Protecting our honor

There once lived a rich and powerful man. One day, bandits stole a water jug; but instead of taking it back and punishing the bandits — which would have been easy, since he had many sons — he said “it’s only a jug, it’s not worth a fight. Anyway, I have more jugs.” Then they took  a goat. “Oh well, I have more goats, and after all the bandits were hungry,” he said. The next day he woke up to find himself outside his tent, and that they’d killed his sons, and taken his camels, his goats and his wives to boot. Then, since he had no goods, no sons and no honor, they killed him. – Bedouin story

Israeli athletes kicked butt at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam Judo tournament, winning a gold medal and 3 bronzes, coming in 6th overall out of 48.

And as everyone knows, Israel was the only country out of the 48 that competed that was not permitted to have her flag on their uniforms or to have her national anthem played when they won. Instead, our athletes were required to compete under the flag of the International Judo Federation (IJF). The name “Israel” or our flag does not appear in the tournament’s standings on the IJF website, where Israel is listed as “IJF”.

Apparently this was the result of a demand by the host, the United Arab Emirates. The IJF objected, but apparently wasn’t prepared to go to the mat over the issue (so to speak) by sanctioning the UAE in any meaningful way.

Some may say that the UAE is just a few camels, fancy architecture and sand floating on a lake of petroleum. Israel, on the other hand, is a world power in many fields including Judo, and there is no reason to get upset. When the oil dries up the skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi will collapse from lack of maintenance, while Israel will continue to excel in Judo and Nobel Prizes.

But this isn’t trivial and should not be allowed to pass. It should not be treated as business as usual by Israelis, who are so used to being insulted and shamed that they barely react.

This is the Middle East, and nothing here is more important than honor, whether it be the honor of an individual, a clan or a nation. A person that does not maintain his honor does not have a right to keep his possessions or even his life. A nation that loses its honor can be bombarded with missiles and can have its citizens stabbed and run down in the streets. Why not? Such a nation is nothing and its people have no rights.

Honor and deterrence are two sides of the same coin. A country that doesn’t retaliate for injuries done to its people invites more of the same.

Honor can be lost in many ways. Public insults such as the one delivered by the UAE and countless other Arab and Muslim entities around the world, day in and day out, are attacks on Israel’s honor. Palestinian Authority maps that don’t show Israel and veneration of terrorists as military heroes chip away at our honor. “Anti-normalization” activities in the PA and countries with which we supposedly have “peace,” Egypt and Jordan, constitute attacks on it. BDS tells its adherents to treat us as nothing and nobody in the hopes that if everyone did that we would disappear.

PA Arabs and Bedouins systematically steal cars and agricultural equipment and produce in Israel. What we call “crime” is often a form of warfare, because one of the first objectives of warfare in the Middle East – before the physical destruction of an enemy – is the destruction of his honor. A man or nation that can’t keep its possessions loses honor as well.

Israel’s Western idea of justice works against it. Marwan Barghouti sits in jail and could very well be freed by political pressure after he was convicted of five murders, four Jews and a Greek monk (he was accused of responsibility for 26 murders as head of the “Tanzim” organization). National honor demands a death penalty for nationalistic murders like those committed by Barghouti.

That is not the only way that Israel has diminished herself in Middle Eastern eyes. The recent debacle over metal detectors and cameras at the Western Wall – where Israel allowed herself to be forced to back down from taking very reasonable security measures by threats of Arab violence – was simply a disaster for our honor and deterrence. And everyone remembers the deal in which Israel released more than 1000 security prisoners, including numerous murderers, as ransom for one soldier held by Hamas, Gilad Shalit.

There are even major strategic decisions that work against us. Iron Dome is wonderful, but what is the message it sends when we cower behind it instead of striking out and destroying Hamas’ ability to shoot at us? What does it mean that despite tunnel-digging and rocket manufacturing, we continue to supply necessities of life to Hamas-controlled Gaza? The message, in case it’s not obvious, is simple: Sure, go ahead, it’s OK to shoot at Jews. They don’t even shoot back.

