Apologies to those of you who actually enjoy this stuff for my silence over the past few weeks. It’s not that there hasn’t been anything to kibbitz about – Israel is always very dependable in that regard – but my mood has been low.
I’ve been burdened by a general sense of ennui, influenced probably by the approach of winter, the creeping annexations of age (I’ll be 60 very soon) and the apparent readiness of the Israeli government to provoke a missile war with Iran. Just when I thought that I could safely dwindle into a gentle retirement of distilled liquids and casual pornography, the assholes begin threatening Armageddon.
As a rule, the more Israelis speak, the less they do; and the B Team (Bibi and Barak) have been speaking an enormous amount about Iran in recent weeks. So, it’s fair to assume that they aren’t planning anything immediate, which means that there are other motives behind their belligerence and bravado. Personally, I subscribe to the theory that it is a ploy to discredit the proposal by the Trajtenberg Committee that the defense budget be reduced by $3 billion. That’s probably not the only reason for their garrulousness, but it’s a key one.
After all, one wouldn’t want the pampered protesters in Tel Aviv or the 65% of Ethiopian-Israeli children who live in poverty to get the idea that submarines and billion dollar military aircraft might be less productive than food or housing. Best to nip it in the bud and scare them into submission with the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran baying for Jewish blood. It seems to have worked. I haven’t seen or heard a mention of defense budget cuts in the media since the scare campaign began.
The problem with whipping up fear, of course, is that it whips up fear – and the influence of a fearful public on a government that, at the best of times, is barely rational can be very unpredictable. A recent survey in one of the newspapers found that 57% of the Israeli public supports an attack on Iran – despite what appears to be the wall-to-wall opinion of the security establishment that an attack on Iran would barely retard that country’s military nuclear program.
Compounding the unpredictability is Middle Eastern machismo, a dangerous blend of unwarranted pride and an irresistible drive to prove who has the biggest balls. What started out as an escalation for internal political gain of an already sensitive and tense situation (Iran going nuclear) could well spiral out of control. If history teaches us anything, it is that, when balls rule the brain, bombs begin to fall. The First World War, which went from a local incident to a world-wide conflagration in the space of two weeks, is a case in point.
Israel is deliberately notching up the tension. Whether or not the Mossad was behind the explosion at an Iranian missile base two days ago is actually less important than the thick innuendo in all the Israeli media that it was. A gleeful, if coy, flash of very big Israeli balls. But Ahmed Dinner Jacket thinks he has big balls, too; and there should be little doubt that he intends giving us a glimpse of them. At some point, big balls will be replaced by more lethal weapons.
When I was a lot younger and my libido was a lot more insistent than it is today, I had a theory that prolonged lack of sex led to both the well-known “blue balls” syndrome and temporary derangement (presumably due to the swamping of brain synapses by excess, pent-up semen.) Could it be (remember, this is just a theory) that Israel’s brinkmanship with the mad mullahs of Iran is due to the prolonged lack of a decent war (Cast Lead and the pathetic Lebanon II really don’t count) and acute blue-ballitis amongst the B-Team and their hangers-on?
Has Israel gotten to the point that it actually needs a good war every now and then – to let off social pressure, feed the military behemoth and simply show the natives who’s boss? Conflict as an immutable strand of our national DNA.
It’s not my intention to minimize the Iranian issue. A nuclear-armed Iran in not an enticing prospect. Nor, for that matter, are Pakistan and North Korea. Russia and China are also highly unpredictable and I don’t even want to think about nuclear America under the leadership of the brain-dead Rick Perry or Herman Cain, another proud big-baller, apparently. And then, of course, there’s Israel’s wink-wink nuclear arsenal. Think of Avigdor “Stalin” Lieberman with his bulbous and sweaty finger on the button.
Nuclear weapons are the scourge of the age, but that doesn’t mean that the solution is to attack countries that possess them or are in the process of acquiring them. Nor does it mean that the possession of nuclear capability is synonymous with its use. The fact remains that the rough balance of terror provided by nuclear weapons (so-called mutually assured destruction) has prevented their use for close to 7o years. It may not be not much, but it’s better than deliberately provoking an all-out war.
I suspect that Israel has lost (if it ever had) the capacity to deal rationally with threats. Its natural, knee-jerk tendency is to react with violence, or the threat of violence. The occupation has put Israel in an impossible diplomatic situation (because it’s impossible to justify diplomatically,) with the result that Israel no longer trusts – or even sees – diplomatic solutions. Every attempt at finding common ground is appeasement and every rational thinker is Chamberlain. Resorting to force is the early, rather than the last, option.
Whether or not the current spate of threats against Iran were the product of internal political pressures. Iran is still firmly on the national agenda. And I don’t trust Israel’s leadership to deal with the problem rationally or intelligently.