Talking Weapons and Peace
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
Knowing the way Netanyahu usually behaves and reacts, events over the past 10 days have raised interesting questions as to what is going on not only between the U.S. and Israel, but also in Government coalition. This pertains to weapons sales as well as new peace initiatives. In both instances something different is happening.
Secretary Hagel’s visit to Israel last week was almost as much of a love feast as was the Obama visit to Israel in March. The dramatic, public announcement of the new weapons sales to Israel of F-35 airplanes and new aerial refueling equipment was received with great enthusiasm; both equipment that Israel might require should it proceed to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. At the same time, very little was made of the fact that Israel did not receive the hard “bunker busters”. Since this is the vital additional component that the U.S. would supply if it too were to attack Iran, why did Israel not receive them as well and/or complain when she did not do so?
At least one of the answers is that Israel has its own versions of “bomb busters” and besides does not have the U.S. equipment needed to launch the American version. The matter of “bomb busters” as suggested even today in the Wall Street Journal and Haaretz was not publicly discussed. Israel did not raise a fuss about the matter because it would rely on itself or U.S. military to support them should they need them. The U.S. also did not want to elevate regional tensions by publicizing discussions of this matter. Should Israel decide—independent of any U.S. strategic decision—to proceed with an attack on Iran, it now possesses the latest in offensive, defensive, and support equipment to believe it can handle the Iranian threat alone.
At the same time, Secretary Kerry responded positively to the new modifications presented this week in the Arab League’s Israel-Palestinian peace proposal. Bibi apparently did not shoot it down on its face but sent Tzipi Livni to the U.S. to consult further on the proposal. The Arab League offer represents a modification, although not a dramatic one. What the action of the League and Secretary Kerry do represent is interest in jump starting talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Politically it may mean even more for Bibi’s Government. It would be reasonable to assume that the leaders of all the major factions in the coalition agreed—even if there are differences—to proceed with the conversations and to task Justice Minister Livni to seek clarifications. Specifically, this suggests that unlike some of the more extreme right wing forces within the membership of Yisrael Beitanu, Bennett and his top advisers are prepared to lead the party in a more compromising, less-hardline direction than was expected; to move ahead with talks.
(It also may confirm something that has been suggested here several times already, that Bennett and Lapid may well be closer on more issues than had been presumed by some when the joined the coalition as a team. It also might be the harbinger of the true next stage of Israeli politics; post Netanyahu.)