NO EXIT: Israel’s Hidden Strategic Weakness
Buried deep inside an occupied mountain in the holy land is a room with no windows. Inside this room, seven nervous men sit at a roundtable. These men have not smiled in nine years. They have not had a good night sleep in nine years. They have not had a day off since Israel lost the war against Hezbollah in 2006 and Israel’s deterrence capability took a dangerous and public nose-dive.
Ever since then, these seven analysts, each with their own specialist file have congregated together to analyze new and growing existential dangers, and to find an effective way to reverse Israel’s strategic misfortunes. They have not once left this windowless room – they cannot leave this room without a workable solution in hand. The dark circles around their eyes say it all. By now, very little is spoken between them – and often in whispers. They wring hands. They pass maps to each other. They pass files with the word ‘classified’ stamped skewered in bold red.
One of them starts heaving, short of breath, sweat at his temples. He takes pen and blank paper and with angst writes: ‘Tel Aviv, we have a problem’. His neighbor reads it, shakes head in dismay; passes it to another who reads it then emotionless, he shreds it to paper crumbs while everyone watches somber. “No. We can’t give up. We must find a way out”, he insists. “Let’s go over our individual analysis one more time – I’ll start”.
Everyone, forlorn, nods agreeing.
“The Palestine file. This is not the 1970’s anymore. Palestinian resistance, both civil and military has increased by tenfold since then. The more we usurp their shrinking territory, the stronger the Palestinian resistance on all fronts gets. We can no longer blatantly use the same level of violence on them – not with the advent of the internet and the free flow of uncontrolled negative information on us. Not with Hamas’ improved and accumulated armory now threatening our cities and settlements. Not with increasing levels of random violence from lone-wolf Palestinians suddenly stabbing us on the streets, or running us over with their cars – not with the existing high risk of the kidnapping of our citizens – and especially not with the risk of a third and violent Intifada looming over our heads. No, we cannot allow for suicide bombers to take over life in Israel again and I fear any further excessive and escalated brutality towards the Palestinians will trigger off a wave of unbearable two-way violence that will shake our nation’s core and put a crippling dent in our startup nation’s economy. Whereas in the past we were the ones chocking the Palestinians out of our God-given land of milk and honey, we now are simultaneously chocking each other in purgatory. For us, this is a catastrophic chokehold. This is an impossible Gordian knot. I don’t yet see a way to reverse this condition to our advantage, therefore, again, I arrive at the same unfortunate conclusion. No exit.”
The man sitting next to him frowns. Weary, he looks up at the low ceiling and speaks:
“The Egypt file remains blocked despite our many security arrangements with the Egyptians. We can’t violently evict the Gazans into Egypt and be rid of them for once and for all – Egypt won’t allow that for fear of Palestinian extremists pouring into their territory and threatening their own security. We can’t violently force the Gazans onto the Egyptians without risking the possibility of a very costly confrontation with the Egyptian army as well as simultaneously confronting the well-armed Gaza resistance groups. We’ve already lost our deterrence in the north to Hezbollah, we can’t afford to risk losing our deterrence in the south to the Egyptians. The present security status quo with the Egyptians works best for Israel. Let’s not fix what’s not broken. We cannot afford to create a second bigger problem by trying to fix Gaza through more ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. Keeping the blockade on Gaza serves us best right now. It buys us time in the hope of a better opportunity in the future. There are no signs of such an opportunity on the horizon. Till this opportunity comes, I too declare: no exit for the Egypt file. No Exit”.
