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Table of contents Interview Fall 2006 - Tishri 5767

Editorial - September 2006
    • Editorial - September 2006

Rosh Hashanah 5767
    • Light and Serenity

    • Hope
    • Brutal Awakening
    • Living under fire

    • The Second Lebanon War

    • The Enemy Within
    • NGOs and Arab Terrorism

    • Last Chance in Warsaw ?
    • The Other Revolt

Ethic and Judaism
    • Fundamental Terms of Marriage

    • Strengthening the weak link

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Brutal Awakening

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. (Photo: Bethsabée Süssmann)

By Roland S. Süssmann
During the recent war the political opposition in Israel, under the leadership of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, displayed its loyalty to the State and the government. Aware of what was at stake, he placed himself at the service of his country and throughout the hostilities refrained from any negative comments about the government or the army. As soon as the ceasefire came into force, we met with him to hear his point of view about the political implications of Operation “Change of Direction”.

The question everyone is asking is, did Israel win the war or not?

It’s not the right question. What we need to know today is how to protect our future in the face of a danger that has coalesced, Iran. Some of us had already sounded the alert a long time ago and had warned that unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza would lead to the creation of Iranian bases on Israel’s doorstep. We also knew that Iran is building nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. But until such time as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new Hitler of our times, is ready to fire them, he will be waging his war against Israel through his proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas. This was in fact the essential issue that this war showed the world, or at least those that wanted to see it. In Israel the matter is no longer in doubt and a five-point action plan is needed.

Are these five national priorities that must be quickly implemented?

The first is to set up an international coalition with which we can cooperate, in order to avoid Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. The second is to update our defense doctrine so that if another war is ever forced upon us the IDF will be in a position to fight any enemy uncompromisingly, whatever the origin of the men and weapons on the ground. Thirdly, we must rebuild the north, hit by Hizbullah’s Katyushas, and the towns and villages of the western Negev, hit by the Kassams of Hamas, and totally overhaul the way the home front is organized. Fourthly, we must jump start our economy again, to finance all the points I have just mentioned. Fifth and finally, we must also make sure we have a “clean” government. This means we must ensure there is no corruption and above all free ourselves from the endemic bureaucracy that is paralyzing our working and that lies at the base of so much inefficiency, duplication and the fact so many things simply do not get done.
This is the plan that my colleagues in the Likud and I are going to present and implement. It must be recalled that in Israel governments do not fall because of political or parliamentary maneuvering, but because of the public will.

If you return to power, will you be in a position to conduct negotiations with the Arabs, and if yes, on what basis, since unilateralism has proven a failure?

I think that before talking of negotiations we must first rebuild our deterrence, which took a bad knock during this recent war. Let us not forget that the Jewish State lives on deterrence. Thanks to it, since 1948 we have succeeded in convincing the Arabs and the Moslem world that we are here for good. In the War of Independence we faced five Arab armies, three in 1967, two in 1973, in 1982 during the Lebanon war just one, and today we went to war as a military superpower. Regrettably, our deterrence (which in actual terms has nothing to do with our military strength) was badly dented, so much so that Syria had illusions of being able to retake the Golan by force, that Iran speaks openly of annihilating us, and Hizbullah and Hamas say the Jews are cowards that can be wiped out just by the will of the militant Islamic world. The question to be asked today is not therefore whether or not we are prepared to make concessions as part of possible future negotiations, but how to change our policy of weakness into a policy of strength and deterrence. It is not accords that are not even worth the paper they are written on that will help us maintain it. We will only succeed by projecting our military, political, economic and cultural strength and our spiritual strength based upon our religious faith as a Jewish State. We have to remind the world the reasons for our presence here and not elsewhere and what our national historic relationship with this land is, strengthened by the wellsprings of our faith and the Jewish moral values that we stand for. The world in general and our neighbors in particular have to understand and accept that we are prepared to fight for the rights of Jews to live here. Unfortunately, as far as deterrence goes, what counts is not how we see, feel and assess things, but how they are seen by our enemies.

Why do you believe the Israeli public will be prepared to support the radical change in policy you are proposing?

Contrary to what our enemies may think, our deterrence has certainly been undermined but is far from having been destroyed, and I have several reasons to think that. Firstly, during my meetings with the people of the north who were confined to their shelters, I regularly heard, “We are prepared to remain in the shelters for months and to continue suffering this situation, but above all finish off the job”. I want to pay tribute here to the courage, sacrifices and determination of our soldiers, who in very difficult conditions never let down their guard or lost hope. Throughout they manifested their courage and retained a steely morale. And finally I would like to recall the fantastic sense of solidarity that developed very quickly in this country. I am thinking of the thousands of people who opened up their hearts, their homes and their pockets in a surge of national unity. Each one showed that they felt responsible for their brethren in the north. We proved to the entire world that we are a single nation united in misfortune, and that the famous saying, “All Israel is responsible one for the other”, is not an empty statement and took on a practical meaning. Examples abound, but I would like to mention the psychologists who closed their practices from one day to the next to go up north to provide help to traumatized people, and the businessmen who left their offices to put themselves at the service of the municipalities in the north. Today everyone in Israel understands that we are facing an existential threat and that the time has come to regroup our forces. One hundred and ten years ago, during the Dreyfus case, Jews in general did not realize in what a serious situation they were and were even smug, absolutely failing to see the approaching catastrophe that was developing for them and their descendants. One man alone had recognized the danger, Theodore Herzl, who warned everyone by saying that the Jewish people possessed a remarkable internal strength and that if it gathered in its own homeland it would be unbeatable. It is thus leadership’s responsibility to recognize the dangers, and today it is this new fire fueled by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that we can and must combat in order to ensure our future by implementing the five points that I spoke about at the beginning of our conversation.

Do you believe there might be a war with Syria in the near future?

I do not think that Syria represents a serious problem for us, nor for that matter Hizbullah. The source of danger is Iran, for whom the destruction of Israel is but the first step in the demolition of the West. It is inevitable that western countries form alliances to counter Iran. I would say that even the United States, with all its power, needs allies, and the Europeans are obliged to make alliances with those who share their values, even if certain countries on that continent have not yet understood this yet. That is why I stress so much that Israel must be strong from every point of view, because no one wants to ally themselves with someone weak. Thus our duty is not just to be strong but to project the image of our strength.

Thirty years ago Israel astonished the world by freeing the hostages in Entebbe. Do you think that the army’s fighting spirit today is like it was then?

There is no doubt that it is identical. We know that at the outbreak of hostilities very large numbers of reservists reported voluntarily to their bases. In fact the reserve units became rapidly overwhelmed and had problems of supply, which, however, were happily rapidly corrected. Unfortunately, the determination, the fighting spirit and morale of the troops and the courage demonstrated by the population of the north was not converted into decisive action by the leaders.

How do you think this war affected the people’s consciousness?

We have experienced a brutal awakening. We were faced with a reality from which we wanted “to disengage”, but which would not “disengage itself’ from us, rather the contrary. For us it is the opportunity to get back to the basic values that guarantee our existence, values of realism, vitality, responsibility and morality. If we do not do so, we will be encouraging our enemies to attack us. On this point I would like to recall that we quit Lebanon without having set up any security arrangements, which let Hizbullah create the fortresses we know today, but above all it encouraged the Arabs to launch the second Intifada. This in turn led to a second unilateral disengagement from Gaza, which unquestionably strengthened the determination of Hizbullah. We must absolutely put a stop to this vicious cycle. On the other hand, the head of Israel’s military intelligence has recently stated that if we do not go back into Gaza, within one to two years Hamas will have built the same infrastructure as Hizbullah did in Lebanon. I think I can state that the policy of unilateral disengagement is dead. It is important to end it, because this policy of weakness can in the end lead to our own disappearance. We have signed peace agreements with our neighbors, but they were always based upon our strength and reciprocity. It is unthinkable that we retreat yet again in the face of terrorism, because in the long run we will end up “disengaging” from Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Israelis have well understood that what is at stake in this conflict is not a question of territory but our very existence. Incidentally, at the beginning of the war Nasrallah declared that he would fire missiles at “the colonies of occupied Palestine, namely Tiberias, Safed, Acre and Haifa”. The facts speak for themselves: we left Lebanon and the rocket fire continued, we left Gaza and the firing of Kassams redoubled. So it is hardly difficult to imagine how fiercely Israel will be attacked if we quit Judea and Samaria.

Do you think the idea of a “Palestinian state” is dead?

Everybody understands that it is unthinkable to have a Hamas state or a Hizbullah state at Tel-Aviv’s doorstep. If one day responsible leadership emerges from the Arab society living in Judea-Samaria and Gaza, such an idea might see the light of day. But for the time being exactly the opposite is true, and we are facing a militant Islamic regime that espouses our destruction. It was always obvious that it could only be envisaged to live in peace with a neighbor who wanted to and not with someone seeking your total annihilation. The war we have just experienced has left many open questions and has worried many people. But one positive fact has emerged, a clear view of the reality of our situation. It is true, the price is high, but Iran made a mistake by firing too early, because that has let us catch ourselves in time, to regroup and to shed the illusions bred of the Oslo Accords and the unilateral disengagements from Lebanon and Gaza.

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© S.A. 2004