Unilateral action — a test of sovereignty (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Yoram Ettinger 08/17/12)
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Maintaining Israel’s independence of action — in face of Iran’s
nuclear threat — is consistent with Israeli-Jewish history, with
common sense, with regional stability and with the enhancement of
vital U.S. national security interests. On the other hand,
surrendering Israel’s inalienable right of self-defense would
undermine Israel’s sovereignty, erode its posture of deterrence,
jeopardize its existence, fuel regional chaos and undermine U.S.
interests in the Middle East.
On June 3, 1967, U.S. President Johnson pressured Prime Minister
Eshkol against pre-empting the pro-Soviet Egypt-Syria-Jordan military
axis, which threatened the survival of moderate Arab regimes (e.g.,
Saudi Arabia) and Israel’s existence. Johnson advised that “Israel
will not be alone unless it decides to go alone. We cannot imagine
that [Israel] will make this decision."
Johnson warned that a unilateral Israeli military pre-emptive strike
could trigger severe regional turmoil, transform Israel into a
belligerent state, and preclude assistance by the U.S. Johnson
refrained from implementing the 1957 unilateral and multilateral
guarantees issued to Israel by Eisenhower. He insisted that Israel
should rely on the diplomatic-multilateral option.
Eshkol defied Johnson. He pre-empted the anti-U.S., Arab axis;
devastated a clear and present danger to vital Western interests;
rescued the House of Saud from the wrath of Nasser; expedited the end
of the pro-Soviet Nasser regime and the rise of the pro-U.S. Sadat
regime in Egypt; dealt a major setback to Soviet interests; and
demonstrated Israel’s capability to snatch the hottest chestnuts out
of the fire, without a single U.S. boot on the ground. He transformed
the image of Israel from a national security consumer (a client
state) to a national security producer (a strategic ally).
Eshkol realized that a defiant national security policy — in defense
of the Jewish state — yielded a short-term political and diplomatic
spat with the U.S., but resulted in a long-term national security
upgrade and dramatically enhanced strategic respect.
From time immemorial, the Jewish People has faced powerful
adversities in asserting its sovereignty over the Land of Israel, and
by undertaking unilateral national security action. Conviction-driven
defiance of adversity has earned the Jewish People deep respect.
Israel’s contemporary history demonstrates that dramatic national
security enhancement requires unilateral action, in defiance of
regional and global powers.
For example, in 1948/9, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion declared
independence, annexed west Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, initiated
widespread construction in Jerusalem and refused to end
the “occupation” of the Negev and absorb Arab refugees, in defiance
of a U.S. military embargo, the threat of U.S. economic sanctions and
significant domestic dovish opposition. Ben-Gurion’s steadfastness
led Gen. Omar Bradley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs-of-Staff in
1952, to recommend reconsideration of Israel as a major ally in the
In 1967, Eshkol reunited Jerusalem and launched construction projects
in east Jerusalem, in the face of U.S., global and domestic
In 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s initiative to negotiate
directly with Egypt, circumvented President Jimmy Carter’s initiative
to convene an international conference, which intended to focus on
the Palestinian issue and Jerusalem.
In 1981, Begin concluded that the cost of a nuclear Iraq would dwarf
the cost of pre-empting Iraq. He realized that diplomacy would not
stop Iraq’s nuclearization, and that most Arab/Muslim countries
considered a nuclear Iraq to be a lethal threat. Therefore, he pre-
empted, destroying Iraq’s nuclear reactor, in spite of the U.S.
threat of a military embargo and a nasty diplomatic U.S. reproach,
worldwide condemnation and vocal domestic opposition, especially in
national security circles.
Begin’s daring unilateral initiative in 1981 averted regional chaos,
sparing the U.S. a nuclear confrontation in 1991, which would have
devastated vital U.S. human, economic and military concerns.
In 2012, Prime Minister Netanyahu is aware that sanctions against
Iran are inherently ineffective due to noncompliance by Russia,
China, India, Japan and some European countries. He recognizes that
sanctions provide Iran with extra-time to develop/acquire nuclear
capabilities. He knows that sanctions did not prevent Pakistan’s and
North Korea’s nuclearization. He has concluded that Iran’s time-to-
develop/acquire is unpredictable and uncontrollable. He realizes that
a nuclear Iran would doom the pro-U.S. Gulf regimes; would traumatize
the supply and price of oil; would accelerate nuclear proliferation;
would provide a tailwind to Islamic terrorism and scores of sleeper
cells in the U.S.; and would entrench Iran’s military foothold in
America’s backyard — Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Mexico. He
understands that a military pre-emption — with no boots on the
ground — is a prerequisite for regime change in Iran. Just like
Begin, Netanyahu is convinced that the cost of a nuclear Iran would
dwarf the personal, diplomatic, political, economic and military cost
of pre-empting Iran.
Just like the aforementioned prime ministers, Netanyahu is cognizant
of the cardinal Jewish proverb: "If I am not for myself, who will be
for me? If not now, when? (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14).”
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