The free time around the Passover holiday, and the wide regional historic perspective that this holiday gives, provide an opportunity to evaluate Israel’s security situation as it appears now, in spring 2012. Many events that have security significance and consequences happen continually inside Israel, around its borders and in other countries around the world. The natural tendency is to treat each one of them as an isolated event that justifies a media festival of some kind or another depending on its potential to sell newspapers and to increase viewings and ratings. A wider historical angle teaches that these events should be treated as a texture with a life of its own, a system that retrospectively, it is always possible to understand the connections and the mutual influences between its parts.
Spring 2012 is primarily characterised by a fundamental weakness, by lack of political and military leadership and by lack of a political and military vision. Repeated challenges to Israel’s legitimacy, to its deterrence and to its military might call for unity, determination and courage, but these are not forthcoming. Take as an example the events inside Egypt and along the Israel – Sinai border. The fact must be recognised that the era of ‘peace’ with Egypt is over. The Islamist parties have a representation of over 70% in the recently elected parliament, and it is likely that they will also capture the presidency in May’s elections. There is no way that after they achieved their objectives following long years of oppression by Mubarak, these parties would allow a candidate like Omar Suleiman to be elected for president, and there is a good chance that he will pay with his life for his decision to run in the elections. The increasing terror coming from the Sinai is out of anyone’s control and Israel has already hastily announced yesterday that in any case, the IDF would not act against terrorists in the Sinai even if they would be spotted in real time. More and more Egyptian forces would be allowed to enter the Sinai in order to ‘bring back law and order’ but the chance of them actually doing anything is nil. About the re-establishment of the Israeli embassy in Cairo nobody even talks any more. A situation in which a future Egyptian regime would cancel the peace agreement with Israel does not look so imaginary any more.
In Syria, Assad manages to hold on to power at the moment, and perhaps this is for the better. The collapse of the central rule in Damascus would no doubt bring about the opening of a new rocket terror front in the Golan Heights border and it is better for Israel that Assad continues to wear down his army in a prolonged civil war against his opponents. It is already obvious that nobody is going to help these rebels and therefore a military victory over Assad’s forces seems impossible for them at the moment.
In the Gaza Strip, arms of unprecedented quality, quantity and firepower are accumulating. The continuous postponing of an air and ground operation that would destroy these weapon storages and would hit hard the human infrastructure of the terror organisations holding them would result in the end, when there would be no further way to avoid such an operation, in many more military and civilian casualties.
In Lebanon, the arming of Hezbollah is continuing unabated. The widening of Iran’s influence in Iraq would provide the Iranians with a corridor to Lebanon via Iraq and Syria which would greatly simplify their task of moving arms and military units into Lebanon during an all-out regional war.
And in Iran itself the rapid development programme of nuclear weapons and the missiles that would carry them continues uninterrupted. The talks that the west is about to restart with Iran are another opportunity for the Iranians to lie, deceive and waste time. Time we will all regret one day. President Obama’s determination not to act militarily against Iran and not to allow Israel to do so is not lost on the Iranians. They also receive encouragement by the behaviour of North Korea which, despite the agreement it signed in order to facilitate the supply of food to its starving population, is mocking this agreement by preparing to launch another ballistic missile next week, and to carry out another nuclear test in the near future. A new president capable of dealing with these situations differently is not due to enter the White House before January 2013.
In the face of these events and threats, Israel presents a political and military leadership which is hesitant, weak and spineless, and which sees the scattering of threats in the media a substitute to a decisive action aimed at the removal of the threat and the renewal of the worn deterrence. An alternative, better leadership is not on seen on the political horizon and the state of Israel remains abandoned to its fate in the face of the most severe array of existential threats since it was established.