Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon recently offered what seemed a very simple statement on national self-reliance. This assertion concerned Israel’s obligation not to depend upon any American “defense arrangements.” However well-intentioned, it was not meant to diminish the importance of good relations with Washington. Rather, it was intended to underscore the particular dangers of President Obama’s plan for regional peace.
Mr. Ya’alon clearly understands that all Palestinian factions still demand a “one-state solution” for the Middle East, and will never accept Mr. Obama’s thoroughly idealized vision of “two states for two peoples.” He also remembers that this same administration recently spent hundreds of millions of American tax dollars training Fatah “security services” in neighboring Jordan, allegedly to war against Hamas. Inevitably, Mr. Ya’alon knows these recalcitrant Fatah fighters will gleefully turn their American-gifted skills and weapons against Israeli civilians.
The official Palestinian Authority (PA) map still shows all of Israel as part of Palestine. The official logo of PA Television still shows all of Israel as Palestine, with the new Arab capital in Jerusalem. Fatah’s official insignia is Israel smothered by a grenade, bayoneted rifle and submachine gun. All PA school textbooks still use a map of the Middle East in which Israel simply does not exist, and has been supplanted by Palestine.
Fatah’s Charter states: “Our struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished, and Palestine is completely liberated.” Fatah is Washington’s stated ally against Palestinian terrorism.
Any Palestinian state would have an injurious impact on Israel’s survival. After the establishment of Palestine, as Mr. Ya’alon was correct to anticipate, Israel would need increasing increments of self-reliance. In turn, any such requirements would demand, among other things, a more complex nuclear strategy involving deterrence, pre-emption and war-fighting capabilities; and a corollary and interpenetrating conventional war strategy.
A nuclear war could arrive in Israel as the result of escalation, intended or inadvertent. If an enemy state were to begin “only” conventional or biological attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem might then respond with fully nuclear reprisals. If this enemy state were to begin with solely conventional attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem’s conventional reprisals might still be met, at least in the future, with enemy nuclear counterstrikes.
A persuasive Israeli conventional deterrent, to the extent that it could prevent enemy state conventional or biological attacks in the first place, would likely reduce Israel’s overall risk of exposure to a nuclear war.
After Palestine, as Mr. Ya’alon understood, the regional correlation of forces would become markedly less favorable to Israel. Then, the only credible way for Israel to deter large-scale conventional attacks would be by maintaining visible and large-scale conventional capabilities. Enemy states contemplating first-strike attacks upon Israel using chemical or biological weapons would be apt to take more seriously Israel’s nuclear deterrent.
Whether or not this nuclear deterrent had remained undisclosed could also affect Israel’s threat credibility. In this connection, however, Washington’s only predictable posture would be to endorse continued nuclear ambiguity, a posture sorely at odds with Israel’s long-term deterrence requirements.
A strong conventional capability is needed by Israel to deter or to pre-empt conventional attacks that could lead via escalation to unconventional war. Here, of course, Mr. Obama’s vaunted peace process would impair Israel’s residual strategic depth, and, when recognized by certain enemy states, the Jewish state’s corollary capacity to wage conventional warfare.
A few days ago, Mr. Ya’alon merely stated the obvious. With Egypt in the midst of ferocious new struggles between the generals and the Muslim Brotherhood, with Syria in irremediable shambles, and with the unwinnable American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still unraveling, Jerusalem does finally need to acknowledge the indispensable imperatives of national self-reliance. To be sure, Israel should avoid making any major strategic and tactical mistakes on its own, including another misconceived terrorist release.
Above all, though, Jerusalem ought never agree to subcontract its most primary security needs to utterly concocted Washington visions of a “two-state solution.”
Louis Rene Beres is a professor of international law at Purdue University.