September 12, 2011

Israel faces bigger threats than "Palestine"

I often hear observers lament that one party or other in a dispute is getting all worked up over a "symbol". The sad fact is, many wars have been fought over symbols, because symbols are usually important on both sides of a conflict.

Losing the United Nations vote on recognizing a Palestinian "UDI" (unilateral declaration of independence) is not Israel's biggest challenge right now.

Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Iran...

Israel seems to have fewer friends and fewer stable neighbors -- and more dangerous neighbors -- than it did a year ago.

Turkey has no longer on the edge of breaking relations with Israel, now it's already moving toward outright military confrontation. After three decades of effective peace that afforded Israel a quantum leap in economic and social progress, Egypt is no longer reliable either as a diplomatic gateway or as a vigilant neighbor. The Mubarak 2.0 regime has a range of reasons to use anti-Israel hostility to justify its own rule. (See under: Arab Spring)

Syria, once dependably repressive, subversive and sober, has responded to new protests by throwing more fuel on the anti-Israel fire, even as Hezbollah and Iran effectively control the government of Lebanon -- and if Syria's Assad regime falls, Israel could be facing new rules across its entire northern front.

Iran, Israel's primary existential threat -- unchanged since long before 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Iraq -- continues to inch toward a nuclear attack capability. The Bushehr reactor is finally up and running, generating power for Iran's electric grid (and that's not all).

With so many clear and present dangers, what will be the focus of Israeli diplomacy this month and next, as world leaders encamp in New York for the opening of the UN General Assembly and other global gatherings? Mounting a symbolic challenge to the Palestinians' promised unilateral declaration of independence (UDI).

The United States will veto any related resolution that reaches the Security Council, as it should, but the symbolic war over recognizing Palestine will be fought and lost (by Israel and the U.S.) in the General Assembly. Symbolism aside, there seems little to be gained by focusing Israel's (and Washington's) diplomatic resources in a way that brands Jews as opposing self-determination for anyone -- let alone for the Palestinians, and especially against the backdrop of the first true popular stirrings of Arab democracy around the Middle East, especially when Israel would seem to be facing unambiguous and substantive threats to its physical existence.

No comments:

Post a Comment