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Israel's Missile Shield, The Iranian
Threat, And The Palestinians

By Stephen Sniegoski
Israel's Missile Shield, the Iranian Threat, and the Palestinians
Israel has developed, what an article in the "Washington Post" (Sept. 19) by Howard Schneider calls, "one of the world's most advanced missile defense systems." What does this mean in regard to the alleged existential nuclear threat to Israel from Iran? Schneider's article continues: "Defense Minister Ehud Barak said this week that he did not consider Iran's nuclear program an 'existential issue' because 'Israel is strong.' Part of that strength lies in its nuclear capabilities -- never acknowledged but widely presumed to exist -- and part in the assumption that the United States would stand behind Israel if it came under attack. But it also rests in the calculation that enough of the country's air bases and other military facilities would survive a first strike to retaliate effectively." This is a considerable understatement since Iran does not even have a nuclear weapon, while Israel is estimated to have an arsenal of 200 to 400 nuclear warheads.   
Even though Israel is a small country, it would likely take more than the few nukes that the Iran could develop in the near future to even knock out Israel's land-based capacity to retaliate. But Israel also has nuclear-armed submarines that would be virtually impossible for Iran to destroy in any hypothetical first strike. In addition to Israel's own missile shield, Obama has a new plan of a ship-based missile defense system in the Mediterranean, which is in lieu of the now abandoned plan to put missiles in Eastern Europe. This new positioning would greatly enhance the ability of American missiles to protect Israel. 
While war propaganda wails that the Iranian leaders are so insane as to launch a suicide attack on Israel regardless of the consequences, there is not a shred of evidence of any reckless adventurism in Iran's military activities; rather, the Islamic Republic has been quite cautious in this regard. It certainly aids militant groups in other countries, not unlike the policy of the United States, but, unlike the U. S., it has not engaged in direct military warfare (except when attacked by Iraq in 1980). While the American conventional wisdom would have it that the U.S. only supports freedom fighters while Iran only backs terrorists, it is instructive to remember the adage: "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
Even in its rhetoric, Iran has not said that it would attack Israel, despite Western media reports to the contrary. Ahmadinejad's 2005 statement, as reported in the Western media, that "Israel must be wiped off the map," has been trumpeted by critics of Iran as advocating the nuclear annihilation of Israel. In response to the world outcry, the Iranian government maintained that Ahmadinejad's words did not mean genocide as the Western media implied. As a number of commentators pointed out, the Western media actually had mistranslated Ahmadinejad's speech to make it seem that he sought to annihilate the Jewish people in Israel by using nuclear weapons or some other drastic means. Instead, Ahmadinejad was referring to the Zionist regime, not the Jewish people, and a better translation of his words would have been "vanish," not "wiped off the map." 
Ahmadinejad was speaking of a one-state non-Zionist solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--presumably allowing for the return of Palestinian refugees and the creation of a Palestinian majority state. This could be interpreted as a call for a type of "regime change," but certainly one that would be anathema to most Israeli Jews and the supporters of Israel in the United States. Since Iran supported the Palestinian resistance to Israel, especially Hamas, it would seem reasonable to conclude that Ahmadinejad believed that some degree of violence would be necessary to bring about the downfall of the Zionist regime (i.e., Israeli state apparatus), but it did not mean an all-out suicidal attack. It would seem that the Israeli government and its American supporters have distorted and hyped the Iranian danger for the purpose of propaganda. Obviously, far more Americans are willing to protect the Jewish population of Israel from a nuclear holocaust than they are to guarantee continued Jewish dominance over the Palestinians.
It is the Iranian support for the Palestinians that is the fundamental concern of Israeli leaders, not any offensive Iranian nuclear threat to Israel's existence. The military disparity between Israel and Iran is far greater than ever was the case between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Palestinians, however, do pose such an existential threat. The Palestinians are a demographic threat to the Jewish exclusivist nature of the state of Israel-that is, a threat to Israel's raison d'être. Obviously, in a one-state solution in the area west of the Jordan River, or in Israel proper if Palestinian refugees and their descendants were allowed to return, the Palestinians would be a very large minority or even a majority of the population, which would rule out the possibility of an exclusivist Jewish state.
