††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† The Last Refuge
ISRAEL IS an island in
the global sea. We live in a bubble. This week I was sharply reminded of this.
I was returning home from Germany.
On the eve of the flight, all TV networks, from CNN and BBC to the German channels,
were reporting on the events in Pakistan.
In the airplane, I opened Israel's
largest circulation tabloid, Yedioth Aharonoth, in order to read about the Pakistani mess. I did
not find any mention of it on page 1. Nor on page 2. I
found a small item on page 27. The first pages were devoted to something much
more important: the shouts of protest by right-wing football hooligans when
they were requested to stand up in memory of Yitzhak Rabin.
The next day, Yedioth found an Israeli angle
that enabled it to put Pakistan
on the front page after all: the fear that the Pakistani nuclear bomb would
fall into the hands of Osama bin Laden, who would aim it at Israel. Hallelujah,
there is again something to be afraid of.
But the putsch by Pervez Musharaf
is a serious matter. It could well have far-reaching effects for the world in
general, and for Israel
THE MAIN victim - besides, of course, the hundreds of political activists
who have been thrown into prison - is George W. Bush.
Machiavelli said that it is preferable for the prince to be feared rather
than loved. In the same vein, it can be said that it is preferable for a
president to be hated rather than derided.
And derision is what George W. is attracting. He has asserted in the past
that his main task was to bring democracy to the Muslim world, and has assured
us that the implementation of this aim was well under way. That is a laughable pretense.
What is happening in fact?
- †In Iraq one tyrant has been overthrown,
and dozens of small local tyrants have taken over. The country is bleeding and falling
apart. The "democratic elections" have brought to power a government
that hardly governs the Green Zone in Baghdad,
which has to be secured by American soldiers.
- †In Afghanistan
an "elected" president hardly rules the capital, Kabul. In the rest of the country, local
chieftains are in control. And the Taliban are slowly and steadily re-conquering
- †In Iran, democratic elections have
brought to power an uninhibited politician with a big mouth and small achievements,
whose favorite occupation is to curse the American Crusaders and the
- †In Syria there is a
stable dictatorship, which can carry on mainly because the Syrians believe that
any alternative would be worse.
- †Turkey is ruled by a
religious Islamic government, with the wife of the president wearing a
headscarf. More than 10 million Kurdish citizens are oppressed and
discriminated against. Not a few of them are fighting a guerilla war. In the
course of the campaign against the Kurds, the Turkish army is about to invade
happy to have an opportunity to destroy the practically independent Kurdish
- †Lebanon is as far from
democracy as ever. Real democratic elections, in which every citizen can vote
directly for parliament without sectarian divisions, are out of the question. A
new president has to be elected, but that is well-nigh impossible, the gulf
between the sects is so wide. This week, Hizbullah conducted
large-scale maneuvers near the Israeli borders. Even the Israeli army was
- †In Egypt,
Jordan and Saudi Arabia,
the three "moderate" (read: dictatorial and pro-American) countries,
there is a very original kind of democracy. Political opposition is languishing
-† In Palestine, impeccable elections
were held under strict international supervision, the only really democratic
elections in the Arab world. George Bush would have been proud of them, if -
alas - they had not been won by the "wrong" crowd - Hamas. Now, Israeli army intelligence prophesies that
President Mahmoud Abbas, Bush's
favorite, may fall immediately after the Annapolis
conference, if, as expected, it ends in failure.† †††††
- †And now, Pakistan.
It seemed that there, at least, Bush was harvesting successes. He had brought
back Benazir Bhutto, another Bush favorite, and
everything looked fine: a democratic regime was about to be re- installed, the
president was about to hang up his uniform and form a coalition with Bhutto.
But then a bomb exploded next to her armored car, dozens were killed. The
president-general, who was just waiting for such an opportunity, carried out a
coup d'etat against himself, and, instead of his
moderate dictatorship, has set up a much more harsh regime,
like a Pakistani version of the late Saddam Hussein.
As in a Hollywood comedy, George Bush is
standing there with a custard pie splattered all over his face. He looks
NO PRESIDENT likes being ridiculous. Scary - OK.
Evil - OK. Dumb - OK. But ridiculous - never!
That may have a direct bearing on a question that is worrying the whole
world, myself included: Will he attack Iran?
