Today the existence of Israel is in greater peril than at any time since its founding hour when the fledging state was invaded by every one of its Arab neighbors. Only an understanding of this mortal threat to the Jewish state allows comprehension of the high stakes involved in Israel’s determined assault on Hamas in Gaza. First, consider that Israel is the same size as Massachusetts; its population is little greater than Colorado. Israel’s enemies have fifty times the territory, and twenty-five times the population. While lately only the President of Iran has publicly endorsed the goal of wiping Israel off the map, anyone familiar with the underlying mindset of Israel’s Muslim neighbors knows they all would welcome such an event.
Israel has been sustained through sixty years, three invasions, and the unremitting hostility of its neighbors only by its decisive military superiority and the support of the Western democracies.
Today with the exception of the United States support for Israel in the Western democracies has collapsed. Elite (i.e. leftist) European opinion tends to be pro-Palestinian, and borderline anti-Semitic. Most assuredly no European country would aid Israel militarily in the event of war. This general antipathy to Israel was well illustrated by the French ambassador to Great Britain who in an unguarded moment referred to the Jewish state as a “sh---- little country”.
On November 29, 1947, the United Nations voted to partition Palestine into separate homelands for the Arabs and Jews thus setting the stage for the birth of Israel six months later. It is at once ironic and tragic that if the United Nations took such a vote today Israel would have no chance whatsoever.
Most ominous of all, however, is Israel’s steadily declining military edge over its enemies.
The Hamas rockets that have terrorized the population of southern Israel are harbingers of more horrific things to come. It is only a matter of time and political calculation before Iran provides its proxies in Gaza (Hamas) and Lebanon (Hezbollah) with the more sophisticated rockets that can reach all of Israel’s major population centers.
Israel is painfully aware of where events are leading, and in no doubt as to the implications of Iran’s not too distant acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Israel’s sense of looming apocalypse is confirmed by their recently revealed request to the U.S. to overfly Iraqi airspace for the purpose of conducting air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. A politically weakened Bush administration predictably refused this request thereby denying Israel the chance to replicate their years ago success in pre-emptively destroying Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons project.
Israel’s own government is arguably the weakest in its history. Not since the untimely death of Ariel Sharon has Israel had either a strong leader or a truly effective majority in the multi-party Knesset. The current Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who leaves office in just a few weeks under a cloud of scandal and threatened prosecution authorized an earlier woefully mismanaged military incursion into Lebanon and the withdrawal from Gaza- now seen clearly as the strategic blunder which led to the present conflict.
For so long has America’s image of Israel been of outstanding leaders- David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir- and invincible soldiers- Moshe Dyan, Ariel Sharon- that today it is nearly impossible for us to grasp either the enfeebled condition of its democracy, or its vulnerability to military catastrophe.
President Bush steadfastly supported Israel and refused to buy into the pernicious doctrine of “moral equivalence” between Jews and Palestinians. Yet in Europe tens of thousands of demonstrators thronged the streets of London, Paris, and Berlin denouncing Israel as the equivalent of Nazi Germany. In New York similar rhetoric rings out in the United Nations.
To understand the desperate determination of Israel to stop rockets raining down on its citizenry we must see the plight of a small country denounced as a savage aggressor by most of “World Opinion”, its diplomatic isolation nearly complete, and its military advantages rapidly disappearing against an enemy whose goal is not peace but annihilation.
In 1945 as the victorious Allied armies drew back the curtain on the horrors of the Holocaust, the world’s revulsion and guilt- “If only we had known …… in time”- led to the creation of Israel.
Today we should recall the philosopher Santayana who warned that “those who do not heed the past are doomed to repeat it”.
William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Baltimore Sun, Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News.