Israel was blind, deaf, and naked yesterday morning, the morning of the Simchat Torah holiday. Its defense doctrine collapsed with the shove of a light bulldozer against a wire fence. The status quo is dead, and will not rise again.
That is the key to understanding the motives of those who started this war. It is the key to understanding its regional and global context. This is not a local event. It Is not limited to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
It is a move that is part of a declared, deliberate, and planned multi-continental effort to destroy the existing world order, to topple the US from its greatness, and to defeat the Western democracies.
Israel may not have rushed to the side of these democracies in the past few years, but it is still part of the camp. The statement by US President Joe Biden on Saturday night referred to that status and confirmed it.
The effort to defeat the global status quo has been going on since the end of the 1990s, on several fronts. Now, we are seeing those fronts come nearer, and even merge. The non-partners of yesterday are now close allies, even if not always natural ones.
Russia, Iran, China, even Serbia, are seeking to undermine the status quo. Hamas is part of the same picture. None of these players has any interest in the existing order. They want to replace it, or at least to amend it. This is what guided the actions of the totalitarian states of Europe and of the Far East between the two world wars.
This does not mean that the leadership of the enemies of the existing order convenes for a weekly meeting and imposes tasks on the members. There is, however, a common logic to the events happening now in Ukraine, in Syria, in the South China Sea, in the Balkans - and on the Gaza border. They upset the status quo, to the detriment of the countries that support it, certainly to the detriment of the countries that facilitate it.
American mistakes since the beginning of the century have sown ruin in the Middle East. The fantasy of "democratizing Islam", which emerged from the strategists in the Pentagon twenty years ago, led the US to Baghdad in 2003, and paved the way for Iran to penetrate Iraq. It gave Iran the opportunity of reviving an old imperial vision of dominance from the Caspian to the Mediterranean.
Barack Obama’s enthusiasm for allocating military resources to blocking China dissuaded him from punishing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in 2013, after the latter used chemical weapons against his adversaries. The mutual winks of the agreement on removing chemical weapons opened the gates of Syria before Russia. Vladimir Putin began his global anti-American project on Syrian soil, a few months before he invaded the Crimean peninsula and eastern Ukraine in 2014.
The second invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022, was meant to be the semi-final stage of the master plan to eliminate what historians call the Pax Americana. Its famous historical inspiration is the Pax Romana of ancient times; the attempt to form a global system at the center of which stands the political, military, and economic might of a sole super-power.
Putin assumed, as indeed did Western intelligence agencies, that Ukraine would fall into his hands like a ripe fruit. His open intention was to proceed thence westwards, to push the NATO alliance back to the border that divided Europe between the Western and Communist blocks before the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
Putin’s optimism was quickly disabused on the battlefields of Ukraine, but that was precisely what enabled his anti-Western effort to grow broader. He turned to Iran for help. Iranian UAVs became the weapon of choice in his war against Ukrainian cities and the country’s infrastructure. Iranian missiles, Iranian artillery, and Iranian shells, began to fill his emptying weapons stores.
Israel avoids global choice
For ten years or more, since the start of the Arab Spring, and against the background of Russia’s war on Ukraine, Israel assumed that it would not have to choose; that it could limit its defensive preparations to its natural enemies, Iran, Hezbollah, and their Palestinian satellites. It avoided the need to make a global choice. It persuaded itself that Russia’s advent on Syrian soil could actually work to its benefit.
While Syria gave rise to local cooperation between Iran and Russia, Ukraine turned them into strategic allies. That doesn’t mean that the Kremlin wants to see Israel wiped off the map. It does, though, have much more urgent matters in hand than concern for Israel’s security or consideration for its needs.
Last Friday, Putin talked in a public speech about how he saw Russia’s destiny, in a forum known as Valdai, which he has used for years to make pompous declarations about the future of the world. "Our mission is to build a new world," he said, 48 hours or less before Hamas penetrated Israel’s iron wall.
On previous occasions, Putin has adopted an even fiercer tone. In July 2022, he declared that the war on Ukraine was "just the beginning of the radical demise of the world order based on the US," and that it represented "departure from America’s liberal-globalist egocentrism."
