Thursday, December 20, 2018


 Vic Rosenthal's Weekly Column

Caroline Glick is famous for viewing developments with alarm. But this time there is no doubt that her worries are justified. 

If Jeremy Corbyn is elected British Prime Minister, it will not only be bad for the Jews of Britain, it will be very bad for Israel. While not the military and economic powerhouse it was in Queen Victoria’s day, Britain still has enormous influence in the world, including a veto in the Security Council. As Glick notes, it is Israel’s biggest European trading partner, including as a supplier of arms and components for American weapons systems. It has nuclear weapons, and the Royal Navy is still not to be sneezed at.

Corbyn has called for a boycott of Israel, accused her of war crimes, and promised to recognize a state of “Palestine” as soon as he takes office. He has laid wreaths at the graves of terrorists (and denied it) as well as expressing sympathy for Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah.

And Corbyn might make it. Theresa May’s government is hanging by a thread, and she has said that she will not stand for reelection in 2022, the latest possible date for elections. There are serious divisions in the Conservative Party over Brexit and other issues. Recent polling shows the parties within a percent or two. One juicy crisis could precipitate elections at any time.

Glick only discussed Corbyn. But the UK is not the only place that could experience a change in government for the worse, from an Israeli point of view.

Across the pond, the Trump Administration has so far proved itself one of the best allies of Israel in recent times. Trump, Pence, Bolton, and Pompeo are squarely in our corner. But support for Israel has become a partisan issue in recent years. While a large majority of Americans say they support Israel, only 49% of Democrats sympathize with her more than with the Palestinians. And the left wing of the Democratic Party, which is much more anti-Israel, has grown stronger lately, with several outspoken opponents of Israel elected to Congress. 

The last presidential election was very close, with Donald Trump squeaking by a lackluster opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump is currently being assailed with accusations of criminal behavior, which – even if they can’t be made to stick – make it difficult for him to expand support beyond his loyal base. It is certainly possible that he will choose not to run again in 2020, or that he will be defeated. Even if he is reelected, he will be gone after 2024. The chance that the next administration will exemplify the values of the left wing – the Obama wing – of the Democratic party is significant.

President Obama already abstained on a Security Council resolution condemning Israel. It is not a stretch to imagine a future Democratic president of like mind voting to sanction Israel for acts of self-defense, or acting against her in wartime. You may remember John Kerry’s acceptance of Hamas’ narrative of during the 2014 Gaza war, the administration’s holding up a shipment of Hellfire missiles during the war, or the unnecessary FAA ban on flights to Israel’s international airport, which some observers attribute to a quiet order from the administration.

The US and Britain are considered Israel’s allies today, although there can be friction or differences of opinion. Vladimir Putin is in a different category. Putin’s Russia is not exactly an ally, but has cooperated with Israel to an unprecedented degree. Without speculating about the reasons for Putin’s attitude, it’s well known that there are highly anti-Zionist and antisemitic circles in Russia, and her policy toward Israel would most likely be considerably worse without Putin in the driver’s seat.

But Vladimir Putin is only human, and humans can die or be overthrown. They certainly get old and tired at some point. Putin is 66, and he will not be in power forever.

All this leads me to speculate about a reasonably probable scenario within the next four years or so, in which Jeremy Corbyn is Prime Minister of the UK, a left-wing Democrat is President of the US, and perhaps even a more “traditional” (i.e., anti-Israel) Russian leader sits in the Kremlin. What would Israel’s situation look like?

We could expect that Corbyn would encourage economic and other boycotts of Israel, which – unlike today’s impotent BDS movement – could have damaging effects on our economy. At the same time, he would provide both concrete aid to our enemies as well as diplomatic support in the UN. In the event of war, he would call for disadvantageous cease-fires or settlements that would erase Israel’s battlefield gains. Even military intervention is imaginable, given the fanatical anti-Zionism of many of his supporters and associates.

The US administration would no longer be a reliable veto for anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council. That means that – with the support of Corbyn’s Britain – the Security Council could apply economic or even military sanctions against Israel in order to force her to make concessions to her enemies.

One would expect such an administration to follow the precedent of the Obama Administration in intervening in Israel’s domestic affairs, preventing her from building in the territories, forcing her to release terrorist prisoners, and in case of war, using its leverage as arms supplier to prevent a clear-cut Israeli victory. An unfriendly administration could leak information about Israeli plans and operations to her enemies and the media – as the US did in connection with Israeli raids against Iranian arms shipments in Syria. It could prevent Israel from carrying out preventative strikes, as Obama did in 2012 when PM Netanyahu and then-Defense Minister Barak wanted to bomb the Iranian nuclear project.

Russia, from her base in Syria, could effectively choke off Israeli air operations with her advanced air defense systems that cover almost all of the area of Israel. She could spread her protective umbrella over Iranian forces in Syria. She could even intervene militarily in a war between Israel and Iran, or Iranian proxies.

This is truly a nightmare scenario, with three nations that today are at worst pragmatic players (Russia) and at best (the US) supportive allies of the Jewish state, becoming hostile to her in a short space of time. In particular, even if this scenario is only partially realized, Israel will face great difficulties if she finds herself at war. And today it is hard to imagine that the conflict between Israel and Iran – the “head of the snake” that animates her multifarious enemies – will be resolved without military conflict.

Israel’s leaders must realize that today we are living in a temporary strategic paradise, which can end at any time. If Theresa May, Donald Trump, or Vladimir Putin (or worse, all three) should be supplanted by their likely replacements, our freedom of action – diplomatic, economic, and military – would be severely circumscribed.

There are two conclusions that can be drawn from this. One is that we must prepare for the possibility by reducing our dependence on the US and the UK. That’s worth doing in any event.

The second is that we should act within the short time frame available to fundamentally transform our strategic situation. At the very least, that means ending the threat from Iran herself and her proxies by preemptive military action.

We’ve already wasted two years. It’s time to act.



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