Israeli Diplomatic Offensive a No-Brainer
In late March, according to the AP, “Britain took the extraordinary step Tuesday of expelling an Israeli diplomat for the first time in more than 20 years, after concluding there was compelling evidence that Israel was responsible for the use of forged British passports in the plot to slay a senior Hamas operative in Dubai.” Ironically, the man behind the move, UK Foreign Minister David Milliband, justified the move by saying that the high-quality fakes were “almost certainly made by a state intelligence service.” After taking such strong action, he also “insisted Britain has drawn no conclusions over who is responsible for the killing. Is there any question that Britain’s move was political and nothing else?
In August, for instance, an international committee accused the UK of selling arms that “killed civilians” in Sri Lanka and that were used to make IEDs in Iraq. The government responded by promising a “full review.” That was eight months ago; the alleged Israel incident occurred in January. Did the British expel diplomats from Saudi Arabia over any of its numerous human rights violations? Or from Russia during any of the mini-wars, anti-terror operations, or crackdowns? Even more shocking, did the British do anythingto Iranian diplomats enjoying its hospitality during the recent murders of dissidents, government-led oppression of religious and ethnic minorities, or any other Iranian atrocities? But it did it to Israel for something only alleged and far less deadly than the incidents noted above. Now, it is “re-considering” any arms sales to Israel. That should be the last straw.
How far have Israel and its friends have allowed this Israel’s international standing to fall? The Dubai assassination took out a terrorist and Hamas arms trafficker; yet, the resulting furor was aimed exclusively at the assassins. There was no expression of thanks to whoever took out this known terrorist, responsible for the death of many innocents. What kind of topsy-turvy world it this? Nor was there any acknowledgment that Israel—and for that matter, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, because it is still not clear who arranged the hit—has a legitimate right to protect its citizens and its very existence. Clearly, those who have sounded off on this incident have lost any semblance of a moral compass.
Israel has been rather passive in response to an international onslaught of vilification of which this is but the latest example, regardless of which party is in power—and it has not worked. There is no shortage of otherwise impotent countries and groups lining up to take pot shots at the world’s only Jewish State. Strategists should ask if they foresee a time when those nations will simply decide to stop doing that and treat Israel treated like other nations. Unless they can come up with a “yes” to that, it clearly is time for a change. Israel and America have allowed their enemies to take the initiative and set the agenda for their existential war on terror; doing little more than responding to the most recent provocation with the likelihood being that the enemy has anticipated the response. Why do we think the Gaza weapons factories and smuggling tunnels are always empty when Israel bombs them after a terrorist attack? When al Qaeda launched the 9/11 attack against the United States from its strongholds in Afghanistan it is highly unlikely that the US invasion of that South Asian nation surprised anyone. When Hamas and Hezbollah terrorists stepped up their attacks on Israeli civilians and then captured Israelis from Israeli territory; did they not expect Israel to launch the 2006 Operation Defensive Shield? And even if they suspected that the United States and Israel might have the resolve to finish the job, they knew they could count on the “international community” to lend a hand in preventing that.
Israel, however, is not a beggar nation without recourse. It can use its strengths to force those whose main desire is placating Israel’s enemies to think twice before engaging in that sort of morally bankrupt diplomacy. It can start with the current crisis. Instead of engaging in an empty tit-for-tat move, expelling some marginal British diplomat in a move that will be forgotten and rectified in not too long, try hitting them where it hurts. The British economy is still going through a difficult time, and quite a few British companies depend on the business they do in Israel: British Gas, Apax Partners, Unilever, HSBC, British Airways, Lloyds of London, and Rolls Royce Aero Engines among others. There is rather extensive evidence that one of them HSBC, has had a role in helping to fund anti-Israel terrorist groups. The allegation first arose in 2004, when Washington attorney Allen Gerson targeted HSBC, Citigroup, and others for channeling funds through their Saudi subsidiaries to Palestinian terror groups. Five years later, HSBC was accused of supporting “financial jihad” in the form of disruptive banking techniques also through its Saudi branch and “Sharia advisor.” Also in 2009, HSBC (as well as a subsidiary of the Royal Bank of Scotland) was accused of funneling money to Hamas through a Gaza facility. It would not be unreasonable for the Israeli government to restrict HSBC’s activities, suspend its license, levy fines, or launch a highly public government investigation of HSBC for supporting terrorism. They can do this, moreover, without jeopardizing the benefits that the relationship brings to both countries, as it is in no one’s interest to escalate the crisis over Israel’s actions—unless Israel shows that its enemies in Britain can do what they wish without fear of meaningful action.
Similarly, Israeli longshoremen and other laborers can refuse to unload or otherwise handle goods that have been processed by members of the British unions who called for a boycott of the Jewish state. They might even prevail upon their cohorts in the United States to do the same, as every major American union previously joined the Jewish Labor Unions denunciation of the Brits’ boycott call.
Perhaps nothing enrages Israel and its supporters as much, however, as when governments like Britain take a holier-than-thou attitude toward Israel, condemning it for legitimate self-defense actions that pale in comparison to their own. If Israel’s vaunted intelligence agency is as good as its reputation suggests, it would not be difficult for the Mossad to leak information about real torture, for instance, committed by British security forces in Ireland or atrocities in the Falklands. Have all the actions of British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan been beyond reproach. Certainly, there are incidents that rise to the level of the accusations they hurl against Israel. As The Economist noted, when commenting on the current Israel-British row, “Israel provides Britain with much needed intelligence on areas such as Iran which it will be reluctant to forfeit.” So, Israel is not without assets it can marshal to forestall similar feigned outrage by governments in Britain and elsewhere.
When countries like the UK can take this sort of harsh actions far out of proportion to any alleged offense, knowing that it can do so with impunity; when the world’s worst human rights offenders feel free to lecture Israel about human rights with the only reaction pat on the back; it is time to change the dynamic that works only for the international “bad guys.”