Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This summer's land grab, postponed?

We would have seen an attack on Syria by now if it wasn’t for the example set by Hezbollah last summer.  Israeli strategists weren’t alarmed by the fact that Hezbollah had rockets, or that it could lob them into Israel, but were horrified at the reaction of the Israeli public, who freaked out.  It is not an exaggeration to say that popular opinion forced the quick Israeli retreat.  Not only is this troubling in itself, especially for a country which plans decades of land-stealing wars, but Hezbollah could hardly aim its rockets, and could only reach the closest part of Israel.  The most advanced rocket technology, properly targeted, could cause a permanent end to the possibility of a Zionist Empire, and could even lead to the mass exodus from Israel that would represent the suicide of the country itself.  Syria seems to have obtained the most advanced Russian rockets available, which, together with training from the Russians (and Iranians?), could terrorize the shockingly easily terrorized Israelis.  The Hezbollah Strategy may have permanently changed Middle East history.  Even if Syria is bluffing, do the Israelis want to risk it?  Remember, the Arabs only have to win one war; Israel has to win them all.  The most chilling possibility for Israel is that it wins the war, but so traumatizes its citizens that the most important and mobile of them, the knowledge workers, decide to leave.

In a sense, Israel is the victim of its own success.  Decades of mythology, together with considerable military success, have led Israelis to consider themselves almost a ‘normal’ country.  Normal countries are safe countries.  The ability to withstand the psychological attack of suicide bombings did not translate into an ability to put up with rocket attacks, even incompetent rocket attacks.  Israelis like to talk of ‘existential threats’ and being ‘pushed into the sea’ for propaganda purposes, but don’t actually believe any – snicker – Arab could actually do them any serious harm.  Israelis are so comfortable now – the greatest army in the Middle East, a monopoly on nuclear weapons, and the backing of the Americans – that they have set themselves up for a big fall.  The question of Israeli strategists:  are Israelis prepared to risk civilian lives not for any backs-against-the-wall real threat to the country, but just so some religious nuts, most of them living safely in the United States, can build a Zionist Empire?