We are soon entering into elections in Israel in just over two weeks.
The right of center party of Benjamin Netanyahu is facing off against Blue and White, the centrist party of General Benny Gantz and Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid.
One of the interesting aspects of the campaign is that Blue and White presents itself as committed to a much stronger party against Israel’s terror supporting enemies than Prime Minister Netanyahu who has a reputation for being a hardliner and Mr. Security for Israel. What are the facts about this debate? I want to look at three primary battle fronts and ask some hard questions. How has Israel dealt with Lebanon since the last war with Hezbollah? Secondly, how is Israel handling Hamas, and finally, how has Israel handled the terrorism from the West Bank (Judea and Samaria)? President Teddy Roosevelt famously said, “Speak softly but carry a big stick.” In other words, use real and serious power. Then your words do not have to be loud. The accusation against Benjamin Netanyahu is that he projects great strength, but really is speaking loudly and carrying a small stick. I summarize here the arguments.
First in regard to Lebanon. After the Israel-Lebanon War in 2006, a U. N resolution was passed that led to an Israel withdrawal. The war lasted 34 days. I was visiting my brother in an assisted living facility in Valdosta, George. Richard was a Major in the Airforce and had a good grasp of military strategy. We were quite amazed that Israel tried to win this war by air power and only late in the war brought in ground troops. Also, Israel bombed the infrastructure of the nation of Lebanon and did not merely concentrate on Hezbollah which could have freed Lebanon from the tyranny of this group. He thus turned Lebanon more deeply into an enemy and really empowered Hezbollah. My brother and I were amazed at the feckless way the war was fought under Prime Minister Olmert. The U. N. promised a peace keeping force on the Lebanon border that would prevent Hezbollah from rearming. When Secretary of State Condolezza Rice declared that this would be a robust U. N. force, I knew beyond a doubt that the U. N. would do no such thing but that Hezbollah would be rearmed. Today, this has indeed happened. Hezbollah now threatens with hundreds of thousands of missiles and some may be precision ones, even threatening Tel Aviv. Israel policy under Benjamin Netanyahu has sought to prevent transports from Iran, but really has never the less allowed the rearming. His response could have been, “They are rearming, and if you, the U. N. do not prevent this re-arming, we will go back and disarm them. And we will continue to do so again and again until the U. N. resolution preventing re-arming is enforced.” But short term relative peace in the North and the prevention of the loss of Israeli soldiers, has been attained with terrible danger to the half of Israel.
Secondly, we look at the situation in the West Bank. For years Israel has allowed the Palestinian Authority to pay terrorists attackers and their families. If they die as martyrs, the payments to the families are high. The worse the terrorist, the better the payments. Those in jail in Israel find their families are paid handsomely. We would not object if the payments were at the normal welfare level. This incentivizes terrorism. For years Israel protested, but only recently cut off tax payments in the amount of these payments to the P. A. But this took years. Then Israel allows squares and streets in the West Bank to be named after terrorists, even the worst ones. And Israel allows textbooks to teach anti-Semitism and fosters hate for the Jewish people and Israel. As an occupying military Israel could enforce standards so that this would not be done. Could you imagine the parallel in Germany or Japan after World War II? They had to submit in ways that teaching Nazi ideology or Japanese superiority would not be tolerated. How can there be a peace agreement when the whole culture celebrates terrorism and fosters hatred?
Third, Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu, since the last Gaza War, fears the international community and its unfair response were they to fight a war. A war is more difficult since using civilian human shields is a military strategy for Hamas. So Hamas and Islamic Jihad send rockets to terrorize the towns near the border. They protest the blockade but if they gave up violent attacks and arms for the sake of attacking Israel, the blockade would end. We have explained that the policy of the government in Israel is to keep Hamas in power so the Palestinians have divided government (West Bank under P. A. and Gaza under Hamas) and the two-state solution becomes impossible. But it has been pointed out that if Israel would simply take out more of the Hamas leaders, those surviving would be more likely to cooperate and end the rocket attacks and the violent border protests. Perhaps the Prime Minister believes that such a policy could lead to the collapse of Hamas, but others in Blue and White argue against this. The Prime Minister is building a border barrier against Hamas, and bombs military targets while preventing the loss of life. He speaks loudly. Does he also carry a small stick? Gaza simply needs to give up its military arms that are only needed to attack Israel and the blockade is over.
The next election in two weeks cannot be said to be a contest against a hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu and a dovish left-wing. This is simply not true. The Prime Minister has done many things right, but this election is a very difficult one, not only on domestic policy and the power of the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel, but also on Security policy.