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Israel’s war with Palestinian Islamic Jihad was a wake-up call for the West

It proved that the diplomatic option doesn’t work in the Middle East.

Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Aug. 6, 2022. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

Israel’s recent conflict with Gaza-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) terrorists was a wake-up call for Israeli and Western policy- and opinion-makers, who are determined to observe and assess the volcanic and treacherous Middle East through the accommodating and relatively peaceful Western lens.

In particular, the war should wake up Israeli and Western “Palestine-Firsters.” During the latest conflict, Arab countries showered the Palestinians with encouraging talk, but refrained from a supportive walk—militarily, financially or politically. The 2022 Arab walk was consistent with Arab conduct during all previous military clashes between Israel and Palestinian terrorism, such as the First Lebanon War, the first and second intifadas and the ongoing wars with Hamas in Gaza.

Over the past few days, I participated in several televised panel discussions with experts from Morocco, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. All of them concurred with my perspective on the non-centrality of the Palestinian issue in Middle East affairs, displaying indifference or hostility towards the Palestinians themselves. They echoed the Arab image of the Palestinians as a model of intra-Arab subversion, terrorism and ingratitude.

In contrast to Western conventional wisdom, Arab policymakers are convinced that a Palestinian state would be a pro-Iran, pro-Russia and pro-China rogue/terrorist entity, fueling domestic and regional turbulence and intensifying existing threats to the survival of every pro-U.S. Arab regime.

The latest round of fighting should also shake the convictions of those in both Israel and the West who adhere to the convenient but illusory dream of a diplomacy-based “New World Order” and “New Middle East.”

These ideologues have been infatuated with the idea that Western ideas of peaceful coexistence, human rights, democracy and Marshall Plan-style enticements can tame rogue entities in the Middle East. But in this region, such noble values are superseded by religion, history, ideology and ethnicity.

In fact, the unprecedented financial and strategic benefits showered upon the Palestinians by the 1993 Oslo Accords and the 2005 Israeli withdrawal from Gaza yielded—as expected—unprecedented waves of terrorism, driven by the vision of eradicating Jewish sovereignty in “the abode of Islam.” Similarly, the mega-billion-dollar financial bonanza given Iran’s ayatollahs in the 2015 nuclear deal yielded—again, as expected—an unprecedented boon to Iran’s rogue conduct.

The war with PIJ also demonstrated that Israel’s policy of diplomacy coupled with periodic military reactions to Palestinian terrorism yielded dramatically stronger Palestinian terrorism, with thousands of missiles covering most of Israel, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

It was, in fact, preemption that facilitated the elimination of most top PIJ terrorists. Thus, preemption and not reaction should guide Israel’s war on Palestinian terrorism, which should seek to destroy arsenals of missiles and other lethal systems, as well as manufacturing and smuggling facilities, before they can be employed for terrorist purposes. Preemptive elimination of the leaders of Palestinian terror groups has also proven itself effective and imperative.

The war further highlighted the fact that the Iranian threat to regional and global stability is not only nuclear, but includes the conventional threats of Iran-supported subversion and terrorism, not only in the Middle East but also in the Persian Gulf, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America from southern Chile to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition, the war with the PIJ shows that Israel’s posture of deterrence was not enhanced because of its peace accords with a growing number of Arab countries. In fact, the reverse was true: Arab countries concluded peace accords with Israel because of Israel’s enhanced posture of deterrence.

The military, intelligence and technological capabilities demonstrated by Israel during the war with PIJ have also highlighted Israel’s role as an effective force multiplier for the United States in a critical region that has been an epicenter of anti-U.S. terrorism, drug trafficking and the proliferation of advanced military systems throughout the globe, including Central and South America.

The war also highlighted the uselessness of diplomacy in regard to terrorist groups and terror-supporting regimes. The West must learn this lesson, especially because the diplomatic option has dominated U.S. policy toward Iran’s ayatollahs since their ascension to power in 1979. It has emboldened the ayatollahs’ anti-U.S. strategy and harmed all pro-U.S. Arab regimes and the national security and homeland security of the U.S.

Will U.S. policymakers adhere to their own conventional wisdom or to the track record of their policy? Will they stick by their Western-oriented diplomatic option, or switch to the Middle East-oriented regime change and military preemption options? While the latter entails some cost, it would be dwarfed by the cost of facing a nuclear Iran.

Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A U.S.-Israel Initiative.

This article was originally published by The Ettinger Report.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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