YEAR IN REVIEW: Israel’s never-ending war
As Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, meet at the United Nations today, “both sides have made clear that they’ll essentially be humoring Obama, showing up because the President of the United States expects it of them and not to relaunch long-stalled ‘final status’ peace negotiations, as the administration had hoped,” writes Tony Karon at Time magazine.
The conventional wisdom among most seasoned observers of the conflict is that the status quo is untenable — that at some point both sides will have to arrive at a mutually acceptable way of implementing a two-state solution.
The process that might lead to that point is as murky as ever.
The possibility that receives less consideration is that Israelis, living in a country forged through war — a country that has never really known peace — having become resigned to the apparent necessity of remaining on a perpetual war footing, have now reached a point where war is more than tolerable: it is acceptable.
War is what created Israel, has allowed it to exist and will guarantee its perpetuation. Many Israelis may pay lip-service to the notion that peace is desirable, yet it is their willingness to engage in war that makes them feel safe.
For Ariel Siegelman, an Israeli soldier who fought in Gaza in a special forces unit of the IDF, the key lesson from the 2006 war in Lebanon was this: “We learned that we had been living in an imaginary world and that the most dangerous type of war is the one that you call peace. We learned that we are not in fact in a ‘peace process’ at all. We are at war.”
In the Washington Post just this week, Jackson Diehl pointed out that even as the UN’s damning report on the war on Gaza brought renewed critical attention to the most recent conflict, “Operation Cast Lead, as the three-week operation is known in Israel, is generally regarded by the country’s military and political elite as a success.” (Diehl, with apparent satisfaction, predicted: “As for the Goldstone report [PDF], the heat it briefly produced last week will quickly dissipate”.)
Claiming that the wars in Lebanon and Gaza had for Israel both been qualified successes, Diehl suggested that Israel is far less fearful than are most of its allies about picking a fight with Iran.
… as with Gaza, even a partial and short-term reversal of the Iranian nuclear program may look to Israelis like a reasonable benefit — and the potential blowback overblown.
Americans who do not share Diehl’s neoconservative perspective, don’t need to ask themselves whether they share Israel’s view of itself; they simply need to decide whether the United States has a responsibility (or any legitimate excuse) for sustaining Israel’s war machine.
Without American arms, the Jewish state will not be starved of materiel — there are plenty of non-US arms manufacturers who would happily pick up the new demand.
The only issue is whether we should regard Israel’s wars as ours.
* * *
Israel’s military might and its fighting forces have been celebrated by Israelis and Israel’s supporters through numerous songs and videos. Here are a few: