Many Israelis -- official and otherwise -- have been enjoying a victory lap over the Wikileaks dump of classified U.S. diplomatic cables. On Iran, the cable traffic reports several Arab leaders calling for the United States to attack Iran, or better yet... attack Iran.
Few are suggesting the United States or Israel should attack Iran just because some Arab leaders think it would be either a nice idea or a last resort. But, the argument goes, this proves that Arab leaders are more worried about Iran as a threat than about Israel and the Palestinians. Not exactly a ringing endorsement...
First, do Israelis really feel proud because they’re considered less of a menace than the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is widely understood to be pursuing a massive nuclear program and sponsoring terrorism and subversion across the Middle East and as far away as Paraguay?
Second, if the Israeli-Palestinian issue is less of a concern to Arab governments than Iran is, this means Arabs may be less available on the giving side in any give-and-take to resolve the Palestinian issue. If the Arabs again wash their hands of the Palestinians, Qatar and Oman are less likely to feel the pain than Israel will. If anything, getting Arabs MORE worried about the Palestinian issue could be useful to Israel’s long-term goal of finalizing its borders and normalizing its status within the region.
Third, any conceivable gain from the perception that the Wikileaks cables reflect Arab assent to a military strike on Iran is outweighed by the really big picture. The big picture? Israel depends significantly upon the existence of a U.S. ally that is both perceived to be strong and able to engage diplomatically on its behalf. Regardless of settlements or East Jerusalem, the fact that these 250,000 internal documents are being uploaded to the World Wide Web is embarrassing to the United States and its diplomats WORLD WIDE. That hurts all Israelis -- Labor, Kadima, Likud...
When foreign leaders ask American visitors “how President Obama is doing”, they really want to know if he is politically powerful and if the United States is able to deliver on its commitments. That global capital has been further diminished on top of the President’s party losing control of the House of Representatives. This is what should make Israelis worry, far more than whether some Arab leaders find it tactically useful to browbeat U.S. officials over Iran’s nuclear quest.
Fourth, if the Administration cannot attract enough interest from Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders to press forward with practical peacemaking, then eventually Washington may choose to reallocate its portfolio of diplomatic investments. In Central Africa, the United States may have a chance to triangulate the competition on the ground between China and France. Latin America is practically wide open for us. The Far East may demand every ounce of U.S. prestige and power, especially with China owning much of our national debt. And a FAILED Mideast peace plan will not help our troops in Afghanistan or Iraq.
My advice to Israelis: Put away the party hats, and start collecting cell phone numbers with a “202” area code. And don’t cancel that Al Jazeera subscription, either.