Loss of honor is not only dangerous for us a residents of the Middle East. Europe also gets the message, despite its pretence of enlightenment. While Europeans don’t shoot bullets at us (yet), they shoot Euros by way of the countless subversive organizations they support and their “humanitarian” assistance to the PA. They know that they can do whatever they want because we don’t fight back (I try to avoid EU products in the supermarket, and you should too).

All of these decisions are “rational” ones. It would be a problem for us if we destroyed Hamas. Who would govern Gaza? There is great political pressure from families of captured Israelis; how can we abandon them? What if there are riots at the Temple Mount? The police are always short of manpower, so there is only so much they can do about car theft and agricultural crime.

All of these are legitimate considerations, but decisions are made without taking into account the intangible, but very real aspect of honor.

I am not sure what we can do to the UAE over the slight we received in Abu Dhabi, but we should find something and do it. Israelis like to say the equivalent of “don’t sweat the little stuff (and everything is little stuff).” But in this case the sum total of the little stuff is a big thing. If we don’t act, we will wake up one day and find ourselves outside our tent, with no sons, no wives and no camels.

Posted in Middle East politics | 1 Comment

Jenny Listman vs. Elie Wiesel

A woman named Jenny Listman wrote a blog post accusing recently deceased Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel of touching her inappropriately at a public event 28 years ago, when she was 19. Today when the subject of sexual harassment of women is “trending,”  it created a furor, raising multiple issues: was her accusation true, and if so was it appropriate for her to make it public after Wiesel’s death when he could not respond? Was it ethical for her to air an accusation for which there could be no evidence except her own word? If true, did the allegation diminish Wiesel’s moral authority?

The Jewish Daily Forward published a story about Listman’s accusation. Almost immediately it was met with a firestorm of criticism and withdrawn, with an apology that it did not meet their “journalistic standards.” (My immediate reaction: the folks that published the cartoons of Eli Valley for years have standards?) But they made the legitimate point that they could not verify her story.

My own feeling is that her account rings true. And after consideration, I think she was not wrong in making it public.

28 years after the incident, the only evidence that exists is Listman’s testimony. There is no way to corroborate or falsify her account today. But there is also no moral requirement that Listman must have other evidence besides her memories before she tells her story. Her experience, if she is telling the truth, is something that she knows firsthand. Her position is different from that of a journalist, who is obliged to verify the accounts of external sources. So the Forward’s withdrawal of the article does not imply that she should not have published it herself – and certainly does not imply, as some social media commentators have said, that she lied or was otherwise culpable.

Many have also said that she had no right to make the accusation after Wiesel was dead and not able to defend himself. But suppose he were alive and denied it. How would his denial change anything? It would still be “she said, he said.” It is considered dishonorable to bring a charge after its target is dead, but in this case it has no practical significance. Who knows, maybe he would have admitted it and apologized.

The reason the case has created so much controversy, of course, is that it was Elie Wiesel and not a random construction worker that allegedly placed his hand on her right buttock and squeezed. It was Nobel laureate Wiesel, the LA Times’ “most important Jew in America,” a man who had survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald and, by his books and other activities arguably did more to bring the Holocaust into public consciousness than any other individual. He made it personal: six million is a number, but Elie Wiesel was a boy whose family was murdered almost in front of his eyes.

Some say that by accusing Wiesel of behavior that is morally reprehensible, Listman has cast doubt on everything that he has said and done. His legacy will forever be that of a sexual harasser rather than a moral exemplar.

I doubt this. Wiesel was a human being, like Washington, Jefferson, JFK and others who have been criticized on moral grounds. He was also a celebrity, with all the distortion of one’s own importance that comes with that. Wiesel was a man of a different time (even if by 1989 he should have known better). None of this excuses his alleged behavior, but that behavior is irrelevant to the power of his testimony and his accomplishments.

Listman’s supporters argue that abuse of women is so common as to be invisible, they have had enough, and the way to stop it is to expose it, even if – especially if – the perpetrator is powerful or a celebrity. This strikes me as not unreasonable, as long as key distinctions – like the ones between verbal and physical harassment, and between butt pats and rape or murder are not blurred. Not everything is “violence,” and some harassment is worse than others. I think she would agree with me on this.

