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Conceptual Paralysis

By Moshe Feiglin

Translated from the Makor Rishon newspaper

The superbly orchestrated castigation of Home Front Commander Major General Eyal Eisenberg by military reporters quoting anonymous senior army officials should set off flashing red lights and deafening warning bells in the head of every Israeli. The OC of the Home Front Command has warned us of an approaching all-out war – that will not only hit the home front, as the residents of Haifa and Be’er Sheva already understand all too well – but a war that could likely include the use of weapons of mass destruction. But instead of embarking on serious, professional and transparent preparations, focusing all the state’s resources on the approaching danger, the army and media have busied themselves with crucifying the messenger. All of this means that we are marching toward a catastrophe.

“Peace cowards!” PM Rabin ridiculed the warnings of the Right. “No Katyushas will fly here!” Now projectiles much more potent than Katyushas fly our way, but the Rabin preconception – his “heritage” – still reigns supreme.

The conceptual paralysis that caused the army to ignore all the warning signs before the Yom Kippur war and to totally scorn the warnings of the Right prior to Oslo and the Disengagement pale in comparison to the paralysis that is currently immobilizing our senior military and civilian leaders. The problem is not only the misconception that paved the way for the recent massacre in Eilat – despite the fact that the army had all the facts well in advance. It is not only the “peace worm” – peace with Egypt and the Oslo peace that has gnawed away and even completely consumed any healthy offensive military consciousness in the senior military echelons. The problem lies in the most basic way that Israel sees itself, its place in this region and the essence of the conflict.

When German tanks crowded the narrow passes of the Ardennes, the senior French command refused to take advantage of the Germans’ precarious state and bomb them from the air – so as not to give them a reason to attack. When generals and ministers are stuck in their misconceptions, only the little boy is able to see that the emperor has no clothes.

In the sixties, Israel still considered itself a regional power and tried to buy influence in Africa and other countries. This approach failed miserably; not because Israel became weak, but rather because its self-image completely disintegrated. If Egypt would block the Bab-el-Mandeb straits today and bring its army divisions into Sinai, Israel would not attack. Our national/regional consciousness has been exchanged for an isolationist/business consciousness that is geared to achieve short-term goals. This change of consciousness will necessarily spawn lack of national pride, lack of national security – and lack of business, as well.

Turkey’s attempts to reclaim its role as a regional superpower are being implemented at Israel’s expense. Turkey knows that Israel will suffer all the humiliations quietly. Facing off against the Turkish concept of expansion and influence is Israel’s lack of self-assurance at the deepest levels of its identity. Israel does not feel that it is legitimate to take any action that is not directly connected to its physical existence.

For the Turks, then, it is a zero-sum-game. Israel will not exact any price from them as long as its territory is not attacked. Not one of Israel’s leaders even considered demanding a Turkish apology for its vitriolic involvement in the flotilla and its challenge to Israel’s security. Their only considerations were defensive: how to respond to the Turkish demands. True, the government’s decision not to apologize to Turkey was correct, but it is not enough to change the rules of the game. The Israeli leadership that wants business as usual – and not regional influence – will rapidly find itself disconnected from business and from diplomatic ties, as well – including our ties with countries with whom we are still friendly.

The decision that should have been made in the wake of Turkey’s challenge is, for example, a quick purchase of additional submarines and possibly an aircraft carrier to create a strategic balance that would offset Turkey’s present military advantage on the high seas.

Turkey is threatening Greece and Cyprus with war if they allow Israeli companies to drill for oil in their territorial waters. As of now, the Greeks are relying on Israel’s ability to deter the Turks. But Israel’s current conceptual paralysis dictates that if Turkish warships will act against Israeli drilling companies in Greek territorial waters, Israel will not lift a finger. It won’t take long for Greece, Cyprus and any other country in the growing expanse of Turkish influence to understand who makes the rules here, and from whom it is advisable to disengage.

The cries for help from Syria and Libya included pleas for Israeli intervention from those countries’ besieged citizens. One Israeli jet that would have dropped one bomb on the forces massacring citizens in Libya would have completely re-invented Israel’s status in this region. But the Jewish “shtetl” that we have founded has no identity and no message other than hi-tech. Obviously, Israel will not intervene.

Before our eyes, Israel’s isolationist misconception of “business as usual” is crashing head-on into a time-worn basic fact in the Middle-East: In this region you can either sit down to the feast – or become part of the menu.

The Arab nation states are fading. The Arabian expanse is open once more and the question is whose influence will prevail: Iran’s, Turkey’s or Israel’s. Israel, of course, would prefer not to play this particular game. But you do not have to be a genius to understand that this option does not really exist. Unless, that is, you are a general, a professor, a politician, a president or an Israeli news commentator. In that case, there is not a chance that you will understand.
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