Albert Einstein used to say that insanity can be defined as continuing to do the same thing, while expecting different results. That makes Israels right-wing the epitome of insanity. It keeps trying to solve all of Israels problems by force, and consistently expecting the result to be other than what it was in the past.
Israel tried to solve the Lebanese problem by force and created Hezbollah; it tried to solve the Palestinian problem by force and created Hamas. It has tried to vanquish Hamas by force, and is gradually getting Al-Qaida in its stead. Now Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is insisting on solving the Iranian problem by force, trying unsuccessfully to convince the world that he is right.
Former Mossad chief Meir Dagan, who could certainly not be considered a starry-eyed leftist, made a blunt statement last week of great importance: The idea of attacking Iran from the air is "the stupidest thing I have ever heard", he said.
A few days later, two other past Mossad chiefs, Ephraim Halevy and Danny Yatom, agreed with his judgment. Our politicians, who have always spoken highly of Dagan, felt uncomfortable with his statement, but limited their criticism to saying that not everything needs to be brought to the public stage.
Dagan made clear what is already rather well known: a confrontation with Iran would exact an enormous price on Israel. We would be under rocket attack from both Iran and Hezbollah, potentially for months. The human, economic, and political costs could be exorbitant - and through it all, Israel would not have neutralized Irans nuclear program.
Dagan went further in his declarations by stating overtly that Iran would never use an atomic bomb against Israel, thus undermining Netanyahus endless warnings that the next holocaust is around the corner.
Netanyahu doesnt want Dagan to say that Israel has no real military option because he has made it part of his image that as prime minister, he will solve Israels Iranian problem.
Dagan has made clear that despite Netanyahus insinuations, Israel doesnt actually have the real option of taking out Iran by air strikes. What Israel has succeeded in doing - according to a plethora of sources – is slowing Iran's nuclear ambitions by infecting its computers with the Stuxnet virus.
Netanyahu and his government do not want to put forth Israel's limitations for public discussion. Such an admission runs counter to the notion that Israel can deal with each of its security issues on its own, without help from any partner. More importantly, such an admission means abandoning the myth that Israel can solve every problem by resorting to force, rather than diplomacy, if necessary.
Israel cannot solve the Iranian problem by force. Period. Dagans remarks show that Israels whole conception of foreign policy and its management of security risks must undergo a radical change. The mantra that Israel can and should rely only on its own devices for defense has become useless. Nothing less than a paradigm change is in order.
Israels only viable strategy on Iran is to join the worldwide attempts to weaken that regime. U.S. President Barack Obama, who Netanyahu depicts mostly as too soft on Iran and too weak in his Middle East policy, has put together the most crippling set of sanctions to date, ones which are having a devastating effect on the Iranian economy.
In due course, this raises the possibility that the Iranian regime can indeed change. Most experts on Iran agree that a very different state could emerge in place of the current regime, potentially even to become a functioning democracy.
Forging a peace agreement with Syria would also help weaken Iran, as it could substantially destabilize Hezbollah and force Hamas to change its policies, thus depriving the Islamic republic of its proxies to attack Israel. Weakening Iran also requires a restoration of Israels relations with Turkey, a country which must be pulled from out of Irans orbit. That is an option, however, that cannot be realized as long as our foreign minister and his deputy do their all to aggravate Turkey at every conceivable opportunity.
This paradigm change, of establishing win-win interactions with Israel's neighbors, means our decision makers must totally change their mentality. Such a change in mentality cannot happen easily, because Israel's political left has in the past misrepresented peace as a as a messianic promise in which sheep and wolves would dwell together for eternity. The resulting disappointments have made Israels electorate weary of giving peace another chance.
A realistic peace camp must make clear that taking the road of peace is not a foolproof way for Israel to achieve total security for all generations to come. Risk-free strategies do not exist – certainly not in the Middle East. There are only ways to balance risks entailed by different strategies.
Seeking peace with our neighbors is not a messianic vision. Yes; it is based on values of cooperation and justice rather than unilateral power; but it is also a strategy that needs to be carefully calibrated. Despite its perils, it primarily has advantages ranging from the development of positive relations with our neighbors to ending Israels international isolation.
The rights insistence on the status quo is not only risky, it will unfailingly lead to the end of Israels existence as a democratic country with a Jewish character. It has proven to be incapable of dealing with Hamas, Hezbollah or any of Israels other major security threats.
Striving for peace is a strategic option far superior to the rights tactic of stalling, because the perils of peace do not endanger Israels long-term survival: rather, it offers a positive vision for Israels future.
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