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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.

Read more at Middle East Quarterly

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

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen