Israel, Russia, and the Coming War with Iran

August 04, 2018
News that President Donald Trump knew the purpose all along about the infamous June 9, 2016, Trump Tower meeting between his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, & his campaign manager Paul Manafort with a Russian attorney, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's recent indictments of twelve Russian intelligence officers that revealed the hackers sought former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's e-mails for the first time on the day then candidate Trump said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing", and then President Trump's press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki have been the focus of many commentaries. However, one major underreported development in the Russian saga was that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Moscow the week before that surreal press briefing. Then almost immediately after they left the podium, President Putin announced that an agreement was reached to guarantee the security of the State of Israel by restoring the 1974 cease-fire between Israel and Syria. If Russia cannot keep the peace, the United States will be on the verge of entering an ostensibly religious war on the side of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their Gulf State Sunni allies against the Shiite forces of the Syrian regime, Iran, and Lebanon's Hezbollah.

All sides share blame for the century old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After the First World War, the European Sykes-Picot agreement partitioned the Ottoman Caliphate into a French sphere of influence encompassing modern day southeastern Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, & northern Iraq, and a separate British sphere over Southern Iraq, Jordan, & Palestine. This not only created extremely complex nonsensical nation states, but it failed to uphold Great Britain's separate agreements that created several legitimate claims to Palestine. The 1915-1916 Hussein-McMahon Correspondence promised the lands to Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi of Lawrence of Arabia fame for leading his Hashemite hordes against the Turks. Meanwhile, the 1917 Belfour Declaration promised the lands to Jewish settlers for offering some resistance to Istanbul's rule. However, all these agreements established the century old precedent of ignoring nationalist Palestinian desires. During and after the Second World War, America turned away Jewish refugees favoring a resettlement policy in British Administered Palestine, contributing to the massive influx of Jewish settlers that led to Arab revolts, Jewish terrorism against the British, and the declaration of the State of Israel. The ensuing onslaught of the Six Day War, War of Attrition, and the Yom Kippur War, coupled with fresh memories of the Holocaust, led to a generation of Israelis with a survivalist mindset. However the subsequent generation's settlement expansion towards the goal of security through a Greater Israel encompassing Jordan's East Bank of the Jordan River, Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and Syria's Golan Heights led to an expansionist mindset that still resonates with some orthodox Israelis. These extremist settlers seem to prefer inciting endless conflict over peace with their new outposts in occupied lands, desire for a Third Temple of Solomn replace the Al-Aqsa mosque & the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, and even assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzok Rabin for securing a Palestinian peace accord in 1995.

The United States should withdraw its unequivocal support, return to being a fair broker, and potentially leave the Middle East to its own devices if Israel does not start removing its settlements, begin taking down its internal fences, and work towards becoming a full democracy to resolve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. On July 19, conservatives in the Knesset, Israel's 120 member unicameral legislature, led a vote of sixty-two to fifty-five to enact a new law that enshrines the right of national self-determination as "unique to the Jewish people" and downgraded Arabic, which is spoken by the twenty percent of Israeli citizens that are Arabs, from an official language to one with special status. The vote between its dual identities as a Jewish state and democratic one came after the Israeli army informed the Knesset earlier this year that Israeli Jews are outnumbered by half a million more disgruntled Palestinians that are either voting Israeli citizens or living in enclaves in the Israeli occupied West Bank or Gaza Strip. Shocking attacks by Hamas in previously safe Jewish communities during the 2000's, known as the Second Intifada, and the retaliatory destruction of the homes of the terrorists' relatives, created mutual fears of attack merely based on identity, narrowed the sense of community, and increased political support for less tolerant ultra-conservatives that stoke suspicions of pluralistic societies. Israelis should be very proud that their Old Testament reverence towards water conservation and their socialist water management created agriculture, energy, and a middle class in the mostly desert and semi-arid land. However, similar to how the marksmen David severely overmatched the hapless lumbering Goliath from afar, Israel's far superior military technology, like the American funded Iron Dome used against Hamas' rockets, further perpetuates the cycle of violence when machinegun automatous flying drones are in development to use against Palestinian stones, shovels, and knives. The two state solution died long before the Trump administration moved our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, with statehood disagreements violently splitting Palestinian leadership and both Gaza's Hamas and the West Bank's Fatah lacking popular legitimacy due to their inability to provide basic services under Israeli control. The only remaining viable solution is a single pluralistic State of Israel where the fences separating Gaza and the West Bank are eventually removed, all are one day welcomed citizens, and national self-determination belongs to everyone within its borders.

