consequential Iranian leader that a Nukes are against all their principles, and will never happen.

Amazingly, the Israeli public (and most likely many of those in government) do not hear these arguments with any frequency, strength and/or consistency (some they do not hear at all). The spectrum of opinions voiced in Israel throughout the incessant discussion on each media platform in the country span from moaning the (yet another) betrayal of the Jews by the world at large, to genuinely frightening chest thumping sessions. A real, serious discussion is sorely missing.


[1]  Article Four of the NPT says: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination.”

Doron Pely is a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, a Ph.D. candidate at Kings College London, and the executive director of the Sulha Research Center in Shefar’am Israel. His research focuses on Muslim dispute resolution.

  • Joe

    Doron Pely is more focused on wishful thinking and not realpolitik. He represents a school of thought in Israel where if Israel gives enough unilateral concessions and will turn to give its other cheek, its enemies will make peace. However, it has been clear since the Oslo Agreements, that many of Israel’s enemies, especially the extremist Islamic ones, have only Israel’s destruction in mind, no matter what the cost. This is an inherent part of Islam.
    Iran has made it very clear what it intends to do to Israel once it has an atom bomb. As for delivery system, who says they will use long range missiles. With Hezbolla on Israel’s border, it is much easier and probably with far more chances of success of sending the atom bomb to Hezbollah, either by ship or by overland truck and having them launched either as a suicide bombing or short range missiles. Iran will not bomb Jerusalem. Bombing Tel Aviv or Haifa is sufficient to bring Israel to its knees and let the forces such as Hamas and Hezbolla finish it off.
    As Winston Churchill once said, you do not negotiate with dictators as this will only embolden them. WWII were brought on by the greed and self interests of different nations wrapped up as a reach towards peace. It seems that little has change in our world – except the power of destruction in the hands of despots has increased exponentially. And that there is still the school of thought that rather buries their head in the sand than deal with the oncoming tragedies.

    • Doron Pely

      Thank you, Joe.
      You write: “Iran has made it very clear what it intends to do to Israel once it has an atom bomb.”

      I invite you to share with us the specific places where such “very clear” threats were made against Israel by officials of the Iranian government.

    • lori lathrop

      Joe when Moses lead the Jews across the “desert” he killed and plundered every man woman and child in his path – Moses wasn’t some loving, sweet staff carrying old man – he was a season, ruthless military man who knew the desert like the back of his hand including when and where there was a low tide. Joe be careful that you do not delude yourself into thinking that it is right to take sides, we are talking about innocent human beings on both sides! Muslims and Jews must LEARN TO GET ALONG no matter who their imaginary friend in the sky is. The alternative is murder, death and more suffering. People like you who polarize and demonize one side of an issue with a clear disregard for the facts only perpetuate suffering and misery in the world.

  • lori lathrop

    Doron I loved this article and it is bravely written in a world that has so long held any kind of “Jewish desertion” taboo. It is simple if you have a bully who is backed by strong support they can go on pushing everyone around in the sandbox!!! If you take away the support the bully will have to think twice before they decide not to play nice with other people. The world is too small for “haters,” we MUST learn to get along with each other, or the jews and muslims can continue to kill each others children on their way to school for another what 1,000 years??????? Isn’t it time to grow up? There might come a time where any LAND that can grow FOOD is considered sacred – then what?