Personally, I wasn’t a big fan of Wiesel. What he suffered and what he witnessed were real, and especially in his memoir, Night, he raised awareness of the true monstrousness of the Holocaust, the degree of evil inherent in its perpetrators. Later, he opposed the trend in some eastern European countries of whitewashing their own cooperation with the Nazis. He supported oppressed peoples, but he had no illusions about which side was right in the conflicts surrounding Israel, and spoke out in her favor. He did humanity a great service, and he justly received the Nobel Prize and countless other honors.

But being a celebrity can have deleterious effects on a person, as has been demonstrated countless times by famous musicians, actors, writers and politicians. All the adulation, the admirers surrounding him and telling him over and over how great he is, make the celebrity think that perhaps he really is above the rest, and that what is forbidden to ordinary people is permitted to him.

Elie Wiesel was a celebrity, and he loved it. He loved being invited to the White House, being knighted by the Queen, and visiting Buchenwald with Barack Obama and Angela Merkel.  He loved it too much, and in his excessive self-regard, he allowed himself to be used. Honoring Wiesel was a way of washing the blood off of the hands of the international community that had either killed Jews or closed its eyes during the Holocaust. And it was a way for those like Barack Obama and European leaders to distract attention from their present-day anti-Jewish policies.

Wiesel kept the Holocaust in everyone’s consciousness, which was a good thing and a bad thing. It was good because, at least for a time, it made Jew-hatred unpopular. It was bad because it provided a safe way for those who opposed the Jewish people’s right of self-determination to nevertheless feel good about themselves; and in a phrase that has recently caught on, to virtue-signal. Left-wing Americans who support organizations like J Street that are in practice anti-Israel, or even those that favor BDS, a program that explicitly calls for the end of the Jewish state, can get teary-eyed contemplating the dead Jews of 70 years ago, while favoring Palestinians over the living ones of today.

I found the social media response particularly interesting. The emotional content of posts by Listman’s supporters, most of them women who had experienced some form of harassment themselves, was strong. But the negative ones (by both men and women) were even more vehement. On Facebook, she was called a liar, a fraud, a “crackpot” and a “mental case,” accused of cynically seeking publicity for herself by attacking a great man, and worse.

Some of the strongest reactions against Ms Listman come from Jews whose primary connection with the Jewish people seems to be the Holocaust. They are neither observant Jews nor politically active Zionists (discussing this phenomenon, Arthur Hertzberg once said that their knowledge of Judaism is in inverse proportion to their degree of Holocaust-obsession). Their Jewishness seems to be expressed primarily by studying about and commemorating the Holocaust, through literature, movies and various memorials and events. Their prophet was Elie Wiesel, and criticism of him cuts to the heart of their belief systems.

At the end of the day, I think that this controversy is unimportant. Elie Wiesel the celebrity may have acted badly, as celebrities do when their celebrity goes to their head, which I think is what happened. His accomplishments aren’t diminished by his mistakes, which were less significant. I also believe that Jenny Listman did the right thing by making her story, which I believe, public. The continual barrage of harassment which women face day in and day out is real, and the announcement that they are “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” is legitimate and should be honored – even by the famous or powerful.

Posted in Jew Hatred, Media | Leave a comment

The Reform Jewish al-Aqsa

Ha’aretz, Judy Maltz:

In a sign of the growing rift between the Israeli government and Diaspora Jewry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not be appearing this year at the annual conference of the Jewish Federations of North America.

Only once since being reelected prime minister in 2009 did Netanyahu not address this influential forum. Unforeseen developments forced him to cancel his participation in the 2011 conference at the last minute, after he had notified the organizers that he would attend.

Every other year, he has addressed the General Assembly of the JFNA either in person, via direct satellite or in a video message. The annual gathering, which takes place in November, is considered the most important event of the year for the North American Jewish establishment. This year’s three-day gathering will be held from November 12 to November 14 in Los Angeles.

