Israel was the first state to offer assistance to Russia in caring for the wounded and traumatized victims from Middle School Number One in Beslan. Israel can be helpful. Not only are our health and mental care workers more experienced than all their counterparts in the world in dealing with terror victims, but many of our professionals are native Russian speakers. Yet according to the Health and Foreign Ministries, Russia still has not responded to our friendly proposal.
It is possible that no one could have done anything to save the children, teachers, and parents of Beslan from the Islamic terrorists who placed bombs in basketball hoops, forced small children to act as trip wires for their explosives, and shot at children trying to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water. But it is also obvious, from the outcome of both the Beslan atrocity and the hostage crisis last winter in the Moscow theater, that the Russian military is in dire need of assistance in counter-terror operations.
Its negotiators at the scenes of both massacres were clearly out of their league. Their equipment, crowd-control methods, and ability to gain control of the perimeters of the operation once alerted, were reminiscent of German fecklessness during the 1972 massacre of the Israeli athletes by the PLO at the Munich Olympics. Their doctrine is antiquated and their abilities are pitifully limited. The Russians need help.
So it wasn't much of a surprise that while our doctors and social workers are still awaiting the call, during his visit to Israel this week Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov willingly accepted Israel's offer to assist Russia in counter-terrorism operations. Russia needs help. And Israel has expertise and experience that can be of assistance.
But Israel also needs help. So while our offer to assist Russia in combating terrorism was not conditioned on anything, we did ask Russia for assistance in three specific areas. We asked Russia to help us deal with the threat of Iran's nuclear weapons program, which according to the Iranians is being pursued in order to annihilate Israel. We asked Russia to pressure Syria to stop supporting terrorism. And we asked Russia not to support the PLO's plan to have the International Court of Justice's anti-Israel opinion regarding the security fence form the basis of a call for UN members to levy sanctions on Israel. And while Israel will indeed help Russia in fighting Islamic terrorism, Lavrov suspended diplomatic niceties when refusing each and every one of Israel's requests.
He referred to Israel's concerns regarding Iran as "sloganeering" by the government and demanded that Israel show him proof that Iran is building nuclear weapons. He discounted the threat emanating from Syria and alleged that most Lebanese want to remain under Syrian occupation. As for the Palestinians, Lavrov refused to acknowledge that Palestinian terrorism is the same as the terrorism from which Russia suffers. Lavrov drew distinctions between Chechnya – which belongs to Russia – and Judea, Samaria, and Gaza Strip – which he said everyone knows belong to the Palestinians.
Last week, a delegation of Turkish Parliament members from the ruling Justice and Development Party visited Israel. Their visit was organized in order to soothe Israel in the aftermath of a series of diplomatic crises instigated by Ankara this past spring. First was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hostile reaction to Israel's killing of Hamas leaders Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi. Erdogan accused Israel of "state-sponsored terrorism" and temporarily recalled his ambassador.
Then came Turkey's refusal to allow Israeli security guards on Israeli flights to fly to Turkey armed. El Al was forced to suspend all flights to Turkey for a week until he relented.
Finally, there were his hints – made while jetting between Teheran and Damascus – that Turkey would suspend its military ties with Israel.
While the visiting Turkish parliamentarians assured their Israeli interlocutors that Turkey still considers Israel an ally and that Turkey has not suspended defense contracts with Israeli suppliers, they were clear, in the words of MP Saban Disli, that "the criticism will continue."
The Turks were here for the double suicide bombing in Beersheba. Yet after perfunctorily condemning the slaughter, MP Omer Cevik said, "We view the use of violence in the name of war on terrorism,… assassinations by the state, the construction of walls, and unilateral withdrawals, as obstacles to creating a peaceful environment."
In short, then, like the Russians, our friends the Turks believe that Israel has no right to take any measures to defend itself.
