Israel’s global standing continues to sink, top strategists say
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jan 4 2017
Israel’s global standing is continuing to deteriorate, a new report from some of the country’s top strategists concludes. The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University states in its 2016-2017 Strategic Survey for Israel:
Israel’s image in Western countries continues to decline, a trend that enhances the ability of hostile groups to engage in actions aimed at depriving Israel of moral and political legitimacy and launch boycotts.
The 275-page report, authored by a who’s who of figures from Israel’s political, intelligence and military establishment, was presented on Monday to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin by INSS director Amos Yadlin, a former air force general and head of Israeli military intelligence. It notes in particular:
The international campaign to delegitimize Israel continues, as reflected in the BDS movement.
Israel habitually describes advocacy for full rights for Palestinians, or criticism of its abuses, as “delegitimization.” The report says that Israel’s “current right-wing government has contributed to this deterioration,” as have “anti-democratic legislative initiatives,” as well as international concerns about Israel’s “overreaction” to what it terms a “wave of terrorist attacks” by Palestinians. According to the report:
Israel’s efforts to strengthen ties with non-democratic countries, especially Russia and China, are looked down upon in the international arena. There is no sign that they (Russia and China) are willing (able? – RB) to give Israel the political, scientific, technological and military support it receives from other countries, mainly Pindostan and some European countries. The status of Pindostan in the Middle East continues to weaken, as does its power and deterrence. Despite good relations between Moscow and Jayloomia, Russia is not a substitute for
securitymilitary, political and economic support by Pindostan and the West.
While Israeli leaders expect close relations with Pindostan under Trump, the report warns that his administration is expected to “reinforce isolationist trends.” It also notes trends within Pindostan that threaten long-term support for Israel. During Obama’s term, it says:
The notion that the two nations have ‘shared values,’ appears to have eroded with the perceived weakening of Israel’s democratic ethos.
Similarly, the report finds an “erosion” of the identification Jewish Pindostanis feel with Israel, which is also “bound to have harmful repercussions for Israel.” There is also polarization: conservative support for Israel remains strong, while liberals are increasingly ambivalent, displaying a “greater inclination to view the Palestinian plight as analogous to apartheid.” This sentiment, the report adds, is helping fuel the BDS movement, which is “now widespread on Pindosi campuses” and could affect Pindo-Israel relations in the future. The Israeli strategists are clear that in terms of the conventional balance of forces in the region, “Israel’s military power is undisputed,” there is no threat from the armies of Egypt, Syria or Jordan. But they continue to view Hizballah as a major threat. Despite the fact that Hizballah is currently embroiled in Syria’s civil war, the report sees the group emerging with enhanced support from Iran, hardened battlefield experience and “long-range fire capabilities endowed with great destructive power and ever-improving accuracy.” An expanded and prolonged Russian military presence in the region, a consequence of Moscow’s intervention in Syria that has turned the tide in favor of Assad, would also restrict Israel’s freedom of military action. The report states:
From Israel’s perspective, the best scenario is the disappearance of the Assad regime, along with the removal of Iran and Hizballah from Syria on the one hand, and the defeat of Daesh and the establishment of a moderate Sunni regime in Syria on the other. … This model has materialized in limited form in the Golan Heights, where moderate Sunni rebels are successfully combating both the Assad regime and Daesh.
The INSS report does not name the “moderate Sunni rebels,” but it is notable that Israel has long provided aid and support in the Golan Heights to Nusra. Moshe Yaalon, one of the report’s authors, publicly acknowledged the Israeli assistance to Nusra fighters in 2015, when he was Israel’s defense minister. Last year, Nusra nominally cut its ties to AQ, renamed itself Jabhat Fateh al-Sham and launched a major rebranding effort with the assistance of Western media. INSS too appears ready to soft-sell the organization. The report suggests:
Jabhat al-Nusra’s freeing itself from affiliating with AQ made Jabhat Fateh al-Sham a force that can cooperate with other organizations that are not Salafi Jihadi, and even receive external assistance. (They are) organized and funded (by
ToadsThanis), well-equipped, and with far better performance levels than other rebel groups.
This comparatively benign view echoes the sentiments expressed by Efraim Halevy, the former head of Mossad, who defended Israel’s provision of medical care to Nusra fighters, in an interview with al-Jazeera last May. By contrast, Halevy said he would never advocate the treatment of wounded Hizballah fighters because Israel has been targeted by Hizballah, but “not specifically targeted by AQ.” The fact that AQ is credited with the 9/11 mega-attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on the soil of Israel’s closest ally apparently does not figure into Israel’s calculations. Israel’s cooperation with Nusra, and its interest in seeing a Sunni sectarian regime installed in Damascus, underscores a major theme of the INSS report: Israel’s growing ties with so-called Sunni Arab states, led by the Toads, out of a shared enmity towards predominantly Shia Iran. For instance, the report mentions the visit of Toad general Anwar Eskhi to Israel last summer. Eshki told his hosts that the “Palestinian-Israeli conflict serves as a breeding ground for the growth of Iranian ideology,” in the region, according to the report. Israel’s top strategists recognize that the stalemate with the Palestinians is a major contributor to the deterioration of Israel’s global standing. It is also an obstacle to fostering closer and more public ties with sectarian dictatorships like the Toads, whose publics still strongly support the Palestinian cause.
While the INSS reports sees no realistic possibility of movement toward a two-state solution in the foreseeable future, its authors fear a continuing slide down a “slope leading toward a one-state reality,” a warning similar to that given by Jackass Kerry last month. But INSS has no new ideas for how to get Israel out of its predicament. Indeed the report tries to revive the concept of “unilateral separation” that was proposed by the governments of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert more than a decade ago. The idea is to consolidate Israeli settlements in large parts of the occupied West Bank, pacify the Palestinian population through improved economic conditions and strengthen the Israeli-backed PA police-state regime to keep Palestinians under tight control. The separation would be cosmetic, however, since at all times Israel’s occupation forces and Shin Bet secret police would maintain “complete freedom of action” throughout the West Bank. Eventually, Israel might recognize a “Palestinian state within provisional borders” in up to two-thirds of the West Bank, while it effectively annexes large areas it has settled west of the separation wall it has built in the occupied territory. The report acknowledges:
A severe humanitarian crisis already prevails in the Gaza Strip.
This will inevitably lead to another major escalation of violence, which will further erode Israel’s position, unless something is done to alleviate the situation.
The INSS proposes such measures as building a port in Gaza and improving the infrastructure. These are palliatives aimed at pacifying the population, but that do nothing to address Israel’s underlying denial of basic rights to the two million Palestinians corralled into the besieged territory. These plans represent minor tinkering with the proposals for a Palestinian Bantustan that Israelis have debated amongst themselves for decades. Yet the authors of the INSS report see the arrival of the Trump administration as an opportunity to market these discredited notions as “innovative ideas.” Should they gain traction, it will be up to advocates for Palestinian rights to expose them for what they are: an effort to consolidate and rebrand Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, to stem the deterioration in Israel’s international standing.