But even a fair accommodation to the Palestinians in an actual two-state solution (in which Palestine would be a viable state) would make the continuation of a exclusivist Jewish state tenuous. So far, Israel has offered the Palestinians something far short of a viable state in its "peace" process; instead, Israel has essentially offered the Palestinians only an unarmed entity (defenseless against potential Israeli military incursions such as the attack in Gaza) consisting of a congeries of non-contiguous Bantustans interspersed with Jewish settlements and Israeli roads and with an Israeli security zone along the Jordan River border. 
Of great significance, but rarely mentioned in the Western press, is the fact that Israel has never said it would allow the Palestinians to control the West Bank aquifers, which Israel now depends on for its water supply. Israel uses far more water per capita than the Palestinians, which not only provides for intensive agriculture but also for the amenities of a Western lifestyle ­ regular bathing, swimming pools, green lawns. Although the Israeli people could physically exist without those water resources, they would not be able to live the type of Western lifestyle to which they are accustomed--which would make it difficult for Israel to attract and retain a Westernized Jewish population. A slowly diminishing Jewish population in Israel itself could mean the end of a Jewish dominated and exclusivist state.     
With the Palestinian population being an existential threat to the Jewish nature of the Israeli state, many Israelis, especially the Israeli Right, view the elimination of that population, or its significant diminution, as essential. Since outright expulsion is politically impossible except in the fog of war, the goal would seem to be to get the Palestinians to leave voluntarily by making their existence miserable and hopeless. This condition could be realized if the Palestinians would ever accept the type of non-viable state that Israel has been willing to offer. So far, the Palestinians have rejected that offer but their resistance has been receiving outside support, both moral and material. Without outside support, the isolated Palestinians, seeing their liberation as impossible, would be likely to accede to the "peace" solution that the Israelis offered as the best deal possible.   
In such a non-viable state, with poor economic and physical conditions, and with the hope of a viable future Palestinian state eliminated, many Palestinians would be apt to give up hope for their homeland and simply think in terms of individual survival. Many, especially the young, would emigrate in the search of economic betterment and a decent life. Thus, the Palestinian demographic threat to the Jewish state would be greatly diminished or eliminated. This scenario appears quite realistic, but even if it is not, it does reflect the thinking of many Israelis, particularly of the Israeli Right. For example, Baruch Kimmerling writes in his book "Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians" that Sharon's fundamental policy was "designed to lower Palestinian expectations, crush their resistance, isolate them, make them submit to any arrangement suggested by the Israelis, and eventually cause their 'voluntary' mass emigration from the land." (p. 211)  
Thus, in the eyes of Israeli leaders, Iran, instead of being a direct military threat to Israel, is, nonetheless, a grave threat because it enables the Palestinians, the real existential threat, to maintain their resistance. Thus, the Israeli goal is to have an Iran that is completely defenseless against a potential Israeli attack. Not only must Iran be without a deterrent force, but it must not have any type of defensive system that would enable it to withstand an Israeli attack. As Jason Ditz wrote recently on Antiwar.com: "Israeli officials seem much more concerned with Iran acquiring defensive systems to thwart their ability to attack than with the largely illusory specter of Iran using its very limited collection of missiles to launch an attack which would certainly provoke a devastating retaliation."
In short, a defenseless Iran could be intimidated into abandoning support for the Palestinian resistance. Even better, an Iran whose infrastructure was destroyed by a United States attack and/or fragmented into warring ethnic and sectarian statelets would be unable to provide significant support to the Palestinians. With the elimination of Iranian support to the Palestinians, along with the elimination of all other outside support, the Palestinians would be more apt to cave in to the Israeli "peace" offers, which are predicated on maintaining the security and exclusivist Jewish nature of the state of Israel.
Israel and the Israel lobby's current position on Iran fits the neocon Middle East war agenda, which I describe in my book-"The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel"
My recent article "Afghanistan: Back Door to War on Iran" has been edited and posted at:
Stephen Sniegoski
Israel Finds Strength In Its Missile Defenses
Obama Aims To Squeeze Iran, Placate Israel
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