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Thursday, August 26, 2004

Feiglin: If Not the Arrow, Then What?

By Moshe Feiglin

The Israel's weakness is not that it can't take casualties but that it can't inflict them on others.

The criticism we expressed of the Arrow project as well as of the separation fence causes people to ask: "What is your alternative?" Our criticism did not address the technical aspects of the project, but its basic concept.

The Arrow is a first-rate technological achievement and its technical developers deserve to be congratulated. But the basic concept lying behind the Arrow is a disastrous one that has led Israel to invest tremendous sums in white elephants that can never meet their strategic aims.

Consequently the alternative we seek does not lie in the field of technology. We shall not propose a more successful weapons system. The required alternative must be found in the overall defense concept of the country.

Last week an article appeared in Makor Rishon, describing in a comprehensive manner Israel's nuclear policy and the Iranian threat. The article included interviews were held with the heads of the organizations responsible for the subject, and all of them, without exception, agreed that an Israeli military attack on the Iranian nuclear industry was not possible. The reason was not Iranian military superiority, but the dispersion of the Iranian nuclear facilities and their proximity to concentrations of population. An Israeli attack would be liable to cause a great number of casualties amongst the Iranian civilian population, and official Israel does not believe that it can permit itself to do so.

In fact Israel, facing Shihab 3 missiles and the development of Iranian nuclear capability, lies in precisely the same dilemma as when facing the Kasam rockets fired from Beit Hanun. The obstacle is not military capability but moral considerations and international pressure. The Israeli leadership does not feel that it can justify to its own citizens a massive attack on others, nor does it feel capable of withstanding the international pressure that would result from such an attack.

Some people hold the view that Israel must come to terms with reality and deliberately enter the era of the balance of nuclear terror in the Middle East. One of the supporters, a professor from Tel Aviv University, even explained in a radio broadcast that this would be a desirable situation which would bring an end to conflicts and bloodshed. It seems that this terrible idea is gradually being absorbed (because of the lack of an alternative concept) by the heads of the defense establishment, and in the non too distant future we shall find ourselves facing extremist Moslem countries (followed by terrorist organizations) armed with nuclear weapons.

Any comparison made between the cold war waged between the East and the West, and a situation that could exist between Israel and its nuclear-armed neighbors, is totally unfounded. In order that a balance of terror can exist, it is necessary for there to be opponents having both rationale for survival, and an inability to achieve total destruction in a first strike. In contrast to the case of the former Soviet Union, Israel's nuclear neighbors will lack these two elements. (The Arab regimes have an instinct for survival, but the countries themselves do not. Can anyone name Mubarak's successor?)

A single nuclear-tipped missile cannot destroy ordinary countries. At most it is capable of destroying a large urban neighborhood, and of neutralizing broad circles in its proximity (depending on weather conditions and the dispersion of nuclear fall-out).

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were only two of countless cities systematically destroyed by Allied carpet bombing. The psychological effect was tremendous, but the immediate real effect did not differ greatly from the bombing of Dresden.

The major difference between Israel and an ordinary country lies in the fact that most of Israel's population, economy, and reservist soldiers are concentrated in a single city called the Dan Metropolitan Region. Israel is a single soft target that if destroyed means the end of the Israeli story. The proliferation of nuclear arms in the Middle East will not lead to a balance of terror but to the end of the balance currently existing and to terror for Israel only. In the Second World War cities were destroyed one after another. The Arab world can sustain such things, but Israel can't.

Let's not forget that the most important consideration for the Arabs is not human life but the survival of the regime. Anwar Sadat, referred to "moderate", announced that he was ready to sacrifice a million soldiers in a war against Israel.

Any Arab leader who defeats Israel at the price of a few of his cities which evaporate in a nuclear mushroom cloud will become a modern Saladin, the leader of the Arab world. This presents a serious temptation.

In the light of the threat to survival, and of our vanishing military superiority, why don't we say to hell with the world, the lives of our children are more important than those of the enemy population, and remove the threat at any price?

Isn't it logical that we should prefer our lives to those of a hostile population?

At this stage we inevitably go over to a debate about values. We are no longer
discussing atomic piles and nuclear warheads. We are now talking about fundamental values, about the basic ethos of the State of Israel. This discussion will indicate that the defense concept must be based primarily on ethical values and only subsequently on technical considerations.

Israel was established on a basis of Western/ Christian ethical values. This concept does not recognize absolute truth, and consequently justice, that serves the truth, is subject to compromise. How therefore does the Christian/ Western system of values differentiate between the good and bad elements in the issue? It's very simple - the weak one is the good guy and the strong one is the bad guy. The cross and the icons forming the basis of Western culture (even in its secular form) represents weakness, suffering, the underdog. (By the way, in Islam the strong and cruel person is in the right. See the life of their prophet. But Israel acts according to the Western code and we shall therefore concentrate on this culture.) As long as the Auschwitz crematoria were still warm, and as long as Israel, up to the Six Day War, appeared as the weak side in the story, we managed somehow to make the Zionist ethos match Western culture. We continue to drag every poor VIP who lands in Ben-Gurion Airport to Yad Vashem, but we've squeezed the last drop of juice out of the Holocaust lemon, and we can no longer justify by our suffering that of the Palestinian nation.

IDF soldiers in checkpoints do not give the impression of being the weak party and we have remained with a fundamental contradiction between the Western/Christian system of values on which the Zionist State has been based, and the basic capability of guaranteeing our survival.

The average Israeli tends to believe that that which is permissible for an Arab (terror, murder of civilians, etc.) is forbidden for a Jew, simply because the Western world is afraid of the numbers and strength of the Arabs. This is not at all accurate. The Western world accepts any behavior, even that of remote tribes, if such behavior forms part of the culture of those acting in that manner.

For example, even in Israel lenient punishments are meted out to Bedouins who murder their sisters for reasons of family honor.

In other words, it is not that Western strength constrains Israel's capability of retaliation to the cultural norms customary in the West, but, on the contrary, Israel's cultural dependence on the West chains its to its conditions.

Totalitarian countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that scorn the concept of human rights, receive far greater military and economic aid than Israel. (Not many people are aware of this, but of every six American dollars invested in arms for the Middle East, only one dollar reaches Israel. If the US were to impose an embargo on arms shipments to the Middle East, this would greatly improve our security situation.)

The cultural dependence obligates Israel to adopt hopeless defensive strategies, such as the Arrow, the separation fence, and the justification of a nuclear balance of terror. Analysis of this situation indicates that because of the current Israeli consciousness, Israel has no chance for long term survival.

If some form of passive action is self-evidently essential, this should primarily be dispersion of the Israeli population and accelerated rural construction in the Negev, Yesha, Galilee, and the Golan. Israel should simply prohibit further construction in the Dan Metropolitan Region, and develop the periphery and its infrastructures as a top-priority national assignment.

Obviously Israel must destroy the Iranian nuclear enterprise, even if this means civilian casualties. Obviously Israel must immediately demand an insufferable price from any Islamic Arab regime that deploys strategic missiles within range of Israel. This is the sole possible defense concept, and it will inevitably lead to the strengthening of Israel's international status, as happened after the "slaughter" of the Egyptian Army by the IDF in the Six Day War. However, there's no point in discussing what we should do, before we replace the cultural basis of the country. As long as we fail to understand that we are the just people in the story, not because we are weak, but because we are Jews, we cannot act from internal conviction, and we will certainly fail to convince the world of this.

It transpires that the strategic solution must first be based on culture and only afterwards on the technology of the military industry.