Making the Best of a Bad Situation

The Israeli government has decided not to
ask for increased military aid from the United States at this time, for fear that this would give the impression that it has come to terms with the terrible nuclear deal signed last week with Iran. But there are other demands that can and should be made now, with the United States recognizing that Israel is more vulnerable than ever because of the agreement.

One such demand is for international recognition of Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights. The grounds for opposing the move (then-prime minister Menachem Begin refused to use the term “annexation”), even from the Israeli center-left, was that it hindered the prospects of future negotiations with Syria, which claimed the land for itself.

Today, with Syria being torn apart by civil war, and with such violent factions as Hizbullah, Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra taking control of areas near the border with Israel, it is clear that Israel’s presence on the Golan is a stabilizing factor. And the more that presence is recognized as permanent by Washington and Europe, the more of a stabilizing effect it can have.

The alternative, as Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan put it, is chaos.

A second legitimate demand is that Israel be granted sovereignty over at least parts of Yehudah and Shomron. Currently, it is only Israel’s presence there that keeps Hamas terrorists from harming not only Jews, but Palestinians aligned with PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction.

The world — even the Arab world — has changed over the years and largely grown tired of the so-called Palestinian issue. A prominent Arab writer, Walid Abimerchid, cited in a recent op-ed by Amir Taheri, notes that “for the first time in decades, Palestine has been shut out of the news in favor of Syria, ISIS, sectarian wars and the growing aggressiveness of an Iran encouraged by Obama’s grand strategy of retreat.”

There are many reasons for what Abimerchid calls “growing fatigue with the whole Palestine issue.” One of them is the insecurity that has been bred by the surge of fanatic groups like IS.

“Today, no Arab feels safe in his country,” Taheri quotes Jordanian businessman Abu Furas as saying. “Ironically, the sole exceptions are Palestinians in [Yehudah and Shomron] because they know Israel will defend them if ISIS attacks. Even in Gaza, most people secretly believe that Israel is their ultimate protection against ISIS fighters trying to strike roots in the Sinai.”

With mounting threats from Iranian terror proxies like Hizbullah in the north and Hamas in the south, and with the surprising growth of IS, which has developed from a ragtag group of sadistic killers to a sophisticated military force capable of taking on Egypt, Israel needs an internationally endorsed claim to land that is critical in helping it protect itself and the Palestinians.

A third demand, which is an absolute must and has nothing to do with territorial claims, is that ground rules be agreed upon now as to what happens if—or more likely, when—Iran breaks the agreement. There must be a clear delineation of which violations will prompt which repercussions.

One of the ironies of this agreement is that it has turned Iran into an ally of the West and Israel into an enemy. The day after the deal was signed, the media in Germany was blasting Israel as the great threat to the world’s security, for failing to accept the deal and for threatening to launch a military strike, if necessary.

Israel must demand U.S. backing to take military action in the event that the agreement is violated. While it cannot insist that Washington authorize a strike of its own, it can seek assistance toward this end, either in terms of intelligence or weaponry, like advanced missiles or bunker-buster bombs.

Finally, it is folly for Israel to push off talks on military aid for much longer, especially since the current agreement is set to expire in 2017. This is a dangerous time when Iran is receiving a green light for nuclear weapons and an easing of sanctions that will bring it hundreds of billions of dollars with which to fund Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and others.

Moreover, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are receiving generous U.S. military packages in compensation for the nuclear deal, which threatens to erode Israel’s military edge.

To his credit, President Barack Obama has signaled a willingness to provide Israel with an unprecedented military compensation package. It’s okay for Israel to play the game of the offended partner for a little while, but not to continue it to the point that it gives up the opportunity to mitigate some of the terrible damage of the Iranian nuclear deal.