The speculation surrounding a potential Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is not ending. And with Israel’s history of preventative strikes in the Mideast, it is likely that Tel Aviv will order a strike against Iran. However, Iran is not Iraq or Syria; it is capable of defending itself. Israel’s isolation in the Middle East means that the country is the most risky factor towards not only sparking a conflict with Iran, but also being on the receiving end of a retaliation that may destabilize the entire region.
Hard power has always been a favorite policy choice for Tel Aviv when push-comes-to-shove in the Middle East. The numerous air strikes in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, several wars in Lebanon, an uneasy detente with Syria, the 1981 strike on Osirak in Iraq and 2007 strike in Syria, and including frozen diplomatic relations with a number of Mideast powers means Israel has few friends in the region.
A case can be made for Israel’s inclination toward violence because there is seemingly no end to the unguided rockets that land in Israel and the legitimate civilian security threats they pose, which require military reaction. However, it is a threat that can be solved permanently only through political resolution, not endless military action. The peace with Egypt, signed in 1979, is under question as the Muslim Brotherhood wins the recent elections in the country. Turkey, until recently, was one of Israel’s key allies, but since the humanitarian flotilla incident, has also dropped Tel Aviv from its “friendly” list. From the diplomatic point of view, Israel’s foreign policy in the Middle East is an utter failure, including the immediate issues around its borders
The non-existent peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the unresolved issue with settlement construction in the West Bank continue to be persisting headaches for both Israeli foreign policy and the international community.
Conversely, the choice of many Arab states either to fight Israel or freeze relations does not speak well to their diplomatic capabilities as well. Effectively, what we have is a failure to communicate on all concerned sides that is pushing 70 years in duration; and, that needs to change.
The picture that emerges is that Israel is in a precarious state of international isolation; it will deepen as the U.S. gradually exits the stage as global hegemon and as the draw-down of the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan make American influence increasingly marginal. To make matters worse, the worsening fiscal situation in America will invariably impact its monetary commitment to Israeli security.
As a result, international isolation will not leave many diplomatic options; traditionally, Israeli foreign policy is not known for its diplomatic finesse or sophistication. In turn, this leaves the only trusted instrument available to Tel Aviv: hard power.
Attacking Iran could potentially harbour short-term support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but the retaliation will not be pretty for two reasons: One, because Israel is a very small country, and two, because Iranian missile capabilities alone would be sufficient to cause extensive damage both in terms of human costs and infrastructure in Israel. At the same time, Iran’s regional proxies and their extensive missile arsenals that Israel failed to eliminate in the 2006 campaign against Hezbollah in southern Lebanon are also a very signfiicant threat.
Let’s just hope that we don’t reach the point of nuclear exchange; with a traditionally bellicose foreign policy, I think it is not above Israeli leadership to use nuclear weapons; but, if Tel Aviv gets a reply, it will be the final message it gets and the only place Israel will exist then is in the history books.
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