A new national security doctrine for Israel was already taking shape before Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was felled by a massive stroke.
The roadmap for a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians went the way of the dodo long before Mr. Sharon was incapacitated. Hamas, a terrorist organization that advocates destruction of the state of Israel, had been steadily gaining Palestinian public opinion approval.
Surveys indicated Hamas would gain approximately 45 percent of the seats, possibly a majority, in Jan. 25 elections for a new Palestinian parliament. This, in turn, would paralyze the Palestinian government’s ability to negotiate the “viable and contiguous state” called for by the roadmap. Hamas, which has not forsaken terrorism, also maintains a powerful militia. It is better equipped than the official security force.
Mr. Sharon had already ensured such a Palestinian state could not be negotiated even under the best of circumstances. The 420-mile physical barrier that separates Israel and the Palestinian territories, and which, in effect, annexes some 15 percent of the West Bank to include major Jewish settlements, is designed to be Israel’s permanent border. The barrier, in many places, is actually a wall taller than the old Berlin Wall.
Whatever happens on the other side of this new $2 billion frontier is up to the Palestinians. There is nothing to negotiate. Mr. Sharon also made sure Arab East Jerusalem could never become the capital of a Palestinian state by blocking any “contiguous” access to the West Bank. The barrier will protect the majority of the 240,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank as it snakes in and out of Palestinian territory. Those beyond that protection are on high ground and organized for self-defense. But their tenuous positions will be a powerful incentive to resettle under IDF protection.
Since the Israeli evacuation of Gaza last summer, anarchy and utter chaos appear to be the new lawless coalition. Youth is 70 percent jobless. Most join various militia. Unemployment averages 30 percent. The Palestinian government is ignored as rival Palestinian militia fight for turf. The Palestinian Authority is bankrupt, apparently abandoned or at least ignored by the Arab oil-rich states that now rake in almost $1 billion a day with oil bumping $60 a barrel.
Israeli forces still control land, air and sea access in and out of Gaza, and Mr. Sharon’s new doctrine is to ignore what happens in the Palestinian territories unless mortar rounds or missiles are lobbed into Israel. This triggers instant retaliation with air strikes and precision-guided ordnance.
A few days before the 2004 presidential elections, Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to the former President Bush (41), told the Financial Times the Sharon Plan for peace was to get out of Gaza and four minor settlements in the northern West Bank — and call it a day. Whether this happened by design or by osmosis is irrelevant because today it is reality.
The new security doctrine, as it was evolving before Mr. Sharon’s tragic exit from the political arena, was geared to cope with Israel’s new principal enemy — Iran’s mullahocracy.
The outgoing Israeli military intelligence chief, Gen. Aharon Zeevi-Farkash warned last month diplomatic negotiations with Iran would become useless after March 1. This is when Gen. Farkash believes the enrichment of uranium to weapons-grade strength will begin in secret underground locations dotted around the country.
Iran has been conducting a secret nuclear weapons program for the past 18 years. It was launched with the help of A.Q. Khan, father of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. The U.S. has been trying to get direct access to Mr. Khan, now under house arrest in Islamabad, since the CIA and Britain’s MI6 in late 2003 pieced together the clandestine nuclear Wal-Mart he put together on behalf of America’s enemies.
The last two “moderate” Iranian presidents — Mohammad Khatami, who dominated Iran’s politics in the 1990s. and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who did the same in the 1980s — made clear in homilies at Friday prayers at Tehran University several years ago that when Islam breaks Israel’s nuclear monopoly, the strategic equation in the Middle East will shift dramatically. Mr. Rafsanjani even noted just one nuclear weapon could make Israel disappear in a mushroom cloud. More recently, the new Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a populist former mayor of Tehran, said Israel should be “wiped off the map.”
So irrespective of who succeeds Mr. Sharon, the new national security doctrine is unlikely to change. By the same token, the Iranian mullahs are unlikely to change their nuclear plans, any more than North Korea will, except to indulge the West’s nuclear negotiators — Britain, France and Germany — in more diplomatic sleight-of-hand diplomacy.
In Israel’s next elections March 28, the emerging strategic equation favors hard-lining Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister, who became head of the Likud Party when Mr. Sharon bolted to form the new Kadima (Forward) Party. Mr. Netanyahu staunchly opposed giving up Gaza.
Iran did not disperse its nuclear facilities in 15 different underground facilities to produce nuclear power for peaceful purposes, as the clerical theocrats claim. The U.S. has started to sound out secretly some NATO countries to determine whether joint air strikes would be feasible. So far, European reactions have been negative as they feel diplomacy should stay on track until it can be handed over to the U.N. Security Council with a request for draconian economic sanctions.
Vice President Dick Cheney a year ago said if the time came for military action against Iran, Israel would probably act first.
A financial advice Web site headlined last week, “When smart bombs pop over Tehran, gold will pop to over $1,000 an ounce.” Gold’s high-water mark was $800 in the early 1980s. It closed last week at $541.20.
“Netanyahu,” the electronic tip sheet “LeMetropole” said, “won’t mess around with Iran by begging for useless negotiations as the EU-3 are presently doing with Iran. … It won’t matter what Iran says, truth or not, Israel will defend itself from being ‘wiped off the map.’ ”
Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.