Questioning someone with Robert Grenier’s experience is risky business, but he calls us out first. In his analysis to Al Jazeera, Grenier states, “according to this analysis, one factors in the ensuing political and diplomatic ‘firestorm’ which is still gaining momentum, this Israeli operation - for such it certainly was - begins to look like a colossal blunder.”
“I would suggest, however, that those making these criticisms are missing the point. Among other things, they are working from an old paradigm which simply is no longer relevant.”
Yet a CIA director should have a soft spot for counter-analysis. Doubtless that he knows we exist anyway, so it shouldn’t matter when we say he misses a big point. Or more accurately, a small point.
Most everything Grenier writes of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh's assassination hits the target. There’s no way we could have said what he said better, and his “Diplomatic Costs” section is as real as it gets:
“As for the political, diplomatic and public relations costs to the state of Israel, those are certainly considerable, but that is altogether another question, isn't it?We can only find one point to disagree on with Grenier, but it effects the rest of his calculations: “since those costs were eminently predictable.” What if those costs aren’t eminently predictable though? Grenier is right, Israel’s recent actions don’t make a big difference. But they do make small differences.
And before we jump to any conclusions on that account, let's take a more dispassionate look at those costs: Yes, there are a number of Western countries currently annoyed with the Israelis over the misuse of their passports and the theft of their citizens' identities. But realistically, what are they going to do? Permanently break relations? I don't think so.
Yes, the Goldstone report and the threat of indictments against Israeli officials for crimes against humanity may qualitatively affect the environment in which this latest scandal is judged, but when it comes down to it, the Israelis do not expect to be liked, and frankly do not care - certainly not when they believe their security to be at stake.
So long as their relations with the Americans are unaffected, they can afford to be fundamentally indifferent.
The simple, cruel truth is that in the end, no one - and here I would include all the governments concerned, including the concerned Arab states - is really going to care all that much, or for all that long, about the fate of one Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Yes, there will be a bit of unpleasantness for a while, but before long, life will go back to normal. Whether or not that is the way it should be is irrelevant; it is quite clear, on the basis of much past evidence, that that is precisely the way it is going to be.”
We aren't concerned with al-Mahbough either, just what he represents. Only through accumulated strategical errors, political and military, could Israel have isolated itself in the way that it has.
Grenier briefly factors in the possibility, saying the Goldstone report would “qualitatively affect the environment.” Now expand this effect to all the assassinations, the Lebanon war, the Gaza War and the blockade, continual settlement expansion and oppression in the West Bank, and a generally negative attitude. It’s adding up.
Now Israel has to deal with Dubai police chief Lt. General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, “asking the Dubai prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for... Netanyahu and the head of Mossad.” Did Netanyahu really expect that?
And Tamim is coming for Western states, saying it would be “very difficult to catch the perpetrators” without their co-operation. He claims to be putting a European team together and has requested an FBI investigation into, "Thirteen of the 27 suspects used prepaid MasterCards issued by MetaBank, a regional American bank, to purchase plane tickets and book hotel rooms.”
Tamim affirms much of Grenier’s analysis. Calling the assassination “primitive,” he observed, “The majority of those working in Mossad are still stuck in a 1970s mentality,” and recognizes that he’s powerless without Western support.
“There will be diplomatic protests, but I think it won’t last for long," says Dr Mustafa Alani, a senior adviser on security and terrorism at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center. "Israel knows how to get away with it.”
This sentiment is prevalent across many parts of world - it is Mr. Grenier's. But while we cannot disprove it outright, there is reason to believe Israel will eventually reach a tipping point. It cannot continue bleeding, accumulating isolation. Its present strategy for long-term security is unsustainable and thus inevitable to fail at some point.
Israel cannot predict that point nor can anyone else, but the pressure is building with every unilateral action. Observe this brief Jerusalem Post report:
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu expects to launch peace negotiations with the Palestinians without delay, the premier told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in a telephone conversation on Tuesday night, according to Egyptian television. Netanyahu reportedly expressed hope that Cairo would continue to support peace efforts.Not to mention settlement construction and authorization in Jerusalem, including the 600 recent units in East Jerusalem that drew criticism from Washington. Netanyahu barely responded, putting another small but still controversial building project on hold.
According to the report, Mubarak urged Netanyahu to create an atmosphere conducive to “real peace negotiations,” and said Israel must stop its military operations in the West Bank and lift the blockade imposed on Gaza.
He warned Netanyahu that Israel’s actions on the Temple Mount and its inclusion of Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs on the national heritage list were torpedoing peace efforts and provoking Arabs and Muslims.”
“The United States praised Netanyahu's move,” reported France 24, “saying the two sides appeared to be closer to resuming peace negotiations that have been frozen for more than a year and it did not want either to do anything to derail their possible resumption.”
Not even the Jerusalem Post could cover up, “The number of housing starts in the settlements rose... continued to rise in the fourth quarter, even though Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the cabinet imposed a 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction that took effect on November 29, which should have prevented any housing starts in December, and thus kept the fourth quarter tally down.”
Thus no reason exists to believe “the two sides are close to resuming peace negotiations,” indirectly or directly.
The longer Israel stalls, the more world opinion solidifies against it, the harder it will be to act in the future. Its flawed paradigm, not that it can get away with anything but that it can get away with anything forever, has isolated itself more than ever in the last 40 years. After Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who’ve become agitated with Israel’s obstinacy, no one else is left.
Soon it could be all alone with America, if it's not already, far too vulnerable of a position for Israel to be in. It should know putting every egg in one basket is a doomed strategy.
What is truly amazing is how little Israel must and yet still cannot do to reopen negotiations on a two-state solution. A thousand settlement units remain valued above its long-term security, a miscalculation that Israel, for whatever reason, doesn't comprehend. Grenier misses a few points, we miss a few, everyone does, but no one misses the point more than Netanyahu - he’s cutting himself.
And some day, no matter how far in the future, Israel will collapse if it doesn’t stop.