Monday, August 7, 2017
America, Israel and the “Special Relationship": an Uncertain Alliance
When JPost published the editorial “Clueless Trump” last week it reminded that much that appears in Israel’s poplar media falls short in recognizing the limits of its “special relationship” with the United States. As Saddam Hussein reportedly justified Iraq’s need for WMD, “We exist in a very dangerous neighborhood,” Israel has little room to substitute wish for fact regarding the limits of this critical alliance. At least at its leadership level Israel is responding realistically to the changing global balance of power. Israeli diplomacy and trade regarding China and India are consistent with not just her emerging markets, but also global centers of power in the coming decades.
For the near-time, as regards the Palestinians: if there was little hope for accommodation before 2006 when, following elections resulting in a Hamas victory and the failed US-backed coup against victorious Hamas: what likelihood an accommodation between Israel and not just one, but two competing centers of Palestinian “authority”? As regards the extended region of Arabia, from Morocco to the Arabian Gulf; the “Arab Spring” has left states in the region unstable and under threat from within. The United States lit the fuse when Bush, following American’s commitment to Democracy, replaced Iraq’s Sunni regime, barrier to Iranian ambitions, with a majority Shiite regime placing Iraq in Iran’s orbit.
Obama’s approach to Iran remained basically unchanged from Bush, “to end the Iranian pursuit of nuclear weapons.” But where the Bush administration never tired of threatening military force, Obama was committed to dialogue. That the “dialogue” would take seven years to bear fruit and result in Iran first achieving “nuclear threshold status” suggests a policy well beyond the stated goal, consistent with Kenneth Waltz’s vision , “Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability,” the subheading to his article. But Waltz’s elegant theory suggests that where a single regional power possesses nuclear arms neighboring states would have been motivated to seek the bomb to counter the threat. But Israel was assumed to have a nuclear arsenal for half-century with little such counter effort. True that Saddam sought the bomb, but that was to achieve his hegemonic ambitions in the Arab world; and Syria’s short-lived nuclear adventure was more likely an Iranian effort rather than Syrian. If any Arab state confronting Israel ever felt directly threatened by her assumed nuclear arsenal, that threat was never sufficient to demand an Arab response. The “Arab response” only emerged in response to the realization that the Obama policy was not just to end Iran’s nuclear threat to the Arab world, to “cut off the head of the Iranian snake,” but instead to allow Iran to achieve breakout nuclear status.
Observing the tortuous seven-year-long “negotiations” between Obama and Khameini, an apparent charade in which a petulant Iran repeatedly withdrew from the talks only to return months later enticed by ever-new Obama concessions. Whatever Bush’s reasons for not pursuing Iran’s 2003 offer to quit its nuclear program, whether by chance or design the US provided Iran sufficient time to advance its nuclear program, to become a nuclear power and threat to its Arab neighbors, and to Israel.
There are today at least half-dozen Arab states, from Egypt and Jordan to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait at various stages of building nuclear reactors. And, reflecting the new reality of today’s regional “superpower” most are funded and built by Putin’s Russia.
When Obama entered office one of his central promises was to reign in global nuclear proliferation. Without going into discussing a possible American strategic motive to explain his providing for the Iranian bomb, Obama loosed a nascent nuclear arms race in this most unstable region in the world. And if there is a “silver lining” regarding that future nuclear cloud now hanging over the region it is that Israel and Arab states not yet victim to the Arab Spring, now share a common threat.
With all the benefits that a hopeful Shimon Peres saw to motivate peace in the region, it took President Obama to provide the conditions for an Israel-Arab accommodation!