While we have known for a long time that the Europeans share this view, this week it became clear that the Americans do as well. In an unbelievable display of willful blindness and moral equivalence, US Secretary of State Colin Powell referred to the IAF strike on Hamas terrorists in the midst of training for terrorist missions in a terrorist training camp, as unhelpful. In his words, "I don't think they [military attacks on terrorists in training] are helpful. Retaliation is not a solution to the problems that we face in the region." Powell apparently adheres to the "cycle of violence" theory that is based on the proposition that there is no difference between terrorist and counter-terrorist operations. It couldn't be that Israel is doing what it can to pursue its war on Palestinian terrorists and takes action when opportunity arises.
In his remarks, Powell called on the Palestinian Authority to fight terrorism. The PA's response to Powell's call came, not surprisingly, from PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei. He called for more bombings of Israeli civilians by Hamas. In his words, "No crime goes unpunished. For sure there will be retaliation [to the IAF bombing of terrorists in training] and the retaliation will be justified if it happens."
How did the State Department respond to this self-evident kick in the shins? Did it admit finally that the PA – including its "reform-minded" prime minister – is the problem, not the solution to Palestinian terrorism? Of course not.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher professed shock, shock, that the PA prime minister supports suicide bombings. "If he did indeed say this, then we would certainly find those kinds of comments unacceptable," Boucher told reporters.
But Qurei did say it. And, rather than accepting that the PA is a terrorist entity, the State Department continues to criticize Israel's actions in self defense as "unhelpful."
ONE OF the central recommendations of every American panel convened to study the lessons of the September 11 attacks has been that there must be better coordination between the US intelligence services. In the past two weeks, we have seen superb coordination of those intelligence services – acting hand-in-glove with the State Department. Unfortunately, the target has not been terrorist cells or terror-supporting regimes. Rather, this unprecedented coordination has targeted the US alliance with Israel.
This past week it became known that in advancing its investigation of American Jews who hold high-level positions in the Defense Department and the White House as well as the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC, the FBI has enlisted the services of one Stephen Green. Green, a former UN employee, has made a name for himself over the past 20 years by spinning conspiracy theories on how Jews are taking over the US government in order to serve Israel. His books on the Middle East have received warm and enthusiastic receptions from the Institute for Historical Review, which came to prominence through its Holocaust denial.
The CIA and
the Defense Intelligence Agency have been promoting their anonymous attacks against the administration Jews by leaking unsubstantiated allegations of Israeli conspiracies through the good offices of retired DIA official, Col. W. Patrick Lang. Lang, it works out, is a registered foreign agent employed by the Lebanese Government.
The bottom line of the increasingly bigoted AIPAC "spy probe" that has enjoyed this unprecedented level of coordination (yet has led to no indictments or arrests), is that the goal of the intelligence community – with the firm backing of the State Department – is to make it more difficult, and in fact criminal, for US policymakers to work with Israel, a steadfast US ally and frontline state in the war on Islamic terrorism. That is, rather than enhancing US war-fighting capabilities, the aim seems to be to leave the US with little choice other than to appease its enemies.
Russian President Vladimir Putin's immediate reaction to the massacre in Beslan was to rally the Russian people behind the government's intention to wage a "total war" against Islamic terrorism – in Chechnya and throughout the world. After rallying the Russian people behind him, Putin then moved to castigating Washington and the EU for suggesting that Russia negotiate with Chechen "baby killers."
Putin, for all his faults and misdeeds both in Chechnya and in Russia itself, has the right idea here. He'll take assistance where he can get it and fight the war he needs to win for Russia. It may take some time, and some help from Israel and others, but in Russia, the battle lines have unmistakably been drawn and Putin intends to win.
In Israel, we have rejected this course of clarity in the hopes that by being vague about our interests and intentions that others will support us when they discover that the Palestinian war on Israel is simply part of the global Islamic war against everyone who is not an Islamist. But as the assaults on our right to self defense, on our allies, and on the very notion that we have enemies, over the past week show quite clearly – no one is going to fight for us. Assistance and support, if they come at all, will come grudgingly. The course of action that stands open to us remains what it has always been, and what the heart and soul of Zionism has always been based upon: self-respect and self-reliance.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.