The Olmert-Livni-Barak government is apparently maneuvering to stand down on Iran, and they'd like the US to be blamed for their timidity. A careful reading of a bizarre article in Sunday's edition of Ha'aretz brings this point home clearly.
The report details Israel's recent agreement with the US to deploy the X-Band high powered early warning radar system in Israel. The system will be manned by a team of three US military personnel from a trailer somewhere in the Negev.
The US's willingness to deploy the system is largely the consequence of ardent lobbying efforts by US Congressman Mark Kirk. Kirk's successful push for the deployment of the X-Band system in Israel is a great boon for the country's defensive capabilities. The X-Band system can detect incoming missiles from 500-600 miles. Currently, Israel's early warning system is only able to detect missiles from 100 miles out. The earlier detection capacity means that in the event of an Iranian attack, Israel's Arrow missiles will be able to intercept and destroy incoming missiles before they reach Israeli territory and so even their debris will fall outside the country.
BUT ACCORDING to unnamed Israeli "defense officials" who spoke with Ha'aretz, the price that Israel will be forced to pay for this increased defensive capacity is prohibitive. Those "defense officials" claim that the US forced Israel to agree that in exchange for the X-Band system, Israel will not attack Iran either preemptively or retroactively without US permission, because were Israel to attack Iran, the three American guys and their trailer could become a target for an Iranian missile.
If Ha'aretz and the "defense officials" are right, then that means that Defense Minister Ehud Barak – who concluded the deal with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates during his visit to Washington last month – agreed to concede Israel's right to take whatever action it deems necessary to prevent its national destruction. Barak conceded Israel's right to prevent its own annihilation in exchange for three guys and a trailer and the capacity to live with a greater sense of security under Iranian nuclear threat. This sense of security will last for as long as Iran doesn't develop satellite-based warheads or for as long as Iran doesn't prove the X-Band radar or the Arrow 3 missiles incapable of actually intercepting incoming nuclear warheads.
Since Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and all their colleagues in the government have been silent on the deal, it can be assumed that they back Barak's move. So again, acting on the authority of the entire Kadima-Labor-Shas government, according to "defense officials," and Ha'aretz, Barak just agreed to give up Israel's right to attack Iran's nuclear installations. And the Americans made him do it.
THE HA'ARETZ report did not include any mention of attempts to verify the "defense officials" claims with the Americans. And in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night, Kirk vociferously denied their allegations.
"There is no quid pro quo," he said.
"You mean that the US did not say that in exchange for deploying the X-Band system Israel needs to receive US permission to attack Iran?"
"No, the US made no such demand," Kirk said.
"The basic idea is that a US ally getting nuked is a bad thing. The X-Band system increases the likelihood that such an attack would fail," he continued.
Moreover, far from sending a message that the US would work to block an Israeli preemptive attack against Iran, Kirk argued that the deployment of the X-Band system manned by a US crew "will send a message to Iran, that Israel has powerful political support from its ally against any Iranian threat."
Kirk also argued that the US will support a decision by Israel's government to attack Iran. As he put it, "If the Israeli government makes the difficult decision [that it must launch a preemptive attack against Iran], that is when Israel will need its allies the most. And that is when the US will be called in to show what it means to have us as an ally."
So if Kirk – the US official most responsible for the X-Band deal – flatly denies that the US is using the X-Band deployment to prevent Israel from attacking Iran, what were those unidentified "defense officials" who spoke with Ha'aretz trying to achieve by making false allegations against the US? And why did Ha'aretz's reporters not bother to call Kirk or the Pentagon to verify their amazing claims?
SADLY, THE answer is clear. Those "defense officials" were carrying out what has become standard practice for Israeli leftists over the past 15 years. They were working to demoralize the Israeli public into believing that it is inevitable that we cannot defeat our enemies or take any effective military steps to protect ourselves from their aggression.
For its part, in its unquestioning reporting of the story, Ha'aretz was doing what the Israeli media – led by Ha'aretz – has been doing since 1993. It was helping leftist politicians demoralize the public into believing that we have no option of defeating our enemies and must therefore simply try to appease them as best we can, hunker down behind high walls and shields, and hope someone else will defend us.
