A Thought Experiment: Role Playing as Israeli PM

Fred Leder, from Fairfield, Connecticut issued a challenge for me to respond to a thought experiment.  He asked that I play  the role  of  Israel’s Prime Minister confronted with a deepening divide with the Obama Administration over the latter’s engagement with nuclear Iran and simultaneously endeavoring to  facilitate a final status  agreement resolving the dilemma of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.  This thought experiment challenge came on the cusp of the 10th Annual Saban Forum at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC with the topic: “Discussing U.S.-Israel Relations in a Dynamic Middle East”.

Major appearances by key figures in this Forum included Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, US Secretary of State Kerry, President Obama and Israeli PM Netanyahu.

Watch their respective Saban Forum presentations and Question and Answer sessions here:

Webcast Sessions of the 2013 Saban Forum

Friday, December 6 at 9:00 PM EST

A Conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman moderated by Washington Post Columnist David Ignatius

Saturday, December 7 at 1:00 PM EST

A Conversation with President Barack Obama moderated by Forum Chairman Haim Saban

Saturday, December 7 at 4:00 PM EST

Keynote Address by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

Sunday, December 8 at 10:15 AM EST

A Conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu moderated by Charlie Rose, host, The Charlie Rose Show

Leder laid out the following challenge:

I challenge you to a thought experiment, ala Einstein. If you were the PM of Israel and the following hypotheses were accepted as fact:

1.       Barack Obama has essentially made it impossible for Israel to attack Iran, thereby insuring that Iran will have nuclear weapons.

2.        Barack Obama has no regard for the safety and security of Israel.  Further, he appears to be committed to some kind of parity between Islam and the West.

3.       Barack Obama has spoken in favor of a border between Israel and another Arab country to be called Palestine based on the 1949 Armistice Line, with minor adjustments to be negotiated. All Jews outside of that border, 500,000 people, would have to be moved to 1949 Israel with US Security guarantees.

Given these hypotheticals and given that you are charged with the safety and security of the majority of the world’s Jews, what do you do?

My role as the hypothetical Israeli PM in this exercise is based, in part, on the following opinion poll findings of fellow Israeli citizens as recently reported by the Washington Post.

The key findings are:

A monthly poll carried out by the Israel Democracy Institute in Tel Aviv, one of the most respected surveys in the country,  found that 77 percent of Israelis do not believe that the agreement between Iran and the world powers [P5+1] will lead in the end of what Israel suspects is an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

The survey also assessed Israeli opinion on Israel’s relationship with the United States and other potential allies. In response to a question on who is Israel’s greatest ally, 71 percent of Israelis said they believed the United States to be Israel’s most loyal and important ally.

Earlier this year a Gallup poll of Americans indicated support for Israel was at an all time high, while support for the Palestinians was flat in the low teens:

Americans’ sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64% vs. 12%. Americans’ partiality for Israel has consistently exceeded 60% since 2010; however, today’s 64% ties the highest Gallup has recorded in a quarter century, last seen in 1991 during the Gulf War. At that time, slightly fewer than today, 7% sympathized more with the Palestinians.

Noting results by political affiliation, Gallup reported:

Consistent with prior years, Republicans are substantially more likely than Democrats to favor the Israelis, 78% vs. 55%, with the preferences of independents — currently 63% …

Support for Israel has increased among all three party groups since 2001, but particularly among Republicans and independents. The percentage sympathizing more with the Israelis has increased by 18 percentage points among Republicans (from 60% to 78%) and by 21 points among independents (from 42% to 63%). By comparison, Democrats’ support has increased four points (from 51% to 55%).

Republicans’ sympathy with Israel spiked to 77% in February 2003, likely associated with the run-up to the Iraq war, when Israel supported U.S. aspirations to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Against this background here is what I would suggest as a hypothetical role playing Israeli PM.

Dealing with the Iranian Nuclear Threat.

As Prime Minister, I know that notwithstanding the Obama Administration’s agenda of engagement with a nuclear Iran seeking a final agreement, the reality is that it is not achievable.   I would adopt a multiple pronged approach to assure that Israel’s sovereign right to protect its people is preserved.

  • First, I would continue to directly lobby key members of Congress seeking passage of additional sanctions to both preserve and increase economic pressure on the Islamic regime under pending Amendment to the US Defense Appropriation legislation.
  • Second, I would direct my  military and strategic intelligence services to undertake a comprehensive covert program to disable the Iranian nuclear program and its means of weapons delivery directly or indirectly through terrorist proxies; Hezbollah, Palestine Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
  • Third, I would suspend all military and strategic intelligence cooperation with the US.
  • Fourth, I would instruct the Ministry of Defense to change the codes of their radars and IAF planes, so that the US can’t track flight operations and thus allow Israel to attack Iran through Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan.
  • Fifth, I would launch an international public diplomacy initiative directed at the IAEA to obtain  Iran’s signature on the 1994 Nuclear Safety Agreement, which Israel has already signed.  This should  be coupled with demands to inspect Iranian facilities for adherence to earthquake construction, operations and maintenance standards.
  • Sixth, I would ramp up funding and support of Iranian civil polity opposition via enhanced Farsi language programming, secure I satellite access and internal communications to foster regime change.
  • Seventh, I would expand rapprochement with Putin and Russia to bring economic pressure on the  EU via coordinated natural gas policies to force the EU to relent on  use of tied trade restrictions tied to  anti-settlement policies.

On the Palestinian intransigence regarding a possible final status agreement

As Prime Minister I would adopt a pro-active approach recognizing that the current PA leadership is plagued with corruption that seeks to delegitimize Israel through an active international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign. The multi-pronged approach would have the following elements.

  • First, a pro-active public diplomacy campaign documenting the evidence of undemocratic practices and diversion of foreign funding contributions by the President of the Palestinian Authority and PLO-Fatah leadership.  Moreover, the PA as currently constituted does not meet the definition of statehood  under the 1933 Montevideo Convention.
  • Second, conduct of active Lawfare to bring suit in international and American jurisdictions for recovery of assets contributed by state sponsors of terrorism in commission of crimes of violence against Israeli and Jewish citizens.
  • Third, promotion of Jordan with the requisite natural resources to foster repatriation and absorption of several generations of residents in UNWRA refugee camps in Jordan, the PA, Gaza, Lebanon and Syria.
  • Fourth, abandon the UNWRA donor support program and replacement it with a regional Marshal Plan for development of Jordan backed by the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates.
  • Fifth,  hold  free and fair elections for a Parliament in Jordan with a secular non-Sharia based Constitution.
  • Sixth, expand the existing Israeli-Jordanian Free Trade Agreement with the US coupled with creation of private sector investment programs emphasizing light industrial manufacturing, energy development, commercial agricultural production, and water resource development.
  •  Seventh, maintain and expand internal security arrangements for Judea and Samaria.
  • Eighth, amend existing treaties with Jordan covering control of  the frontier between the two states.
  • Ninth, transfer of control over Gaza to Egypt under possible amendments of the 1979 Camp David Accords.

These are entirely my own views and not those of the State of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Kingdom of Jordan, Republic of Egypt or the US Government.  Comments and reactions are cordially invited.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.

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