In this article Defense Minister Ehud Barak outlines his perception of Israel's strategic position and plans for the future.
Pundits say he is a genius, but he presents an amazingly incoherent picture that is quite depressing. He blames Ariel Sharon for allowing Hizbullah to strengthen, and PM Olmert for going to war unprepared and strengthening Hizbullah even more. At the same time , after many months of sabre rattling about an impending operation in Gaza, Barak now says that an Israeli invasion of Gaza wouldn't attain anything and its better to maintain a cease fire, notwithstanding Hamas' preparations for war.
With breathtaking arrogance, he claims credit for the "6 years of quiet" in the north which he achieved by the unilateral withdrawal from Lebonon (the same 6 years which he blames on governments after his, for ignoring the security threat from Hizbullah!) . I wonder who he can blame for the strenghthening of Hamas, right under his nose. Who will he blame when thousands of rockets rain down on all of southern Israel every day?
Barak's solution? A national unity government under him. To do what? "maintain" the calm with Hamas? Withdraw from Shaba unilaterally? What does he plan? According the Barak, Tzipi Livni isn't good enough because of her lack of security experience. But what about the disasters that he and Ariel Sharon wrought?
I think that Barak's description reflects a basically flawed and defeatist attitude that has dominated Israel's leadership since Oslo. We have come to behave like losers, projecting weakness at every turn. Maybe we are really weak but nobody wants to say it out loud.
When we look at Israel's behavior in the years since Oslo (1994), I am tempted to ask:
What have we tought our Arab adversaries? Here's my list ("you" refers to Arabs):
1. When you make an agreement, make Israel pay a price up front, before knowing what Israel gets. (Oslo agreement, recent prisoner exchange)
2. Don't worry about the agreement, if you violate it, Israel won't do anything.(Oslo implementation, 1701, etc)
3. Don't bother asking for imprisoned terrorists to be released. Israel won't do it unless you kidnap an Israeli, and return him dead or alive. (every trade we made)
4. Good cop/bad cop works with Israelis. Pretend you are "weak" and need to be "strenghthened" in order to exact concessions. (arafat, Abu Mazen)
5. Israel will sacrifice its supreme national interests in order to placate a noisy parent (in the case of captives) or to relieve pressure from the left and the media. ("cease fire" with Hamas) You can count on the Israeli left to do what you can't do militarily.
6. With the exception of operation Defensive Shield, every armed conflict that Israel has engaged in, in the past 12 years, has resulted in no acheivements for Israel and strengthened her enemies. Israel has failed to defeat Hamas and Hizbullah.
7. Terrorism works. Particularly suicide bombing and kidnappings. Israel is unwilling and unable to sustain losses, and if you keep it up, Israel will cave in. (Disengagement, Lebanon wars, Hamas "calm").
8. The Israeli army's primary goal is to protect soldiers lives, even at the cost of civilian lives. If you kill even a small number of soldiers, Israel will cave in. At the same time, they fear losing soldiers in a military operation, so if you can threaten them enough to cause fear of losses, they will be deterred. (Lebanon 1 and 2, Gaza)
Now, if you were a Palestinian, what would you think about Israel? Israel appears to be on the wane, militarily, diplomatically and politically. Israel is weak. That is why I am not suprised to hear even our Fatah "diplomatic partners" to say openly that they now seek a one state solution, not 2. Two states was a Palestinian concession, but now that Israel is weak, why not go for the gold?
We complain that the Palestinians don't learn their lessons, but the problem in my mind is that they are learning them all too well.