Time for new diplomacy
Israel should adopt defiant,
politically incorrect but principle-driven strategy.
Secretaries of State Schultz and Baker did not agree with Prime Minister Shamir's worldview, but they respected his principle-driven tenacity. Upon concluding a meeting with then Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, George Mitchell and Bob Dole, the latter told Shamir: "Irrespective of our disagreement with your policy, we respect you, because you're tough."
The international arena does not respect Israeli prime ministers who seek popularity rather than respect, transforming Red Lines to Pink Lines, in order to avoid confrontation. The world does not appreciate prime ministers who subordinate long-term vision and conviction to short-term diplomatic and political convenience.
In contrast to the legacy of Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol, Golda Meir, Begin and Shamir, Israel's current public diplomacy reflects frail conviction, while expressing empathy for claims made by Israel's enemies. It tolerates simplistic Western assumptions about the Arab-Israeli conflict and downplays Israel's contribution to the national security of the US.
Israel has hardly leveraged the current Arab turmoil that underscores the tenuous/violent nature of the Jewish State’s enemies and the inherent obstacles to intra-Arab peace (let alone to Israel-Arab peace.) Israel has failed to emphasize the uniquely high threshold of security requirements of the Jewish State in the most dangerous neighborhood in the world and the special role played by Israel as an outpost of Western democracies and a sole beacon of democracy.
In contrast with the Arabs who highlight their "rights," Israel highlights security requirements, while minimizing well-documented and unique ancient roots. While Israeli leaders pride themselves on their "pragmatism" and willingness to distance themselves from historical roots, they in fact undermine Israel's global legitimacy. The Jewish State ignores the lesson of King Solomon's Trial: He who agrees "to split the difference" forfeits his rights to everything.
Since 1993, the Jewish State has downplayed its moral high ground, embracing moral-equivalence. Therefore, it has legitimized the Palestinian Authority as a supposed partner for peace negotiations, despite Mahmoud Abbas’ track record: Establishing Palestinian hate-education, Holocaust denial, coordinating PLO relations with ruthless Communist regimes, co-planning of the Munich Massacre, perpetrating subversion in Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon and collaborating with Saddam's invasion of Kuwait.
Moreover, Israel has adopted the "Land-for-Peace" state of mind, in spite of the fact that the conflict has always been over the existence – and not the size – of the Jewish State. Since 1993, land conceded to the Palestinian Authority has been transformed into a platform of hate education and terrorism, fueling the conflict.
The current seismic events in the Arab World beg for an Israeli public diplomacy offensive. Such events should remove the "Middle East Screen Saver," exposing the region as the role model of instability, ethnic-religious-tribal-geographic fragmentation, terrorism, violence as a norm of settling political disputes, hate culture, one-man one-revolution regimes, tenuous regimes-accords-alliances, treachery, volatility, unpredictability and uncertainty.
The deeper the uncertainty and the violence, the higher the Israeli security requirements, the more critical become the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights of Jerusalem and of the 15 miles wide pre-1967 Israel. The Jewish State stands out as the only stable, reliable, capable, democratic and unconditional ally of the US.
The intra-Arab upheaval also removes the "Palestinian Screen Saver," revealing the Middle East order of priorities. Hence, the Palestinian issue is not the root cause of regional turbulence, not the crown-jewel of Arab policy-making, not the core cause of anti-Western Islamic terrorism and not the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Regardless, Israel persists in subordinating its vision, policy, security requirements and public diplomacy to simplistic misperceptions, which are resoundingly refuted on the Arab Street in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Syria, etc.
But, like a deer caught in a headlights-look, Israel is glued to the "Palestinian Screen Saver." On the other hand, Arab leaders shower Palestinians with rhetoric but not with resources. They do not shed blood on behalf of the Palestinian issue. Furthermore, they consider the Palestinians a subversive element, based on PLO violence in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kuwait. What do Arabs know about the PLO that Israel refuses to share with the world?!
Israel has refrained from presenting the threat posed to vital American and Western interests by the proposed Palestinian state: Death sentence to the pro-US Hashemite regime; a tailwind to anti-US terrorism in Iraq and throughout the region; enhanced access by Russia, China, North Korea, and possibly Iran to the eastern flank of the Mediterranean; rewarding a regime that drives Christians out of Bethlehem; an additional anti-US vote at the UN, and an added fuel to the Middle East inferno.
The late General Alexander Haig, who was the Supreme Commander of NATO and US Secretary of State, defined Israel as "the largest American aircraft carrier, which does not require a single US soldier, cannot be sunk, most cost-effective and battle-tested, deployed in a critical area for vital US economic and national security interests, sparing the US $20 billion annually, which would be required to deploy real aircraft carriers."
Will Israel's public diplomacy leverage the aforementioned significant data, shifting to a determined, lucid, defiant, politically incorrect but principle-driven tactic, or will it persist in its hesitant, ambiguous, popularity-driven and apologetic tactic, which intensifies pressure and threats, undermines security, distances itself from peace and brings war closer?