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The Multi-National Force in Southern Lebanon – Asset or Liability?

The stationing of a Multi-National Force (MNF) in Southern Lebanon constitutes a liability, and not an asset.  It has been demonstrated by a recent confrontation between Israel’s air force and a German battleship off the coast of Lebanon, by the French threat to hit Israeli aircraft on intelligence missions over Lebanon, and by UNIFIL’s refusal to disarm Hizballah.

 

The MNF would create a short-term false sense of stability, while weakening Israel’s long-term national security. It is destined to fail, to undermine Israel’s war on terrorism, to strain Israel’s ties with member nations and to erode Israel’s strategic and deterrence posture in the US and in the Mideast.

 

A PREDETERMINED FAILURE

 

In 1993, the US military evacuated Somalia following the lynching of US soldiers in the streets of Mogadishu. In 1984, the US and the French military retreated from Lebanon following the blowing up of the US embassy and Marines headquarters in Beirut, by Syria and PLO-assisted Moslem terrorists.  On the other hand, UNIFIL has refrained from any confrontation with Hizballah, hence sparing itself the wrath of terrorists. The MNF is expected to follow in the footsteps of UNIFIL, since its soldiers do not intend to sacrifice their lives on the altar of Lebanon’s stability and Israel’s security.

 

In1967, the UNEF aborted its presence in the Sinai Peninsula, as a result of Egyptian pressure, thus paving the road to the Six Day War.  UNDOF has been stationed in the Syrian side of the Golan Heights since 1974, and will stay there as long as it serves Syrian interests.  It will evaporate from the scene as soon as Syria changes its mind.  Contrary to the precedents of Sinai (where the MFO has been stationed since the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty), Kosovo and Bosnia, there is no agreement, on the role of the MNF, among the key parties to the conflict.  Iran, Syria and Hizballah tolerate MNF’s presence as along as it facilitates the reconstruction of Hizballah’s capabilities, the weakening of Israel and the undermining of US interests in the Mideast.  The inherent disagreement among the key parties is a prescription for failure, which would result in an unpredictably unilateral withdrawal by the MNF, suiting the timetable of terror organizations and regimes and adrenalizing their veins.

 

ASSET TO TERRORISTS, LIABILITY TO ISRAEL

 

UN Security Council Resolution 1701 has facilitated the continued flow of missiles, other weapon systems, ammunition and personnel to Hizballah through the Syria-Lebanon border and via the Mediterranean. The interpretation of 1701 is not in accordance with Israel’s understanding; it is dominated by the UN and to by the nations comprising the MNF.  It is much closer to Hizballah’s interpretation, and much farther from Israel’s interpretation.  Therefore, the MNF does not consider the disarming of Hizballah and the enhancement of Israel’s security to be among its duties.  On the other hand, the MNF focuses on the safeguarding of its own soldiers – hence no confrontation with Hizballah – and observing Lebanese sovereignty. Hence, the MNF is not equipped with military hardware and intelligence, required to combat terrorism.  It does not intend to arrest terrorists, to confiscate illegal weaponry or to seize missile launchers without the specific approval by the Lebanese authorities, which would not dare agitate Hizballah or Syria. Just as the presence of UNIFIL in Southern Lebanon advanced the fortification of Hizballah since the 2000 withdrawal by Israel, so has the presence of MNF and UNIFIL facilitated the reconstruction of Hizballah capabilities since the 2006 evacuation by Israel. The international military presence serves as a human shield for terrorists and a human obstacle for the IDF, which is reluctant to hot pursue terrorists through MNF lines and to bomb terrorists bases cushioned by thousands of MNF and UNIFIL personnel, which is stationed around them.

 

EROSION OF ISRAEL’S STRATEGIC POSTURE

 

Finger-pointing, tension and crises between Israel on one hand and the UN and countries comprising the MNF on the other hand will become a daily routine, especially if the MNF will be stationed also in Gaza and Judea & Samaria. Further deterioration would be caused by possible MNF casualties, which could be blamed on Israel.  Does Israel need headlines about French, German, British or US soldiers killed on Israel’s borders?!  Does Israel wish to forfeit its classic image as a country, which seeks foreign military systems, but rejects the employment of foreign soldiers for its own defense?!  What a celebration would that be for Anti Semites, who have blossomed during displays of Jewish weakness and receded during displays of Jewish daring?!

