In order for a bank to run successfully and enable its owners to trust it, it is important that it has sufficient deposits. The security of the State of Israel, just like a bank, also relies on political deposits. The greater the value of the deposits, the more successfully the security bank of Israel can operate. “Deposits” are generally Israeli gestures intended to please our allies in the West, including the U.S., and depict the State of Israel as a moderate country that is striving for peace.
This was the situation 75 years ago, when David Ben-Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel and the Arab countries launched a war against us. The fact that Israel accepted the U.N. Partition Plan and the Arabs rejected it constituted a political “deposit” in our security bank. During the war, we were able to withdraw “political money” from this account and drive back the Arab armies from the borders of the State of Israel.
Unlike the years when Israel was a young country, we have recently been forced to uphold our security with an empty political account.
Today, in a most concerning manner, Israel’s security bank is operating not only with an empty political account but with a dangerous overdraft. Statements made by ministers Bezlael Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir regarding the denial of the existence of the Palestinian people and support for illegal violence against Palestinians have caused Israel significant international damage that may be irreversible.
And back to history. In 1967, before the Six-Day War, when the Arab armies deployed around us and announced their intention to push us into the sea, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol waited while exhausting every political route to avoid a full-scale war. His leadership deposited “political money” in Israel’s security bank and allowed the IDF to expand Israeli territory by almost fourfold.
In addition, the signing of the peace agreement with Egypt in 1979 constituted a deposit of “political money” that helped Prime Minister Menachem Begin carry out the attack on the nuclear reactor in Iraq without any significant international response, and then a year later to launch Operation Peace for Galilee.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s attempt to reach a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat in 2000 and the restraint displayed by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at the outset of the second intifada served as political deposits for Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, which was given full backing by then-U.S. President George W. Bush.
Reversing the wheel of political damage will be a very difficult task. Emptying our political bank account while the situation in Judea and Samaria is escalating, together with the Iranian race towards nuclear armament, places Israel in a dangerous, even very dangerous, security situation. If Israel is dragged into a significant military conflict, it will have to rely on U.S. ammunition supply and will even need international support from the United Nations.
The Israeli government must refute these dangerous statements and even condemn them. The government must take steps intended to secure political credit for us around the world. If and when Israel is forced to go to the battlefield, our soldiers will need additional international-political credit in addition to their full ammunition magazines.
Michael Oren is the former Israeli ambassador to the United States.
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