With the world still reverberating from the North Korean test explosion, President Ahmadinejad of Iran decided to draw attention back to his country and himself by again warning Europe and the United States that friendship with Israel was “dangerous.” The Iranian leader also threatened once more that Israel “no longer needs to exist.”
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, decided to challenge the new Iranian outburst with a thinly disguised threat of his own by saying that Iran would “pay a price” for calls for Israel’s destruction. The rest of the world has become so used to Ahmadinejad’s bellicosity that little concern was noted.
The Israelis aren’t making that mistake. They have no intention of waiting until Tehran has an operational nuclear capability. Furthermore, it is highly doubtful they will inform Washington before taking military counter measures when they decide to do so.
Most observers have pointed to the nuclear explosion of North Korea as emboldening other countries to seek their own nuclear weapon development. The Israelis, however, have seen in the modest counter measures against Pyongyang all that they could expect from further development of the Persian bomb.
The world, in general, is under the impression that Israel and Washington coordinate their respective Middle East actions. The fact is that sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. If Tel Aviv makes the decision it must attack Iranian nuclear weapon sites, it certainly will be after much discussion with the United States. That Israel has made the decision to strike Iranian targets, however, will not be communicated to Washington until there is nothing the U.S. can do about it.
Israel will never leave its future — and defense of that future — to the mercy and approval of any American administration. As hard as it is to believe for people who perceive Israel and the U.S. joined at the hip, there is an almost compulsive desire of the Israeli military to not in any way be viewed as an American assisted force.
This may seem rather contradictory when one considers the billions of dollars in aid the U.S. has given Israel, but the pride and history of the IDF and akin security elements hearken to the period between the 1940s and ’60s when there was little or no foreign government military assistance and all their wars were victories. Advice is listened to, but that’s as far as it goes. The Americans are considered friends, but not to be trusted with decision-influencing and certainly not decision-making.
Of course no one in the Middle East believes any of this. For the Islamic world Washington is seen as the puppet master in Israel’s “Punch and Judy” show. Would it be so, the Israelis would have handled differently the latest fracas with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Palestine long since would have been a truly independent and sovereign state. And Israel never would have developed nuclear weapons, which it now has had for nearly forty years.
It wasn’t until the Reagan Administration that a truly close working relationship came to exist between American and Israeli security and military officials. In spite of the Camp David accords — or maybe because of them — the Israelis never really trusted Jimmy Carter. Clinton, however, became a clear favorite, and George W. Bush now follows close behind.
Nonetheless it has always been basically a one-way street. Tel Aviv takes and Washington gives. There is of course some exchange of intelligence, but far less than one would think. The Americans are exceedingly grateful for the portion of the Israeli intel that they get. Tel Aviv keeps them happy with a selected collection of interesting, but always self-serving, information. Washington responds with far more.
Born of the impact of the Holocaust is the intellectual and psychological need for the Jewish state to control its own destiny. Rightly or wrongly the Israelis in the end trust only themselves. Like the wealthy cousins they are, even Jews in the American and European diaspora are outsiders to the nuclear Zionist family.
President Ahmadinejad would do well to study the derivation of 1967’s Six Day War. The Israelis do not always follow a logical and reasonable path in the perception of their own best interests. Preemption is considered essential to their survival, and it most certainly will be the case if Iran continues a nuclear weaponized belligerency.