The temptation is almost overwhelming. In another year, his term in
office will come to an end. After eight years, he has nothing to show for it -
except a continuous series of failures. But a man who (he says) holds daily talks
with God cannot leave the stage of history like that.
He is longing for some sort of success in Annapolis. At the most, there will be an empty
declaration signed by the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian
Authority. There will be some good photo opportunities, but that will not
satisfy the lions. Something much bigger is needed, something that will leave
its mark in the annals of history.
What better than saving humanity from the Iranian nuclear bomb?
The German language has the expression "Flucht
nach vorne" - an escape
forwards. If you donít know what to do any more, attack your nearest enemy.
Thus Napoleon invaded Russia,
followed years later by Hitler. Bush may attack Iran for similar reasons.
I suspect that the decision has already been made and that the
preparations are already rolling. There is no proof of that, but Bush behaves
as if he has decided on war.
propaganda machine is working full-time to prepare the ground. Anyone who
opposes is run over. According to the polls, the American public's support for
the war is rising from day to day. The majority is already in favor. The new
French president, behaving like a hyperactive schoolboy, has already jumped on the
bandwagon and has supplanted Tony Blair as Bush's poodle.
ISRAEL IS SUPPOSED to
play a central role in this piece.
Here, too, a huge brain-washing machine is already at work. The Foreign
Office has joined the effort and has started a world-wide campaign to besmirch
Mohammed al-Baradei, the highly respected chief of
the International Atomic Energy Agency. †Every
day, the obedient media publish reports by correspondents and commentators, who
are but thinly disguised spokesmen for the army and
the government. They tell us that within a year and a half Iran will already have a nuclear bomb, and that
this will be the end of Israel
and the world. As the Hebrew expression goes, the remedy must come before the
disease. Therefore: Bomb! Bomb! Bomb! †
One of the possible scenarios: Israel will bomb first. The Iranians
will respond by launching missiles at Israel. The US will enter the action "to save Israel".
Which American politician will dare to object? Who? Hillary Clinton??
Bush is dreaming again about a war without American casualties. A "surgical" air strike. A hail of
"smart" bombs pours down on thousands of Iranian targets - nuclear,
governmental, military and civil. What a sweet dream: Iran soon
surrenders. The regime of the Ayatollahs collapses. The son of the late Shah takes
his place on the throne of his father, who himself was once restored to power
by American bayonets.
As I have said in the past, I am not convinced by this scenario. What
will actually happen is that Iran
will close the strait of Hormuz. Through this strait,
named after an ancient Persian deity, flows 20% of the
world's oil supplies. It is 270
km long and, at its narrowest, only 35 km wide. A few missiles
and mines are enough to close it. That would be tolerable if the war lasted a few
days. But if it goes on for weeks and months, it will cause a profound world-wide
And the war will indeed go on. There will be no escape for the US from
committing very large ground forces to conquer first the region bordering on
the straits, and then the entire big country. The US
has no available ground forces left - even before the American forces in Iraq are exposed to missile attacks from Iran and to guerilla actions from the Shiites,
who make up the majority in Iraq.
This will not be a quick and easy war. Iran
is different from Iraq.
Unlike Iraq, with its
various peoples and sects, Iran
is comparatively homogenous. This war will be an Iraq war multiplied by 10, perhaps
AND WE? How shall we get through
Since the government of Israel
and its American allies are pushing with all their political might for the
will not be able to avoid contributing to the fighting, if the Americans
request it. First our Air Force will be deployed,
later land forces may be required.
itself will also become a battlefield. The pathetic missiles of Saddam Hussein caused,
in their time, panic in Tel-Aviv. What will the Iranian missiles do?
The Arab governments will be compelled to support the US, at least with
their tongues. But the hearts and souls of the Arab peoples, from Morocco to Iraq, will be with the Iranians defending
themselves against the Americans and Israelis. Especially if the Annapolis meeting does
end, as expected, without bringing redemption to the Palestinian people.
There is only one way to come out of this in one piece - not to get into
it in the first place. But, after all the dismal failures he has suffered in
Iraq, in Afghanistan and now in Pakistan - what can persuade Bush to resist the
temptation? And how to persuade Ehud Olmert, who
longs for a way out of the quagmire he is stuck in?
It has been said that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a
scoundrel". For a failed politician, the last refuge is war.