Israel's neighbors have long used the plight of the Palestinians to distract their own populations from their extreme inequality, until the Arab Spring led these unemployed masses to rise against their often brutal governments. Despite Israel, Iran, and Turkey once being allies in the predominately Arab Middle East, Israeli and Iranian ultra-conservatives threaten war to distract from serious domestic issues. Ironically, the hardliner Iranian Revolutionary Guard became a regional power during the past two decades of American hardliners pursuing misadventures trying to topple Iran's neighboring governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Now, by both unilaterally withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accords, that kept Iran from joining Israel as rouge nuclear state, and reimposing blanket sanctions, the United States is hurting the average Iranian, emboldening the ultra-conservatives, and weakening moderates like term-limited Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. If President Rouhani's overtures to the West to modernize Iran were successful, he would be a favored candidate to replace the aging and more conservative Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Only the Ayatollah has the power to reel in Iran's Quds Force's military misadventures assisting Lebanon's Hezbollah against Israel, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against the Syrian rebels, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Since Russia's 2015 full scale incursion into Syria to protect their only Mediterranean naval base, the Islamic State is violently reasserting itself despite their collapse, the Syrian rebels are all but defeated after the Trump Administration stopped covertly arming them to create 'safe zones' upon Putin's request last July in Hamburg, and our Kurdish allies are ready to negotiate with President Assad knowing the United States will once again likely abandon their aspirations. Ironically, Russia's use of Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to target Syrian rebels, allowed Syria to advance back towards the Israeli occupied Golan Heights frontier. Despite Israel's recent humanitarian evacuation to Jordan of four hundred and twenty-two Syrian rescue workers pinned against the Golan Heights' fence, Israeli Defense Forces constantly attacking Iranian, Hezbollah, and Syrian military targets in Syria has now escalated beyond both Syrian and Israeli fighter jets being shot down. After the United States withdrew from the nuclear accords, the Iranian Quds Force retaliated against Israeli attacks for the first time by firing rockets into the Golan Heights. Unlike their nonexistent threat to the Unites States, the Quds Force, Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime all pose an existential threat to Israel. The entire region is on the brink of war with Saudi Arabia suspending oil shipments after Houthi rebels attacked two tankers, Iran threatening to close the Straits of Hormuz if the United States sanctions countries that purchase Iranian oil, and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has explicitly stating that Israel will join Saudi Arabia to break any Iranian blockade between the Red Sea and open ocean. Hamas may seize the outbreak of an actual war as an opportunity to lead many disenfranchised Palestinians towards revolution.

Since I wrote two years ago that President Putin's full scale incursion into Syria would demonstrate the benefits and perils of deploying ground forces, the United States engaged in direct combat with the Russians for the first time in fifty years this past February when more than 200 Russian contract soldiers were killed by American airstrikes and artillery fire. This American barrage was in response to a failed Russian assault on a joint Kurdish base that protected several oil and natural gas fields. As predicted, not only are surviving Russian contract soldiers from both the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine demanding official compensation from their government for their service, Russia is now the only power with the ground forces positioned to prevent an all-out war between their Israeli benefactors and the allies of their Syrian patrons. I will always support the people of Israel, just like I will always support all people seeking to live peacefully within their borders. However, conservatives in the Israeli government have become their nation's worst enemy, an impediment to national security, and endanger the very fabric of their democracy. Our elected officials must stop mimicking the rhetoric of their hardline foreign counterparts, challenge our own orthodox doctrines that stoke these foreign conflicts, and not commit to fighting a greater war on the side of Israel if they do not democratically resolve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict.