June 4, 2010, 1:11 PM
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The ferocity and speed of the current international assault on Israel has left the government in a daze. Statements from our leadership are marked by confusion. This reaction is understandable. Everywhere Israel turns it is met with hostility.
Turkey -- which just a decade ago was Israel's most important regional ally - has taken a leadership position next to Iran in the Islamist and global assault against the Jewish state.
Under President Barack Obama's stewardship, the US has joined the international bandwagon against Israel. Ireland - never a friend -- is now openly siding with Hamas against Israel. And as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu noted on Wednesday evening, Britain, France and Germany and the rest of the Western democracies calling for Israel to end its blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza's coast are effectively arguing that Israel should give Iran - which controls Hamas - a seaport on the Mediterranean.
The footage of the IDF's celebrated naval commandos falling prey to an Islamic lynch mob on the deck of the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on Monday morning serves as a perfect simile for the national mood. The commandos boarded the ship armed with paintball guns expecting to be greeted by hostile, but non-violent humanitarian activists. Instead they were accosted by a murderous mob.
Similarly, the Israeli public feels that when we go out of our way to show our peaceful intentions and nature to the world, we are greeted with an international lynch mob. Rather than listen to us, the world shouts us down with mendacious propaganda in act after act of political theater.
In a situation when everything seems hopeless and futile, it is important to take a step back and consider what stands behind the assault. Only by understanding why what is happening is happening will Israel's leaders be able to formulate a strategy for navigating the country through the current straits.
TODAY'S GLOBAL campaign against the Jewish state is the product of three recent developments: The waning of traditional Arab power relative to the waxing of non-Arab Islamic states including Iran, Pakistan and Turkey; the concomitant rise of anti-Semitic incitement throughout the Islamic world; and the US's attenuation of its ties with its allies generally and the US abandonment of its support for Israel specifically.
Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been the widely recognized leaders of the Islamic world. Over the past several years, their power has diminished and it is now being overwhelmed by the rising non-Arab Islamic states Iran, Pakistan and Turkey.
Pakistan - so far the only Islamic country with a nuclear arsenal -- is the home base of the wildly popular al Qaida movement. Despite its nuclear and jihadist cachet, Pakistan's ability to challenge the power of Arab governments is limited. Its financial dependence on Saudi Arabia, its strategic ties with the US and the ongoing war between its government and the Taliban/al Qaida have all rendered Pakistan - for now - unable to compete with the Arab world for the mantle of Islamic leadership.
But Pakistan's nuclear arsenal has helped place Iran on the verge of regional domination. Iran's long-held nuclear aspirations only became realistic when Pakistan shared its nuclear and ballistic missile technologies with the mullocracy. Iran's nuclear weapons program is the stick it now wields to coerce the Arab world to bow to its will.
Iran isn't all about threats and coercion though. It also offers the Arab world an attractive carrot. Since the US invasion of Iraq and even more forcefully since the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran has taken the lead in fighting the great enemies of the Arab world: the US and Israel.
In 2006, the Arab masses rallied to Iran's side as Israel fought its Shiite Arab proxy to a draw in Lebanon. Hamas's willingness to serve as Iran's Palestinian proxy has given Iran complete control over the most active fronts against the hated Jews.
Since the radical Islamic AKP party took over Turkey in 2003, its leader Prime Minister Recip Erdogan has presided over the thorough brainwashing of the Turkish people. According to repeated polling data, the majority of Turks believe that Israel and America are demonic, murderous nations that kill innocent people for entertainment.
Erdogan has cultivated anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism for two reasons. First, doing so enables him to divert his people's attention away from his government's economic failures. Stirred into frenzies of hatred, the Turks willingly rally behind their leader who is saving them from the Jewish and Yankee beasts.
Then there is Erdogan's goal of reasserting Turkish regional dominance and reclaiming the lost power of the Ottomans as the leader of the Islamic world. His decision in 2006 to be the first world leader to host Hamas terror masters on an official visit after their victory in the Palestinian elections was a clear bid to win popularity for Turkey among the Arab masses.
Iran and Turkey understand that attacking the Jewish state is the fastest route to the top of the Muslim world.
For decades two things limited the salience of Jew hatred as a political force in the Muslim world. First, Israel's reputation as a regional power deterred Arab states from attacking it. And second, the US's Middle East policy of rewarding states that lived at peace with Israel and spurning those that did not made attacking Israel a less attractive option for most Muslim states. The likes of Iran and Syria were punished for their support for terrorism and their refusal to make peace with Israel. Then too, Turkey's rise in prominence in the US in the 1990s owed a great deal to its close strategic ties with Israel.