Many American Jewish leaders were livid with Netanyahu when in June, under pressure from his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, he decided to back out of his commitment to create a special area at the Western Wall where Reform and Conservative Jews could hold mixed-gender prayer services. The overwhelming majority of affiliated Jews in North America identify either as Conservative or Reform. The decision to create the egalitarian prayer space had been approved by his government in January 2016 but was never implemented. …

“Netanyahu clearly understood that if he had addressed the GA this year, he risked putting himself in the position of being the first Israeli prime minister ever booed or shouted at in this forum,” said a senior representative of one of the non-Orthodox movements who asked not to be identified.

The “rift” is not a natural geologic phenomenon. It is a product of human endeavor, and the earthmoving equipment is being operated by the American Reform Movement, the URJ, under the leadership of Rabbi Rick Jacobs. The goal is to help PM Netanyahu’s opponents remove him from office and replace him with someone compliant with their vision of a more progressive, North American Israel, and – needless to say – one that does not include Judea and Samaria.

The Jewish Federations were always pro-Israel. They strove to be apolitical, although the exigencies of fundraising required some degree of compromise. It was decided years ago that none of their money went to projects on the “wrong” side of the Green Line. They didn’t make a big thing about it, but if you asked they would assure you that your donations were not supporting the settlements.

Still, the people that called the shots until recently would never, ever, make a statement like that attributed to Michael Siegal, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors and former head of the Jewish Federations of North America: “Support for Israel doesn’t necessarily mean support for the Israeli government.”

But the original Federation machers got old and tired, and their places were filled with younger people, more hip politically, some of whom are members of groups like J Street or supporters of the New Israel Fund. People who get their news about Israel from the Forward, the NY Times and the Ha’aretz English Edition website. People who were too young to participate in the 1960s, but who feel nostalgic about them anyway. People who believe that there would be peace between Israel and the Palestinians if it weren’t for that pesky Netanyahu and his settlements.

At the same time, Rick Jacobs took over the URJ. He had a problem, which was that his movement was hemorrhaging membership. There were many reasons: fewer young people in America were joining any organized religious group, families were stretched thin by too many activities, and Reform Judaism was bland and boring. His strategy was to focus on “social action,” or in other words, progressive politics. As American politics have become more and more polarized, this is where the emotional energy is, and this is how to get the folks in the door.

The Reform Movement has been going in this direction for years, but Jacobs – who was active in J Street and the New Israel Fund, and who personally participated in demonstrations against Jews living in eastern Jerusalem – introduced the motif of a 1960’s American style “civil rights movement” for Israel, including promoting a 2-state deal with the Palestinians and fighting “discrimination” against Arabs, women, Mizrachim, Ethiopians, illegal immigrants, and non-Orthodox Judaism.

The controversy over a mixed-gender prayer space at the Western Wall was provoked by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), a local group funded by the Reform Movement, and its Executive Director, Anat Hoffman. It has since been exploited to the hilt in the US by the URJ and its journalistic echo chamber, who wring their hands over the terrible “rift” which they blame on Netanyahu and the smelly, theocratic black hats that supposedly dictate to him.

Israelis couldn’t possibly care less about mixed gender prayer. I’ve been to the Wall several times since the controversy began, and I have yet to see one person praying at the Robinson’s Arch area set aside for it. But for liberal American Jews, it plays the same role as “al-Aqsa is in danger” does for Arabs, inciting fury against Israel and its leadership.

The Jewish Federations, in addition to having a new, more “progressive” leadership, can smell the coffee. Most of their donations come from Reform and Conservative sources – Orthodox Jews have their own charitable organizations. More and more, they are competing with the left-leaning New Israel Fund for donations. It would be suicidal to go against the trend, so they too find themselves “livid with Netanyahu” over the Western Wall issue.

Possibly this was all inevitable. Many Americans and Canadians who see themselves as liberal or progressive align themselves with more extreme anti-Zionist positions, favoring BDS or even supporting Hezbollah or Hamas. Progressive Jews are not far behind. Many formerly staunchly pro-Israel organizations have been taken over by people whose support is conditional and equivocal. The ADL, campus Hillels, some Jewish Community Centers, the Center for Jewish History, and the Jewish Federations, among others, are not what they were in the 1990s.

