The lethal combination of the Goldstone Report and the crisis with Turkey prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach the following conclusion: Israel can only afford to engage in short wars; very short wars. The longer the war, the more difficult the battle will be the day after – the long term fight for global public opinion.
This conclusion may hold far-reaching military implications. It appears that Netanyahu is falling into line with the criticism voiced by Defense Minister Ehud Barak in closed-door sessions regarding ministerial decisions during Operation Cast Lead. Barak wanted what was referred to as a “humanitarian ceasefire.” He was in a minority position vis-à-vis Olmert and Livni, who decided to continue the operation.
Barak is telling his colleagues that had his position been accepted, we would have been spared difficult images, the operation’s impression would have dissipated quickly, there would not be a Goldstone Report, and public opinion in Turkey and in other countries would not have turned against Israel.
In respect to the relationship with Turkey, Israel expects the American Administration to intervene and restrain the Erdogan government. Israel is paying a heavy price for processes it has no connection to: The European Union, acting on French pressure, rejected Turkey’s requests to integrate into the EU; meanwhile, the US Administration showed weakness; under such circumstances, Turkey chose to move closer to Syria and Iran.
The popularity of the Islamic movement is declining in all regional countries, with the exception of Turkey. What’s happening in Turkey holds grave implications for Israel, and not only for her.
Blessing turned into curse
The operation in Gaza lasted 22 days. The Second Lebanon War lasted 34 days. In the past, our prime ministers contended with American pressure to end Israeli military moves quickly, before public opinion in Muslim states becomes outraged. However, Ehud Olmert, who led the two above-mentioned operations, enjoyed special relations with President George W. Bush – this was translated into relatively broad military freedom. Yet what was seen as a blessing back then is now seen as a curse.
Against this backdrop, Netanyahu rejects the claim that Israel is being attacked worldwide because of the absence of a diplomatic process. Israel was slapped with a condemnation by the International Court of Justice at The Hague because of the security fence, even though a diplomatic process was in place at the time. In addition, Netanyahu is convinced that the contacts being led by the Americans will prompt the renewal of negotiations with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu believes that should Israel lose the battle over the Goldstone Report, it would not be able to risk concessions to the Palestinians. In other words: It’s either Goldstone or a peace process. The two cannot go hand in hand.
Netanyahu’s view is presented as contradicting Kadima’s line. When Kadima led the government, it premised its willingness to make concessions on the notion that withdrawals grant Israel military freedom of maneuver. Should the Palestinians resume the fire, the world will see a harsh Israeli response; a “crazy” response even.
In Netanyahu’s view, the Goldstone Report proves that Kadima’s doctrine collapsed. The current government will make sure to include, in any future agreement, security arrangements that would enable the IDF to respond to any aggression from the Palestinian side. These security arrangements will be entrenched through international guarantees.