Israel’s Foreign Policy Challenges
A briefing by Danny Danon
September 24, 2012
MK Danny Danon is Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and Chairman of World Likud. On September 24, Mr. Danon briefed the Middle East Forum via conference call on the topic of his recent book, Israel: The Will to Prevail (2012).
The Obama administration has balked at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for red lines against Tehran’s continued nuclear buildup, insisting that diplomacy and sanctions will rein in the ayatollahs. Should Israel accept this prognosis and forego its right to a preemptive strike against this existential threat?
In his conference call, MK Danon made the case for Israel’s foreign policy decisions to be based on its national interests even if this meant resisting U.S. pressure. A commitment to a bold vision, he argued, would create regional stability over the long term. Danon underscored his thesis with lessons from Israel’s past experience:
- In October 1973 Israel paid a heavy price in avoiding a preemptive strike for fear of upsetting the U.S.-Israel relationship. The Iranian threat is much greater and the stakes are much higher.
- In 1981 Prime Minister Begin was criticized by the administration for ordering the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, only to be praised a decade later when the move proved vital for the liberation of Kuwait from Baghdad’s predatory occupation.
- The 1993 Oslo accords, based on the two-state solution, have proved an abysmal failure as evidenced by the sharp rise of Palestinian terrorism and Hamas’s dramatic ascendancy. Instead of persisting in this calamitous track Danon argued for a three-state solution, with Jordan and Egypt sharing responsibility with Israel for the disputed territories. Involving the application of Israeli sovereignty in Jewish community areas of Judea and Samaria devoid of Palestinian Arabs, the three-state solution would link the Palestinian population of this territory to Jordan and Gaza’s population to Egypt. And although this seems inconceivable at the moment, the recent Arab upheavals allow Israel to continue its containment strategy vis-à-vis Hamas and Hezbollah while sustaining a long-term commitment to the three-state solution.
- The 9/11 attacks prove that the ideological threat of radical Islam goes way beyond the Arab-Israeli conflict. With the killing of Osama bin Laden, the greatest Islamist threat today is Tehran’s imminent nuclearization. It is not just Israel that is at stake: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamene’i has also identified the American people as a target. Ignoring the links between the hateful ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, al-Qaeda, and Iran prevents recognition of their shared goal: ousting the West from the Middle East as a steppingstone to its ultimate destruction.
The U.S. and Israel are connected by shared values and a close relationship to counter mutual enemies. Even with our tactical disagreements about compatible timelines, the defeat of the radical Islamist forces aligned against the West can be accomplished only by joining forces against them.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Associate Fellow with the Middle East Forum