In Israel, no silver linings
THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
The abandoned Circassian village of Zureiman provides a vantage point across the fortified Israeli border into Syria. Regime forces hold an area from the crossing at Quneitra to Runheineh. Elements of the rebel Free Syrian Army are attacking from both north and south, attempting to close the corridor. Farther south in Syria, global jihadist groups predominate.
A few miles back from the border, traveling between minefields that cover 30 percent of the Golan, you come to an Israeli winery serving samples and lunch. It smacks of symbolism: ten minutes from the Syrian civil war to a nice sauvignon blanc.
Israel is the relatively quiet eye of the Middle Eastern storm. But there are vistas of conflict on nearly every side. The triumph of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, according to Sallai Meridor, the former Israeli ambassador to the United States, would “not be the devil we know, but a much worse devil, an agent of Iran and Hezbollah.” Israel's cold peace with Egypt is fragile, and a distracted Egyptian military could allow jihadists to cause trouble in the Sinai. “We look at Jordan,” says Meridor, “and pray.”
Not all the consequences of regional chaos are immediately bad for Israel. The Syrian military has been decimated as a fighting force. Hezbollah, by joining Assad's anti-Sunni holy war, has lost its luster in the Arab world.
But the general Israeli attitude is worry and wariness. “Everything looks worse,” says Meridor. “There is a feeling that we can be prepared, but there is nothing proactive we can do about it.” So Israeli foreign policy focuses on disrupting short-term threats (such as arms transfers to Hezbollah) rather than developing long-term strategies. And Israeli politics has turned inward toward domestic concerns.
Many Israeli political figures share a concern that America has also become reactive, that it is focused on disrupting short-term threats rather than developing long-term strategies and that American politics has turned inward toward domestic concerns.
In the most favorable interpretation, America is rebalancing burdens between a reluctant superpower and free-riding allies, or pivoting to Asia. But America is accompanying this shift with an impression of political paralysis, rising debt and growing public skepticism about global engagement.
American passivity and confusion have left a trail of missed opportunities. During the Iranian Green Revolution of 2009, the administration remained fixed on a strategy of regime engagement. In 2011, it hesitated in supporting Syria's civil uprising. Since 2011, it managed to convince every side in Egypt that America has betrayed them.
A regional power such as Israel may be able to afford a reactive, short-term approach. If America does not proactively shape the security environments in which it operates, it is left to respond on progressively less favorable terms. The collapse of, say, Jordan, or the collapse of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty system would have profound implications for American security.
America, of course, is not abandoning the Middle East, just creating an impression of tired ambivalence. Nearly every Israeli politician, legislator and think-tank scholar seems to be debating if America has really drawn a red line on Iranian nuclear weapons or is leaving some strategic ambiguity.
Such debates, conducted over a glass of wine, eventually become less theoretical, as the storm gathers strength.
Michael Gerson is a columnist for The Washington Post.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Increasing player salaries pinch financial flexibility of Pirates
- No. 11 Purdue presents tall order for Pitt
- Mt. Lebanon puts temporary halt on deer kill
- Founder of Z&M Cycle Sales in Hempfield killed in Florida motorcycle crash
- Penguins’ reshuffled top line of Crosby, Dupuis, Kunitz looks familiar
- Starkey: Tomlin lived in his fears
- Slain St. Clair officer walked into ‘worst nightmare’ for police
- Steelers receiver Wheaton takes advantage of opportunity in breakout game
- Field conditions could play factor for Clairton in PIAA quarterfinals
- HS highlight reel: Seniors shine at soccer all-star game
- Crop of young players bodes well for Springdale boys basketball team