 

Turkey and India do not request/allow international troops on their borders with Syria and Pakistan, in their battle against Kurdish and Islamic terrorism. They realize that the presence of such forces on their borders would constrain their sovereignty and their military maneuverability.  They understand that the willingness to pay a heavy price on the altar of sovereignty constitutes a prerequisite for sovereignty, and therefore they have earned strategic respect, while targeted for diplomatic criticism. On the other hand, Israel’s reliance on counter-terrorism subcontractors, in order to combat Lebanese terrorism (MNF) and Palestinian terrorism (Palestinian Authority), has frustrated Israel’s solid friends in Washington, who have also been disappointed by the results of the recent war in Lebanon.  They are concerned that the defiant Israel – of Entebbe and Ozirak – is gradually transformed from a producer of national security, which extends US military arm, into a consumer of national security, which needs the US helping hand.

 

Israel should reassess the presence of the MNF in Southern Lebanon and examine why did pre-1993 Israeli Prime Ministers consider the presence of international forces on Israel’s borders a liability and not an asset. 

 




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The Abraham Accords – the US, Arab interests and Israel

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan believe that the expansion of the Abraham Accords, the enhancement of Israel-Saudi defense and commercial cooperation and the conclusion of an Israel-Saudi Arabia peace accord are preconditioned upon major Israeli concessions to the Palestinian Authority.

Is such a belief consistent with Middle East reality?

Arab interests

*The signing of the Abraham Accords, and the role played by Saudi Arabia as a critical engine of the accords, were driven by the national security, economic and diplomatic interests of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and the Sudan.

*The Arab interest in peace accords with Israel was not triggered by the realization that the Jewish State was genuinely seeking peaceful-coexistence, nor by a departure from the fundamental tenets of Islam. It was motivated by the assessment that critical concerns of the respective Arab countries would be effectively-served by Israel’s advanced military (Qualitative Military Edge), technological and diplomatic capabilities in the face of mutual and lethal enemies, such as Iran’s Ayatollahs and Muslim Brotherhood terrorism.

*Saudi Arabia and the six Arab peace partners of Israel (including Egypt and Jordan) are aware that the Middle East resembles a volcano, which occasionally releases explosive lava – domestically and/or regionally – in an unpredictable manner, as evidenced by the 1,400-year-old stormy intra-Arab/Muslim relations, and recently demonstrated by the Arab Tsunami, which erupted in 2011 and still rages.

They wish to minimize the impact of rogue regimes, and therefore are apprehensive about the nature of the proposed Palestinian state, in view of the rogue Palestinian inter-Arab track record, which has transformed Palestinians into an intra-Arab role model of subversion, terrorism, treachery and ingratitude.

*They are anxious about the erosion of the US posture of deterrence, which is their most critical component of national security, and alarmed about the 43-year-old US diplomatic option toward Iran’s Ayatollahs, which has bolstered the Ayatollahs’ terroristic, drug trafficking and ballistic capabilities. They are also concerned about the US’ embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the largest Sunni terrorist entity with religious, educational, welfare and political branches. And, they are aware of the ineffectiveness of NATO (No Action Talk Only?), the European vacillation, and the vulnerability of all other Arab countries.

Israel’s role

*Saudi Arabia and the Arab partners to peace accords with Israel feel the machetes of the Ayatollahs and the Moslem Brotherhood at their throats. They consider Israel as the most reliable “life insurance agent” in the region.  They view Israel as the most effective US force-multiplier in the Middle East, and appreciate Israel’s proven posture of deterrence; flexing its military muscles against Iran’s Ayatollahs in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran itself and against Palestinian and Hezbollah terrorism. They respect Israel’s unique counter-terrorism intelligence and training capabilities, and its game-changing military and counter-terrorism battle tactics and technologies.

*The Arab view of Israel as a reliable partner on “a rainy day” has been bolstered by Israel’s willingness to defy US pressure, when it comes to Israel’s most critical national security and historic credos (e.g., Iran, Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria).  In addition, Saudi Arabia and Israel’s peace-partners aim to leverage Israel’s good-standing among most Americans – and therefore among most Senators and House Representatives – as a venue to enhance their military, commercial and diplomatic ties with the US.

*Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are preoccupied with the challenge of economic diversification, realizing that they are overly-reliant on oil and natural gas, which are exposed to price-volatility, depletion and could be replaced by emerging cleaner and more cost-effective energy.

Thus, they consider Israel’s ground-breaking technologies as a most effective vehicle to diversify their economy, create more jobs in non-energy sectors, and establish a base for alternative sources of national income, while bolstering homeland and national security.

*The Abraham Accords – as well as Israel’s peace accords with Egypt and Jordan – and the unprecedented expansion of defense and commercial cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Israel, demonstrate that critical Arab national security interests may supersede fundamental tenets of Islam, such as the 1,400-year-old rejection of any “infidel” sovereignty in “the abode of Islam.”  Moreover, critical national security interests may lead to a dramatic moderation of the (Arab) education system, which is the most authentic reflection of one’s vision and policies.

Thus, contrary to the Palestinian Authority, the United Arab Emirates has uprooted hate-education curriculum, replacing it with pro-Israel/Jewish curriculum.

Abraham Accords’ durability

*The success of the Abraham Accords was a result of avoiding the systematic mistakes committed by the US State Department. The latter has produced a litany of failed peace proposals, centered on the Palestinian issue, while the Abraham accords bypassed the Palestinian issue, avoiding a Palestinian veto, and focusing on Arab interests. Therefore, the durability of the Abraham Accords depends on the interests of the respective Arab countries, and not on the Palestinian issue, which is not a top priority for any Arab country.

*The durability of the Abraham Accords depends on the stability of the individual Arab countries and the Middle East at-large.

*The Abraham Accord have yielded initial and unprecedented signs of moderation, modernity and peaceful coexistence, which requires the US to support the respective pro-US Arab regimes, rather than pressuring them (e.g., Saudi Arabia and the UAE).

*However, one should not ignore the grave threats to the durability of the accords, posed by the volcanic nature of the unstable, highly-fragmented, unpredictable, violently intolerant, non-democratic and tenuous Middle East (as related to intra-Arab relations!).  These inherent threats would be dramatically alleviated by a resolute US support.

*A major threat to the Abraham Accord is the tenuous nature of most Arab regimes in the Middle East, which yields tenuous policies and tenuous accords. For example, in addition to the Arab Tsunami of 2010 (which is still raging on the Arab Street), non-ballot regime-change occurred (with a dramatic change of policy) in Egypt (2013, 2012, 1952), Iran (1979, 1953), Iraq (2003, 1968, 1963-twice, 1958), Libya (2011, 1969), Yemen (a civil war since the ’90s, 1990, 1962), etc.

*Regional stability, the Abraham Accords and US interests would be undermined by the proposed Palestinian state west of the Jordan River (bearing in mind the intra-Arab Palestinian track record). It would topple the pro-US Hashemite regime east of the River; transforming Jordan into another platform of regional and global Islamic terrorism, similar to Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen; triggering a domino scenario, which would threaten every pro-US Arab oil-producing country in the Arabian Peninsula; yielding a robust tailwind to Iran’s Ayatollahs, Russia and China and a major headwind to the US.

*While Middle East reality defines policies and accords as variable components of national security, the topography and geography of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Golan Heights are fixed components of Israel’s minimal security requirements in the reality of the non-Western Middle East. Israel’s fixed components of national security have secured its survival, and have dramatically enhanced its posture of deterrence. They transformed the Jewish State into a unique force and dollar multiplier for the US.

*The more durable the Abraham Accords and the more robust Israel’s posture of deterrence, the more stable the pro-US Arab regimes and the Middle East at-large; the more deterred are anti-US rogue regimes; the less potent are Middle Eastern epicenters of anti-US terrorism and drug trafficking; the more bolstered is the US global posture and the weaker is the posture of the US’ enemies and adversaries.

*Would the Arab regimes of the Abraham Accords precondition their critical ties with Israel upon Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, which they view as a rogue element? Would they sacrifice their national security and economic interests on the altar of the Palestinian issue? Would they cut off their nose to spite their face?

The fact that these Arab regimes concluded the Abraham Accords without preconditioning it upon Israeli concessions to the Palestinians, and that they limit their support of the Palestinians to talk, rather than walk, provides an answer to these three questions.

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