Israeli Leaders’ Anxiety Attack Over Regional Changes

Recent changes in the international arena and in neighboring countries have simply unnerved the political leadership.


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on March 15, 2011.)

Would you believe it? Our leaders, who are supposed to stay cool and maintain steady nerves in case of an emergency, are having an anxiety attack.

The mass demonstrations in the Arab world and the recognition by some countries in the world of the nonexistent Palestinian state, and various statements heard recently that recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have made it imperative to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict right now, seem to have frayed the nerves of our prime minister and defense minister.

The prime minister is rushing to come up with another plan for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he intends to present to the U.S. Congress, which is not pushing for such a plan, while telling the 300,000 Israelis living beyond the April 1949 armistice lines, who insist that construction that has been frozen for many months be resumed, that we “should not be banging our heads against the wall.”

The defense minister announces that we need to request $30 billion worth of military assistance from the U.S. in order to meet new dangers that he sees on the horizon. Does anyone know what they are talking about?

The prime minister’s concern that Israel is being delegitimized seems to be fraying his nerves. Actually, there has been a significant improvement in the relations between Israel and many countries of the world in recent years, and despite the recognition extended to the nonexistent Palestinian state by some countries, there is no indication of a worsening of our international standing.

The present governments of France, Italy and the Netherlands have taken a far more positive attitude toward Israel than their predecessors. In the European Union, the countries of central and eastern Europe continue to declare their friendship to Israel and emphasize the special relationship that exists between them and us. Canada, which for many years gave Israel the cold shoulder, has adopted a particularly friendly attitude toward Israel under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. And most important of all, the new U.S. Congress, especially friendly to Israel, can be counted on to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship and block undue pressure on Israel by the administration.

So what’s all the fuss about?

And what is the defense minister worried about? To the extent of wanting to request the astronomical sum of an additional $20 billion from America to shore up Israel’s defenses? That request will certainly not be received with enthusiasm, even in a friendly Congress, which is now making heroic efforts to deal with a federal deficit that might be approaching a trillion dollars.

One can hypothesize a worst-case scenario in which the Muslim Brotherhood may end up taking over in Egypt, cancel the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and threaten Israel with war – but this scenario does not seem at all likely at this point. On the contrary, the thirst for democratization that seems to be sweeping the Arab world might improve the political climate in the area. This wave might even reach Iran and eventually bring about the downfall of the Khamenei regime, removing what is at the present a very serious danger facing Israel.

So what is the defense minister getting excited about? Why is he pressing the panic button? Does he, sitting in the defense ministry tower in Tel Aviv, see things that none of us can see?

Could the prime minister and the defense minister be engaged in a mutually coordinated spin operation directed at the Israeli public? The defense minister hinting at great threats facing us and emphasizing our dependence on American largesse, while the prime minister lets us know that we better accede to the wishes of the White House and make concessions to the Palestinians if we want to be able to receive additional assistance from the U.S., so that we will be able to defend ourselves against the great dangers that the defense minister claims are threatening us. Now that seems too preposterous to be true.

So if we analyze the recent behavior of our leaders we can only come to the conclusion that they are suffering from an anxiety attack. Recent changes in the international arena and in neighboring countries have simply unnerved them. Is there a good psychiatrist in the house? But as we have recently learned from the New York Times, psychiatric therapy is out and now pills are in. Xanax anyone?

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