A third Israeli analyst slams his Jordan file on the table and declares: “For nine long years I’ve racked my brains on the Jordan file. We have King Abdullah where we want him: chained to our peace treaty and chained to the wall we’re building between our two territories. He’s unhappy about our future plans to annex buffer zones and strategic territories that divide us in the Jordan Valley, but there’s not much he can do about it. This is good for us. But this is bad for his home-support. If we also put more pressure on him to allow us the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and the West Bank; if we force him to accept loss of territory plus some four million Palestinian refugees, why his own wife and brother might very well assassinate him in his sleep. He is not in full control of his existing population who are mostly Palestinian refugees we evicted from Palestine back in 1948 – they are becoming more vocally anti-Israeli and more anti his monarchy. We expect a Jordanian military coup in tandem with a Jordanian Spring if we were to suddenly flood Jordan with millions of Palestinian refugees. If the King and his Kingdom fall, we loose all security guarantees and control over our eastern border. We cannot inoculate the Jordanian people with inaction like we’ve been successfully inoculating the king. We should expect a vicious Gaza-like armed resistance to take over the eastern borders if the king of Jordan falls. Therefore every effort should be made to avoid such a risky and lethal scenario. There is no further productive pressure to put on the King of Jordan that would be to our advantage. There is no room for further expanding our advantages over the Jordanians without risking opening a warring front on our eastern border. The current status quo works for Israel. But it is volatile and we have no more room for adding benefits. Our only option is to maintain the status quo ad infinitum, not change it. All we can do is bide our time till future opportunities allow us more advantageous maneuvers. But until such a time, the prognosis on the Jordanian front is strategically immobile. No exit”.
Hearing this, the Lebanon file analyst stands abruptly, knocking his chair to the floor. Nobody flinches at the clattering disruption. All eyes focus on him as he stands and speaks:
“No exit, no goddamn exit for the Lebanon file either! The resistance there has everything we fear except for nukes. Short of risking the total destruction of Tel Aviv, we cannot touch Lebanon and get away with it anymore. There’s an unacceptable price to pay now. Hezbollah. We have lost Lebanon – full stop. Nothing can change that and god only knows we’ve tried everything and we continue to try. But so far, to no avail. Therefore I regret to re-confirm that the Lebanon file gives us no exit. No exit.”
His jaw grinds with cold rage. He picks up his chair from the floor and sits hunched in it, adding more melancholia to the already funereal atmosphere.
“But the Syria file… I mean we weaken Hezbollah by weakening Assad!”, the Syria analysts insisted. “I know that after four years of war in Syria, this hasn’t happened yet, but we still stand a chance and- -“
“I’ll remind you this is not a time for repackaging hope”, interrupted the Lebanon file man. The Syria file man pauses somberly for a beat, then he continues:
“You’re right. We shouldn’t rely on Al-Qaida to deliver Hezbollah to us. We shouldn’t trust those zealot Arabs and other Muslims – trust any Arab or any Muslim – or any gentile for that matter. Yes we should use them all if it suits our strategic aims, but we should not depend on them to secure the land of Israel. We can already see that after four years, Al-Qaida still can’t unseat Bashar despite all the funds and weaponry and training that we and our allies in the West and in Arabia have supplied them with. So far, that costly mission has failed us. The war that we started in Syria can easily backfire on us at this stage. The Syrian army is now better battle-ready than before – it doesn’t serve us to test them directly and their newly acquired S300’s – their powerful allies of Russia, China and Iran have made sure of this. If we hit Damascus they’ll hit Tel Aviv and impose a no-fly-zone on us inside of Israeli territory. We can’t even challenge them in the Golan anymore without risk of great casualties to our armed forces by the battle-hardened Syrian army and its newly formed and trained Syrian Golani resistance groups. The danger here is that sooner or later, they will impose an open front on us whether we like it or not. They will have the power to do so – they will challenge us, as ready as we may be, and attempt to liberate Golan territories from under our military control. In the eyes of the world, any Syrian aggression in the Golan will be seen as a legitimate response to four decades of illegal annexation by us. And if a full-on war in the Golan is ignited, we can be certain that a simultaneous front with Hezbollah and Gaza, maybe even in the West Bank, will open up. We cannot willingly enter into a battle on several fronts and expect to win against a now better-armed, better-trained and formidably motivated axis of enemies. The gates of the Golan have been shut dormant for over forty years but now we find ourselves in the extraordinary situation where, through starting a war in Syria to crush its army like we did in Iraq, we’ve inadvertently opened an existential Pandora’s box at our doorstep. We can’t push forward in the Golan without the gates of hell opening up there and over-spilling into the heart of our territories. And we can’t retreat back either – this will be a symbolic admission of weakness that would demoralize our military and put the terrors in the heart of every Israeli citizen. We are stuck and we are few in numbers. The Syrian front is currently by far the most volatile of all our fronts. Gone are the days that we take it for granted that the Golan is secured for the next millennia. We have no guaranteed winning options there. We cannot take the huge risk of giving Al-Qaida in Syria bigger guns to fight the Syrians and their allies with on our behalf – not with the certainty that these guns will eventually be turned against our Western nation agents, possibly even turned against us. I know I said earlier that we still have a chance to break-up Syria and sack its army – but I cannot honorably and realistically guarantee this. All we can do is buy time by continuing our support for Al-Qaida in Syria – till further events evolve and somehow force us to halt this support. Buying time is all we’ve got. The Syria file allows us no exit today. No exit for Israel on its northeastern front. No exit”.
The analysts at the round table, half of them fold their arms and lean back laden with the implications of the words “no exit”. The sixth of them gets out of his chair, distressed, he waves a BDS file in the air as he paces and insists:
“BDS is a more imminent threat than the Syria threat! BDS is global and can, if we mow the Gaza lawn at the wrong hour and for the wrong reason again, literally overnight it now has the ability to collect mass momentum and crush our economy with no mercy. We have no weapon against it – yes we can change other nation’s laws; add laws that ban companies from participating in BDS, but we cannot stop the global giant tide of individual consumers from boycotting our products and goods. Impossible to do that. We cannot at this stage shake off the label of Apartheid in the eyes of the world even if we spent a hundred billion shekels on a boosted hasbara campaign. We have no exit from BDS pressure and I expect it to be getting worse especially with the Palestinian Authority making noises at the ICC and other UN institutions. We can try and block BDS from influencing globally relevant institutions in the arts and in sports, but this is not effective enough and only buys us time – limited time. BDS is an avalanche heading our way and we have nothing of significance to stop its forward charge. BDS gives us the option of retreat but as you all know, we cannot retreat and set a precedent of weakness therefore BDS gives us no exit. No exit”.
He stops pacing; sits in his chair again; wipes the pouring sweat from his forehead with his shirtsleeve.
“The Iran file buries us”, the seventh man whispers. “We have failed to draw Iran into direct wars with our proxies in Lebanon, in Bahrain, in Iraq, in Syria and even in Yemen. More catastrophic, we have failed to halt an Iran-empowering rapprochement between the Mullahs and Europe. Worst of all, we have failed to stop America from befriending Iran and setting up industrial contracts with the government of Iran. We have failed to get the Gulf Arabs to go to war with Iran themselves so as to weaken both sides. We have failed to stop Iran’s nuclear plants from operating – they overcame, with unexpected speed, our Stuxnet and the loss of their assassinated nuclear scientists. We have failed to force them into rogue nuclear activities. We’ve been unsuccessful in pinning several false-flag operations in the Western and Southern hemispheres on the Iranians. And the list goes on. And now that the sanctions against Iran are lifted, now that a deal between Iran and the P5+1 has been signed, I can only regrettably say that the Iran file offers Israel not a single exit. Not even a hint of an exit. In fact, the signing of the deal has now sealed our impossible strategic position. No exit.”
He pauses with eyes drooping with sorrow and worry. “Masada is not an exit. It’s a suicidal long shot in the dark. It didn’t work out well for us back in history. I doubt that it will work out well for us in present time.”
He lowers his head, sighs deflated: “We are men of science and strategy. We do not believe in paranormal activity and miracles”. He takes a blank sheet of paper and pen; he nods for the others to do like-wise.
On their respective blank sheets, all seven Israeli analysts write: ‘Tel Aviv, we have a problem’.