Kissinger on Israel's coming demise: Senile, prophetic or merely pragmatic?
Henry Kissinger’s recent statement, that in 10 years Israel will cease to exist, borders on senile. Although one of his staff members denied it, Cindy Adams from New York Post insisted: “Reported to me, Henry Kissinger has stated — and I quote the statement word for word: ‘In 10 years, there will be no more Israel’”.
Kissinger is a controversial figure. He can hardly be suspected of excessive sympathy for Israel. He perhaps, inclines to the “syndrome of self-hatred” so fashionable nowadays in the Jewish elite. At the same time, Kissinger is not an exalted pop-diva, cheap populist or rebellious professor. He is an experienced, prudent politician who takes responsibility for his utterance.
What drove him to such a dramatic conclusion? Is there a real and grave threat to Israel?
Let’s try to analyze the situation. The first impression is rather unfavorable. Israel has been in the midst of historic upheaval. The political structure of the Middle East that existed since Camp David agreement has collapsed, forming a giant cloud of dust and chaos, from which the new threatening reality can crystallize.
America under Obama is deserting the Middle East. The future of Europe becomes more vague as it loses its perspective. Iran becomes a regional power with nuclear weapons while Turkey — recently a strategic ally of Israel — craves Ottoman greatness.
A closer analysis of the situation reveals a different picture — not so bleak. Israel indeed remains an alien, backed-to-the-sea nation in a world of anarchy, religious fanaticism, rioting crowds and insane dictators. Regardless, the country has a strong and viable economy, advanced technology, modern army and flexible democratic system.
On the other hand, the Arab regimes that emerge from the remains of the collapsed autocracies are extremely unstable, as in Egypt. In some cases they will not be able to establish a state in any form for a long time, like in Syria.
They have neither financial nor intellectual resources to challenge Israel. Iran is doomed to sink deeper in the swamp of the Sunni-Shiite conflict (Syria and Bahrain are good examples); its economy is unilateral and vulnerable; its armaments are outdated.
A nuclear bomb is an excellent means of blackmail, but its use against Israel — given the nuclear-missile power of the latter — would end the regime and the country itself.
Erdogan’s Turkey managed to alienate all its neighbors — from Greece, Cyprus and the Balkan Christian states to Iran and the Assad regime. Kurds are the “Achilles’ heel” of the Turks and the wounds inflicted by the PKK militants are bleeding stronger.
In a way Israel goes back to antiquity. Like in the Kingdom of David, it stands alone and confronts numerous, but scattered, non-disciplined and feuding enemies.
Similar to the biblical era, Egypt is swamped in its own problems — internal intrigues and fighting with armed nomads. Deserts — Sinai and Negev — create a powerful natural buffer between two countries. Even with the help of American weaponry, the Egyptian army is scarcely ready for modern warfare, based on sudden and daring decisions.
For the weak Hashemite dynasty, like for the kingdom of Moab, the very existence of the Jewish state is the key to the relative safety in the face of hostile and aggressive neighbors. Abdullah II, like his father, Hussein, is well aware of the fact that Israel’s agony would become his own agony.
Syria is traditionally hostile to Israel, but unaided it is doomed to failure. Just like King David had slammed the pride of Aram-Damascus kings, Israel did not leave the Syrians even a slight chance of winning — neither on the ground in 1967 and 1973, nor in the air in 1982 *. Also, modern Syria, the same as the ancient one, is not more than a mosaic, eclectic and shaky formation.
As the Philistines in ancient times, Hamas in Gaza and “Hizbullah” can strike painful blows to Israel, but they do not present a fatal threat to the country. Besides, today, they struggle for their own survival. Sunni radicalism threatens “Hizbullah” in Lebanon. Hamas is forced to face and confront the growing discontent of the population, on the one hand, and the Salafi groups, on the other.
At last, lax, corrupt, parasitical and clinging on international handouts the Palestinian Authority government may be trying to undermine Israel’s influence, but these attempts, as the efforts of Ammonites, cannot change the balance of power.
Iran, like Turkey, has a very long way to go to claim the role of Assyria and Babylon upon themselves.
As a result, with its powerful army and stable economy, the Jewish state, as the Kingdom of David, can maintain its security by playing with the contradictions of its enemies and by engaging in short-term alliances with its neighbors.
Russia is the only “superpower” which is theoretically capable of enhancing its influence in the region. However, on a paradoxical level, the interests of the Kremlin and Israel largely overlap. It’s not accidental that Putin’s recent visit (the first in the Middle East after his reelection) was perceived by Jerusalem as a very successful one. The relations between the two countries are a classic example of a basic law of politics: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. Moscow, like Jerusalem, has two dangerous enemies in the Middle East: bellicose Turkey, and even more belligerent Sunni Islamism.
In the long run, a fatal threat to Israel may come from the unified Arab world but it is still too far from reaching its dream of the Caliphate.
Is there any powerful force that can fatally undercut the strength of Israel? There is — it is the West.
Israel is part of the West and has associated itself with the West. The West, on the contrary, increasingly perceives Israel as a burden. This can already be considered a fait accompli for Europe.
Obama has chosen this path too. From the beginning he preferred rapprochement with the Arab world at the expense of the Jewish state. We have too many proofs of this fact: from admiration of Edward Said and fondness for Rashid Khalidi (initiator of raising funds for the Peace Flotilla in 2010) to his real policies (from the speech at the Cairo University, bowing to the Saudi monarch and the shameful shout outs to Israel to stop construction in the settlements and even in Jerusalem).
The policy and actions of both the USA under Obama and the EU have their own logic. Tectonic turmoil in the Middle East forms a new reality. In theory, it allows the West to regenerate the relations with the Arabs — the “reset” of Obama.
Logic dictates getting rid of all obstacles that prevent this reset and the betrayal of Mubarak — the cornerstone of U.S. policy in the Middle East during many years — is the writing on the wall.
If getting rid of Mubarak was one of the requirements of the reset process, what will stop them from doing the same with Israel? Absolutely nothing.
The second term will loosen Obama’s hands. Israel’s economy is tied to the EU; Israel’s security and political legitimacy is based on relations with the U.S. Shut these channels and Israel will go down in few years, because it will not withstand a state of total isolation.
Israelis are accustomed to high standards of living; they cannot imagine their existence without close professional, scientific and cultural contacts with the West. Israeli military power is vastly based on American development and support systems. For example, the missile defense system “David’s Sling” for intercepting ballistic missiles in radius of 260 km., so vital to Israel, is a joint venture with the American Raytheon Company.
Cutbacks on cooperation will weaken Israel, denying its missile shield against Syria and “Hizbullah”. And this applies to all military areas.
Moreover, the West’s ostracism will give a powerful impetus for domestic conflicts — a mortal threat to the Jewish statehood: from the Kingdoms of David and Solomon to Hasmonean dynasty to Israel in the present.
Isolated and split, it will lose its binding capacity. South Africa is the example of how easy it is for the West to wipe off the map a country, which is connected to it and virtually dependent on it.
The “Munich Syndrome” is deeply rooted in the political psychology of the West: the banal shortsightedness, futility and cowardice are traditionally called “pragmatism” — and pragmatism is respected. In this context Kissinger‘s forecast is quite pragmatic.
* In the air battles of June 1982 the Syrian air force has lost 84 combat aircraft, Israel has not lost a single plane.