Getting Yitzḥak Rabin’s Legacy Right

Dec. 11 2017

Reviewing Itamar Rabinovich’s recent biography of Yitzḥak Rabin, Efraim Inbar praises it for correcting the misconception that the Israeli general and statesman was far more concerned with achieving “peace” than with issues of security; in reality, his entire career was focused on security. At the same time, however, Inbar faults the book for errors of both fact and interpretation:

[Rabinovich criticizes] Rabin for not making “bold” decisions or taking on more “diplomatic initiatives,” terms favored by Israeli leftists who find the status quo vis-à-vis the Arabs untenable. Yet, gaining time and waiting for the Arabs to change and accept Israel has been the Zionist strategy from David Ben-Gurion’s time. Moreover, Rabinovitch offers little criticism of the security risks taken by Rabin in accepting the Oslo agreement, which was described by his disciple Ehud Barak as having “a lot of holes. It’s like Swiss cheese.”

Similarly, Rabin’s willingness to withdraw to the 1967 line in his negotiations with Syria elicits [from his biographer] no discussion of its potential repercussions, particularly when the current Syrian predicament, with both Shiite and Sunni radicals pressing up against the Israeli border, is so evident. Finally, the author’s dislike for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and for religious Zionists (a much more diverse group than [Rabinovich implies]) is fairly strident and echoes the frustration of Israel’s left with changes in Israel’s society and politics that it can no longer control.

The author also misreads Rabin’s approach to the first intifada and the Palestinian issue. Rabin never believed that the only way to deal with these issues was by finding a political solution. For Rabin, any political solution was predicated upon Israel’s superior military power and its occasional use. In Rabin’s mind, military power and diplomatic efforts were not disconnected.

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More about: Intifada, Israel & Zionism, Israeli history, Oslo Accords, Yitzhak Rabin

Precision Rockets Pose a Strategic Threat to Israel—by Targeting Civilians

Oct. 23 2018

In 1991, during the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein began bombarding Israel with Scud missiles. The U.S., having prevailed upon Jerusalem not to retaliate or to destroy Iraqi missile launchers, provided its ally with Patriot anti-missile missiles—which proved entirely ineffective. Then the Israeli Ministry of Defense, overcoming longstanding objections from the IDF brass, decided to develop its own missile-defense system, and put Uzi Rubin in charge of it; his efforts led to the multilayered system that now protects the Jewish state from rockets of all kinds. In an interview with Yonah Jeremy Bob, Rubin assesses the current strategic threats to Israel from the precision rockets now used by Hizballah and Iran:

A simple rocket is a terror weapon. [Shooting one] is like blowing up a bus. Yes, it is a problem and it needs to be dealt with it, but precision-guided rockets cross over into being military weapons. [The threat from such weapons] changes the whole system of prioritizing what actions to take. You need first to guard your ability to keep fighting, which includes [defending] the home front—and not just for the sake of national morale. Food, gas, and other things come to the military from the civilian sector. . . .

[Currently Israel] doesn’t have enough Arrow missiles or Iron Dome batteries. Ask the IDF officers and they will say we have too many. To be objective, it’s necessary to address this question by first determining where the emphasis is in war today. The strategy [of Israel’s enemies] is not to overwhelm the IDF, it’s to overwhelm the civilian population. Until the 1973 [Yom Kippur] war, our adversaries’ wars were about trying to beat the IDF. Now our adversaries are not preparing themselves for war against the IDF. Fighting the IDF is at best a secondary goal; mainly they are going after civilians. . . .

Yet Rubin was optimistic about his country’s ability to rise to new challenges, crediting the “creative chaos” that characterizes the Israeli way of doing things:

We have a special atmosphere. We do not think about rules and decorum. You do what needs to be done. There is a unique social network and cross-fertilization between the military and the defense industry.

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More about: Hizballah, IDF, Iran, Iron Dome, Israel & Zionism, Israeli technology, Persian Gulf War