Israel's reputation as a regional power was diminished by its 2000 withdrawal from south Lebanon and its less than stellar performances in the 2006 war.
As for the US, in the year and a half since Obama took office he has fundamentally restructured US foreign policy in a manner that rewards US enemies at the expense of US allies. From Honduras and Colombia to Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic, to Japan and India to Israel, Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has treated US allies with contempt and hostility. At the same time, his repeated bids to woo US adversaries have rewarded the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, Russia and others for their aggression.
Israel of course is the US's most threatened ally. And Obama's treatment of Israel has been uniquely shabby--and dangerous. Guided by his ideological worldview which argues that US support for Israel is the root of the Arab and Islamic world's animus towards the US, Obama has advanced a policy of punishing Israel and wooing its worst enemies that has radically changed the Islamic power calculus. By seeking to appease Iran and Syria for their aggressive behavior and by courting an ever more radical Turkish regime, Obama has humiliated Egypt and Jordan that signed peace treaties with Israel. In so doing, he has convinced the Arabs that the only way to retain and expand their power is by attacking Israel.
THIS BRINGS US to Israel's current quandary about how to respond to the international campaign against it. Israel of course can do nothing to change the potency of Jew hatred in the Islamic world. It can also do nothing to change American behavior. For as long as Obama is president, US foreign policy can be expected to remain on its current trajectory. That is, for at least the next two and a half years, the US will continue to play a destabilizing and hostile role in the region.
What this means is that Israel should adopt a strategy that minimizes the international lynch mob's ability to get close to it and maximizes Israel's ability to knock the mob off balance.
Take for instance the UN Security Council call for an independent investigation of the Mavi Marmara incident. Israel rightly rejected such a UN inquiry understanding that its aim is to diminish Israel's sovereign right to self defense. On the other hand, on Thursday morning Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman offered that Israel could establish its own judicial inquiry and that there was no reason for international investigators not to be members of the Israeli committee.
This idea is ill-advised for two reasons. First by its very nature, a judicial inquiry would place Israel in the role of criminal defendant. And second, given the nature of the international assault on Israel, no international observers or investigators can be given any role in investigating the Mavi Marmara episode.
In contrast, Israel could benefit from a domestic investigation of the operational and diplomatic aspects of its handling of the Turkish-Hamas flotilla. It is in these areas - rather than the legal areas - that Israel has failed and must learn the lessons of those failures. Moreover, appointing a committee would buy Israel time in the face of the anti-Israel campaign now sweeping the globe.
And as to that campaign, it is time for Israel to launch a counter-offensive. Its representatives at the UN should demand an investigation into Turkey's illegal sponsorship of the pro-Hamas flotilla. They should raise such protests at every UN forum and continue to protest until they are thrown out of the meetings and then return, the next day to relaunch their protests.
The Justice Ministry should issue international arrest warrants against the flotilla's organizers and participants and prepare indictments against them for trial in Israeli courts. Israel's embassies throughout the world should call for their host governments to outlaw organizations involved in the Gaza flotilla movement.
No, these Israeli efforts will not change anyone's vote in any UN forum. But they will place these wholly corrupt institutions on the defensive. For decades Israel has taken for granted that the UN is hopelessly hostile and left things at that. Israel's willingness to declare defeat has emboldened UN officials. By putting them on the defensive, Israel will force them to devote time to staving off Israeli attacks and so have less time available for initiating new assaults against Israel.
IN LOS ANGELES on Monday, a crowd of Muslims carrying signs calling for Israel's destruction gathered outside the Israeli Consulate. As they shouted Allahu Akhbar, a lone Jewish high school student carrying an Israeli flag appeared on the scene. Suddenly, the protesters forgot that they were supposed to be demonstrating against the State of Israel and began threatening this single Jewish boy who held his head high and waved the Israeli flag.
As they converged around him, a cordon of policemen headed them off and surrounded the young Jewish boy who refused to be intimidated. Speaking to reporters, clearly moved by his courage, the boy said, "I came out because I want to defend Israel." Asked if he was affiliated with any group, he responded, "Just Judaism and Israel."
Israel's task is daunting and the stakes couldn't be higher. But our cause is great and it is far from lost.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.