The Western Wall issue has acted as a catalyst to bring about a profound shift in the attitudes of the American Jewish establishment toward Israel, perhaps as Jacobs intended. There are other contributing factors. There was the strong support for Barack Obama by the liberal Jewish community, a president whose objectives and policies brought him into direct conflict with Israel, and whose administration personally denigrated PM Netanyahu (“chickenshit”) as a tactic, and lent covert support to his political enemies in the 2015 election. Liberal Jews today are deeply enmeshed in the polarized politics of opposition to Donald Trump, whom they are encouraged by their leadership to link to PM Netanyahu and the Israeli Right. Jewish college students, the establishment leaders of tomorrow, are far less pro-Israel than their parents.

The Western Wall issue could perhaps be solved by a compromise (although that seems unlikely today), but there are countless other ways the liberal North American Jewish community can be brought into conflict with the conservative establishment in Israel. The conversion issue is one, and of course there is always the biggie: “who is a Jew?” In its boundless ignorance, arrogance, and in some cases political cynicism, the Reform leadership will continue to push its constituency away from Israel.

Whatever the reasons, Israeli policy-makers must understand that they cannot depend on the non-Orthodox Jewish community in North America the way they could in the past; not for donations and not for political support.

Al-Aqsa is not actually in danger despite the incitement from Arab leaders, and mixed-gender prayer at the Western Wall is an artificial problem. But the relationship between Israel and the North American Diaspora is broken, and the breakage was deliberate.

Posted in American Jews, US-Israel Relations | 3 Comments

Ending Israel’s abusive relationships

The Jerusalem Post reports,

Israel’s representatives to the judo Grand Slam event in Abu Dhabi have been told that they will once more not be allowed to compete under their country’s flag.

The blue-and-white delegation to the final Grand Slam competition of the year is set to include 12 athletes, but Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte was informed by the organizers that they won’t be able to have the Israel flag on their judo uniform, as they do in every other event across the world. Instead of having ISR (Israel) by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs, they will have to take part in the contest as representatives of the IJF (International Judo Federation). The national anthem will also not be played, should an Israeli win a gold medal.

This is something Israelis and supporters of Israel have grown used to.

We are not, in the minds of the Emiratis, a country. And if asked, they would doubtless agree with the spokespeople of the Palestinian Arabs that the Jews are not a people. Maybe even that Jews are not people at all, although this isn’t something they would admit in public.

Miri Regev, our combative Minister of Culture and Sport, wrote a harsh letter. Maybe Abu Dhabi will drop its insulting demand, maybe we will not send our athletes to compete, or maybe we will do what most of the non-Muslim world does over and over (including the government of Israel) in the face of lunatic Muslim demands for submission, and submit.

I’m sick of it.

Here’s a personal story. I’m an amateur radio operator (a “ham”). Many of us engage in competition to contact as many different “entities” as possible. There is a list of 340 entities, defined by political and geographic criteria. Some are normally uninhabited and inhospitable to human presence, and some have few amateurs. They may only be available for short periods of time, as when someone organizes an expensive expedition to a place like Bouvet Island, in the South Atlantic near Antarctica. Contacting a large number of them is quite difficult, and requires patience and time. Amateur radio is in a sense a sport, although perhaps a sedentary one; but like other sports it strives to stay above politics.

The location of a station is identifiable by its call letters, and there are currently 7 or 8 countries (Iran, Yemen, Libya, etc.) who do not permit operators within their jurisdictions to contact stations in Israel. So we are automatically at a disadvantage in competition. But rarely does anyone complain. It is expected. Israel is special.

This is probably less important than Judo, which in turn is less important than the UN Human Rights commission, which has passed about 70 resolutions condemning Israel since 2006, more than all other countries put together; or UNESCO, from which the US and Israel have removed themselves because of its ludicrous bias. Or the UN General Assembly.

But all of these “little” insults add up. Like an abusive relationship in a marriage or between a parent and a child, in which every interaction provides an opportunity for the abuser to belittle and insult the victim, there is a cumulative effect on both the target of the abuse and bystanders. No matter how secure she is, there is a feeling that if she weren’t doing something wrong, she wouldn’t be a target of abuse. And if there is more than one abuser, the effect is even greater.