Since the Rabin-Peres government reversed what had been Israeli policy since 1967 and in 1993 decided to embrace the PLO – a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of the country – as a peace partner, every single leftist government has claimed that Israel has no ability to defend itself. In 1993, the government embraced the radical Left's unsubstantiated claim that it was Israel's fault the Palestinians wanted to destroy us. And two years after the IDF ended the Palestinian uprising, the government also claimed that the IDF couldn't protect us from Palestinian terror and that Yasser Arafat would do a better job of defending us than our own army.
The media supported their absurd claims and demonized their critics as warmongers, extremists and enemies of peace.
Then there was Barak's disastrous unilateral withdrawal of IDF forces from south Lebanon in May 2000. Barak embraced the factitious claims of the radical anti-Zionist Left that the only reason Hizbullah was attacking Israel was because IDF forces were deployed in south Lebanon. Like the radical Left, Barak promised that once Israel withdrew, Hizbullah would disband its army and become just another peaceful political party in Lebanon.
The media, for their part lobbied obsessively for the withdrawal. All withdrawal opponents were demonized as warmongers, extremists and enemies of peace.
THEN THERE was the Palestinian terror war which began in September 2000. For a year and a half, as the Israeli casualty count mounted daily, the Sharon-Peres government told us that we had no military option to defeat the terrorists. The US would abandon us if we attacked the Palestinian Authority and anyway, the IDF was no match for terror cells.
The media for their part pushed the narrative of Israeli helplessness. All proponents of military victory were demonized as warmongers, extremists and enemies of peace
Despite the IDF's successful defeat of terror forces in Judea and Samaria during and subsequent to Operation Defense Shield in April 2002, it took the leftist politicians and their media flacks no time to reinstate their narrative of Israeli powerlessness. Within weeks of the defeat of the terror forces in Judea and Samaria, the Labor Party, the media and later former prime minister Ariel Sharon argued that Israel could do nothing to defend against Gazan terror and therefore, should simply withdraw its forces and civilians from the Gaza Strip.
And again, those who pointed out that Israel had never really tried to defeat the terror networks in Gaza were silenced. Those who warned that Gaza would become the new south Lebanon were demonized as warmongers and extremists and enemies of peace.
Hizbullah's offensive against Israel in July 2006 was an unwelcome development for the Olmert-Livni-Peretz government and the media. It was the war their opponents had warned would come as a result of ill-conceived Israeli withdrawals. They wanted that war to go away as quickly as possible.
Refusing to fight the war with any determination, they told the public that we had no interest in winning. We didn't want to get bogged down again the Lebanese "mud," they said. There was no "military solution," they pronounced. The US, they lied, opposed an Israeli ground invasion of Lebanon. Only the UN and the Hizbullah-dominated Lebanese military could defend Israel, they claimed.
So they sued for a cease-fire, which as their critics warned, paved the way for Hizbullah's takeover of Lebanon. And the media praised their wisdom and silenced their critics by castigating the latter as warmongers, extremists and enemies of peace.
THIS THEN is the historical backdrop against which the government's current attempt to demoralize the public into believing that it is futile to attempt an attack on Iran's nuclear installations is being carried out. But there is a qualitative difference between the government's newest attempt to wriggle out of its responsibility to defend the country and its previous derelictions of duty.
This is the first time that the threat the government seeks to ignore is actually capable of annihilating the country. By claiming again here that the US will abandon us if we attack, the government is telling us that we have no choice other than to live in a world where a regime openly committed to destroying our country and our people has the means to carry out their designs. And in its unquestioning parroting of the government's line, the media is collaborating with this unacceptable state of affairs.
If there was ever a situation requiring the public to take to the streets, this is it.
Since Israel's founding, there has been an unspoken social compact between the public and our government. We all understand that existential threats have to be defeated. We don't discuss these things. We simply trust our governments to protect us.
The Ha'aretz report signals that the current government is breaching this compact by preparing its case for inaction. This situation simply cannot be allowed to stand. And given that we are now in elections season, a public outcry today has the capacity to force our media to cover this story and so compel our politicians to either fulfill their part of the bargain or step down.
While the US is happy to augment our defensive capacity, the Pentagon has been clear that it will not attack Israel's enemies for us. That is our job. And we the Israeli public must compel our leaders to do their job.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.