That is exactly the heart’s desire of the rulers of Iran. They have been expressing it for years, without the bombast of the former Communist secret policeman. "Death to America" they call simply, always assiduously adding "Death to Israel."
Bin Salman rescues Russian oil
Putin knows that the "radical demise" of the West depends on global and regional alliances. His activities in Africa, for example, are consistent with the program of fomenting instability and pushing the West out. But the Middle East is an immediate neighbor, and is important to Russia not just strategically, but economically as well.
It is doubtful whether, since his invasion of Ukraine, Putin has had a greater success for his foreign policy than the deal with Mohammed bin Salman to raise the price of oil. The Saudi Arabian ruler needs a great deal of money to realize his pharaonic projects (at least $81 per barrel of oil, according to the International Monetary Fund). Putin needs a high oil price in order to finance his war in Ukraine, and to prevent the collapse of his economy.
The deal apparently being put together between the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, endangers Putin’s deal with the Saudis, who have reportedly expressed willingness to take action to bring down the price of oil, if the US will give them a military umbrella and help them to develop nuclear capability.
Of course, this does not mean that Putin told Hamas to start a war in order to disrupt the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Israel; it doesn’t even mean that he was in on the secret. There is no doubt, however, that Iran was in on it, and that Iran is now Putin’s equal partner in the "radical destruction" of the world order.
It’s not difficult to presume that Hamas and the jihadists are desperately keen to prevent a Saudi-Israeli accord; that they see thwarting it as a top strategic priority; and that for the sake of thwarting it they are even ready to take the risk of being buried under the pile of rubble that the Israeli leadership has promised that Gaza will become.
Could this war really thwart it? That of course depends on how it runs and how it ends. The Saudi Crown Prince has proved in the past that he has a pretty thick skin, and that he is prepared to take risks, sometimes unnecessary ones. But what will happen if Gaza is indeed "a pile of rubble"? How far will its destruction affect Saudi public opinion? Arab public opinion? Muslim public opinion? And how far will Bin Salman see himself constrained to take public opinion into account? Who knows? Hamas too is taking on considerable risks, including the closure of the Gaza Strip’s border with Egypt. In the end, it can’t hope to conduct its relationships with all its neighbors on the basis of violently breaching fences.
From the Balkans to Taiwan
We see the signs of the efforts to destroy the world order in other places too. First and foremost is the Chinese effort to oust the US from the Western Pacific. The US military and intelligence establishment believes that China will be ready to invade Taiwan within four years. A US Navy fleet will stand between it and the realization of its ambitions. A Chinese simulation demonstrates that it is capable of destroying it.
Smaller and less dramatic, but still significant signs have been seen in recent months in the Balkans. The reports of the concentration of Serbian forces on the border with Kosovo and Serbian unrest in Bosnia-Herzegovina serve Russian aims and arouse unpleasant memories of the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s. At that time, US and NATO forces were strong enough to cool Serbian war fever. Russia, Serbia’s longstanding ally, bit its lips. There is little doubt that it wants to help the Serbs. Can it help them this time round?
Zion and the Golden Calf
Israel has not faced such complicated global challenges since its earliest days. In the first two years of its existence, world peace was repeatedly and dramatically tested, when the Soviet Union imposed a siege on West Berlin (1948), when it exploded its first atomic bomb (1949), when the Communists tried to conquer South Korea (1950), and China attacked the United Nations force in Korea (1950). It was a time of rising international tension, and the pressure to identify with one of the two camps was impossible to ignore.
The Zionist Marxist left, which had considerable strength, identified with the Soviet camp, and accused the ruling party of capitulation to the Americans. David Ben Gurion met the disgruntled leaders of Mapam, the main opposition party in the Knesset, and rejected its preferences. We have to choose, he said, "between Zion and the Golden Calf." In Ben Gurion’s metaphor, Zion was Western democracy, and the Golden Calf was the Soviet Union and its satellites.
Shortly afterwards, the Soviet Union cut short the internal dispute when it chose to side with Israel’s enemies in the Middle East. In 1955, it also started to arm them from head to foot. Ben Gurion’s choice placed Israel on the side of the camp that ultimately ensured its existence.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 8, 2023.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.