What begins as verbal abuse between partners becomes physical; and minor physical abuse can become major and even lead to murder. In the international realm, a sustained campaign of delegitimization can be a precursor to war or genocide. It’s happened more than once.

When the state of Israel was founded despite the violent opposition of the Arab world, the conflict surrounding her was mostly contained in the region. The Arabs attempted to enforce an economic boycott, which was only spottily effective. But with the artificial creation of the Palestinian movement in 1967, and even more so with the Durban Conference in 2001 and the program of associating Israel with the modern-day deadly sins of racism, apartheid and colonialism, bullying Israel became a worldwide endeavor. Europeans jumped on the bandwagon with glee, picking up what Richard Landes called a “get out of Holocaust shame free card” by accusing Israel of being worse than the Nazis. And in North America, liberal Jews who wanted to belong to the fellowship of the intersectional Left were easy prey.

Even many Israelis (some of whom work for important media outlets) wilted under the onslaught and began to believe that their country actually was a racist, colonialist enterprise and even an apartheid state.

Another personal story: when I was 8 or 9 years old I had a friend who liked to tell me how dumb I was. One day, after he’d called me stupid four or five times, I picked up a large two-by-four (for non-Americans, a wooden beam about 5 cm by 10 cm thick) and swung it at him. Luckily for both of us, it struck his shoulder instead of his head. My parents explained that I might have killed him, and didn’t I know that I wasn’t dumb? “I know, but I’m tired of hearing it,” I said.

Israel needs to express that she, too, is tired of abuse. Getting a divorce from UNESCO was a good start, although I’m embarrassed that we had to wait for the US to do it first. We should tell the hosts of the Judo competition in Abu Dhabi that their singling out Israel is unacceptable; either they drop their special rules or we will not participate. And we should demand that the International Judo Federation does not accept the results of any contest that does not treat all competitors with respect.

Now I think I’ll try some similar judo on the committee that governs amateur radio competition.

Posted in Jew Hatred, Middle East politics, The UN | 2 Comments

Russia in the driver’s seat

It seems that Iran, Israel’s most dangerous enemy, is pushing hard against Israel’s red lines in Syria. Yediot Aharonot military correspondent Alex Fishman writes,

The Iranian regime, it seems, isn’t taking the public warnings issued by the Israeli defense establishment heads seriously and is hectically pursuing its talks with the Syrian regime, as well as patrols in search of a military airport near Damascus which would serve as a base for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ combat squadrons.

At the same time, the Iranians and the Syrians are making progress in the talks for an autonomic Iranian military pier in the Tartus port and the creation of an Iranian division on Syrian soil.

Israel, however, has made it clear both to the Iranians and the Syrians, as well as to the Russians, that it will not allow any Iranian presence in Syria, especially war planes or an Iranian pier in the Tartus port.

Apparently Israel is more pro-active in Syria than is publicly known, possibly aiding anti-Assad rebels in some areas. So far Russia hasn’t interfered with Israeli activities, which have been focused primarily on interdicting shipments of weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. But if Russia agrees to an Iranian request for a base, then any action to prevent it that Israel takes will be in direct opposition to Russia.

Israel is reported to have appealed to the US and Russia to prevent things from getting out of control. But even if President Trump were highly competent in these very complicated issues (which he is not), it is unclear who exactly is guiding America’s defense and foreign policy in the region at any particular moment. Elements in the State Department and CIA still defend the Obama-era policy of engagement with (read: appeasement of) Iran.

In addition, the administration is wary of further involvement in the Middle East and concerned with domestic issues and North Korea. The US may not have sufficient military assets in the region. Finally, there is the specter of legal action against the President by his political opponents tying up his ability to act.

In short, Israeli planners can’t count on the US if things here blow up.

This places the ball in the Russian court, which is exactly where Putin wants it. In the words of Ha’aretz military analyst Amos Harel, “if there is one thing that characterizes Russian policy, it is its utter cynicism.” Russia will not hesitate to sacrifice any other nation or group on the altar of her interests. Today she, not the US, is the arbiter of outcomes in the Middle East. And she has decided to be very interested in our region.

