By Dr. Yehuda Balanga
The fear is of the United States losing its way and of retreat after making commitments...
Translated by Viktoria Lymar
Edited by Steven Stenzler
1 September 2013
Obama’s indecision is a wake-up call for Israel:
the West might act vis-a-vis Iran in the same way it currently proceeds vis-a-vis Syria. We are likely to pay the price.
On May 24, 1967, [Israeli] Foreign Minister Abba Eban landed in Paris. It’s hard to believe, but the France of those times was Israel’s most important ally, particularly from a military standpoint. Eban was seeking French condemnation of the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and most importantly – security guarantees in the case Nasser decided to attack Israel, after having already moved the Egyptian army into the Sinai and closed the Straits of Tiran.
Israel felt stifled. Egypt and Syria had a military alliance already since 1966; that was only a matter of time before Jordan would join it – and then the Arabs would succeed to complete the encirclement. In Ramat Gan, the National Park was kashered as cemetery; civilians were required to dig trenches in the streets; at night, streets were subject to a blackout. However, despite the apocalyptic feeling, de Gaulle asked Eban: ‘Don’t go out to war’ – that is, don’t shoot first.
From Paris, Eban continued to Washington. The Johnson administration very much sympathized with Israel – yet it refused to give it any security guarantee. The United States was neck-deep in the Vietnam War, and President Johnson knew there was no chance that Congress, and all the more so the American public, would approve for him to get embroiled in another war: [We] are to work through the UN and not to open a preventive war. And just to illustrate the extent of the helplessness, the U.S. President issued the vague sentence: “Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone.”* Ultimately, Israel indeed acted alone and won alone.
We Can Only Rely on Ourselves
The saga of the Israeli diplomatic efforts in those three weeks of May-June 1967 is an allegory, and even a warning sign for Israel, especially against the background of powerlessness of the West in the recent days.
Against a threatening Arab coalition of forces, Israel sought Western refuge and backing – nonetheless, it got from it little sympathy and a cold shoulder. As then, so now. The United States is messed up in too many wars around the Middle Eastern arena, from part of which, it managed to break away only lately. The American public opinion, that of the establishment and of the general public, is not fond of any form of military intervention in the region, and therefore, President Obama is chained and cannot (perhaps, doesn’t want either) make the moves that Syria [sic] committed it to. With no American interests, with no strategy and with no clear course of action – the Syrians, and primarily, the Iranians, can be relaxed in the meantime.
Why the Iranians? Because if in a situation where there is clear evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria; all the possible red lines were set publicly; and the forces have been already deployed in the field, [still] the West still has no desire to go into action – Tehran can carry on its nuke program. And after it obtains the bomb, the West will look for all kinds of various excuses. A number of proofs that there indeed is a bomb before taking action.
It’s worth noting a point: These words are not [meant] to encourage a U.S. attack on Syria. I’m not sure at all of its necessity or effectiveness. The fear is of the United States losing its way and of retreat after giving commitments. In a year, maybe less than that, we might find ourselves in the same situation of 1967 (and of the Syrians at the moment), when there was a commitment on the part of the American administration to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons – nevertheless, no clear commitment on how it’s going to do that. Why might rather than may? Since the IDF knew how to respond appropriately to any threat as it knew to do so in the past. At the end of the day, we should rely solely on ourselves.
Original Hebrew article:
Photo credit: Ma'ariv/Roni Gordon (the Hebrew text reads: The Middle East); Ynetnews coverage image