Absurd Finger Pointing By Clinton & Panetta

Recent statements by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta have finger-pointed at Israel about the stuck-in-the-mud status of the "Peace" Process with the Palestinians, criticized Israel for not having made-up with Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, as well as undermining the practicality of an Israeli or US first-strike on Iran.

I noticed this week a tucked-away article in Israel Defense magazine, interviewing Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, Minister of Strategic Affairs, in which the interviewer notes that the preparation and publication of the IDF 5-year plan, has been delayed from 2012, to 2013. Yaalon says: "It is a long process which requires an entire year. It is now being revised in light of changes in the region…"

Each of the issues raised by Clinton and Panetta, the Palestinian Peace Process, the situation with Turkey, the situation with Jordan, the situation with Egypt, and the military option on Iran are very different strategic issues for Israel. An Uzi-blast at Israel, by Clinton and Panetta blaming Israel for all these, is an unholy cholent/mix.

The Palestinians are refusing Netanyahu's many public invitations to meet with him for negotiations without preconditions. Instead, the PA has conducted a campaign for UN recognition, in order to circumvent any negotiation at all with Israel. Netanyau's position sounds reasonable enough, and the Palestinians, must provide justifications for their refusal to negotiate, not Netanyahu. 

The problem with Turkey is popularly misrepresented as an issue of apology. Actually, Turkey has three demands, not one. Apology, compensation, and that Israel remove the naval embargo on Gaza. Israel has shown willingness to accommodate the first two items – the sticking-point is the third. The chutzpa of Turkey's demand that Israel must allow free shipping into Gaza, which would inevitably include delivery of weaponry to Hamas, is clearly unacceptable to any Israeli Government. It was also unacceptable to the UN (of all people) who confirmed the legal right and defensive expediency of the Israel naval embargo.

I am unclear why Panetta mentioned Jordan at all, as I am not aware of anything but cordial and peaceful relations between Israel and Jordan.

As for Egypt, the idea that Israel should make-up with Egypt, is frankly bizarre. That country is the midst of upheaval, and transition from a Western leaning dictatorship to an Islamic-based democracy. There's no-one in Egypt in a position to hold any kind of strategic negotiations with Israel, even if Israel wanted to.

And finally, Iran. Panetta's declaration that Israel must not go-it-alone by striking Iran, and, on the other hand, his pouring cold water on the practicality and desirability of a US led strike, may or may not reflect reality – very few individuals know what plans Israel and or the US have up their sleeves, and therefore we cannot even begin to guage whether or not these may be militarily effective.

What is clear is that Panetta's declarations pull the rug from under the military option, whatever that consisted of. 

The Ayatollah's must be laughing all the way out of their re-enforced underground bunkers.

On the one hand, the dramatic changes of 2011, in the whole Middle East and North Africa, from Turkey through to Morocco, have required some quick-thinking and decisive actions. Slow-moving responses miss any boats of genuine opportunity. Where we must, we must change and adapt quickly.

Actually over the six decades of Israel's existence, she has been shown to be remarkably proficient in adapting to today's realities on-the-hop. For example, I hope Israel has the courage and capability to make an effective strike on Iran's nuclear bomb/missile development. There is simply no time left on our side.

On the other hand, as Bogey Yaalon points out, committing to a "five year strategic plan", when everything in the region around us in flux, would be irresponsible. In this environment of regional revolution, it could prove foolish to commit to long term plans. 

Israel does well to wait-and-see, and both Clinton and Panetta should exhibit some patience and understanding for this – and stop insisting that Israel takes overly-hasty decisions on her long term regional security.  


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