Dr. Dmitry Adamski of IDC Herzliya has published some very alarming speculations about how a Hezbollah-Israel war could benefit Russia, and how Russia might intervene:

If conflict breaks out between Israel and Hezbollah, Moscow would probably let Hezbollah and Iran bleed in order to weaken their regional positions. But it would also seek to prevent a total Israeli victory, since it still needs Hezbollah as a strategic actor in the region, and because doing so could demonstrate to Israel the limits of its power. By settling the conflict and restoring the status quo ante bellum, Russia could validate that it matches or exceeds the United States as a force in the Middle East. …

If Moscow cannot broker a political end to the conflict, it could try to coerce both sides to end the fighting on their own. Driven by a desire to generate maximum benefits with minimum friction, Moscow could carry out limited cyber operations against civilian targets in Israel, such as ports or oil refineries. Such assaults would seem less escalatory and would be easier to carry out than attacks against military infrastructure, and Russia could attribute them to Iran or Hezbollah to benefit from plausible deniability and to avoid a direct confrontation with Israel. Moscow could then signal that unless Israel scales back its assault on Hezbollah, it could hit another “red button”—a previously implanted digital vulnerability within Israel’s critical infrastructure that is ready to be exploited in a moment of need. Finally, to undermine the cohesion of the Israeli public, it could spread misinformation or expose real secrets to set off a public scandal.

On the battlefield, meanwhile, Russia could try to make Israeli planners think that Russian personnel are stationed so close to Hezbollah that a strike on one would endanger both. If that fails, Moscow could threaten to deploy anti-access/area-denial bubbles to prevent Israeli forces from striking Hezbollah targets in Syria and Lebanon. At the next level of escalation, it could electronically sabotage Israeli precision strikes or jam or shoot down Israeli drones. If Israel still does not respond, Moscow could carry out cyber-sabotage against its Iron Dome missile-defense battery, interfere with its air-raid sirens or social-media early-warning systems, and accompany those steps with an information campaign about the vulnerability of Israel’s civil defense aimed at causing panic among the public.

Given the predictions that Hezbollah will launch hundreds or thousands of short-range rockets and longer-range missiles each day, and considering that the war will probably include a southern front with Hamas as well, a simultaneous cyberattack from Russia could worsen our position and greatly increase home front casualties.

The best situation for Israel would be for Hezbollah to be disarmed peacefully. This would require regime change in Iran, which doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. The next best would be a preemptive Israeli attack and a quick, complete victory. This, too, seems unlikely if Adamski is correct about Russian thinking (it’s ironic for Russia to take over the former role of the US in preventing Israel from winning its wars decisively).

PM Netanyahu has met with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin several times, ostensibly to work out details of arrangements to prevent interference between IDF and Russian operations in Syrian airspace. But certainly they have discussed Iranian ambitions. I’m sure Putin is wary of a too-powerful Iran close to its southern border; Moscow is already in range of Iranian rockets, and Islamic terrorism is a serious threat to Russia.

Russia wants to keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria in order to guarantee Russian access to bases on the Syrian coast. Iran’s Hezbollah proxy is providing the manpower to support Assad, both against ISIS and against various groups of Sunni rebels that have American, Saudi, Qatari, Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish connections. Russia needs Hezbollah, and therefore she needs Iran.

Israel does not appear to have a strong bargaining position. Russia will make demands and offer benefits – like keeping Iranian troops away from our borders – in return. For example, we are already refraining from taking a position on the Ukrainian conflict to keep Russia happy. I am sure that we will be forced to balance how far we can go in Russia’s direction against maintaining our relationship with her historic antagonist, the US. It will be crucial for Israel to find some form of leverage – something we can offer to Putin or threaten him with – that can be used to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran.

Feeding the Iranian monster is dangerous, especially after it was enriched by receiving a $100 billion bonus for signing the nuclear deal. The Russians know this and at some point will have to rein it in. But will they do it before or after the next Mideast war?

Posted in Iran, Middle East politics, War | 1 Comment