Israel flies solo | Column


During my long years in Washington DC, I have had several Jewish colleagues who knew Hebrew even though they were not from Israel. This is one of the things I enjoyed about the Jewish Diaspora: They taught their children to speak and write perfect Hebrew. (Whereas the children of my Iranian, Arab, Greek and Turkish colleagues must have spoken in English with their visiting grandparents. But that is not the topic of discussion now.)

A good Jewish friend of mine, Chaim was whispering between his teeth about those who would mistakenly think they had the right to do whatever they did, without his help: Af’al atzmecha! Those who used to think too much of themselves would of course come back to ask Chaim for help. He could tell when someone was flying solo when he was too excited about their manners. He would say, in a low voice, “Af’al atzmecha” and wait and when they returned he would provide the needed help easily and with pleasure. They always came back to him after falling on their faces.

He would call them “chai bi seret” because it was like they were living in a movie; this fairy tale, this unrealistic fantasy world that wouldn’t allow them to go anywhere. I liked this one because it sounded like the one we have in Turkish. (Allow me an aside: “Seret” is a biblical term and today it means “movie” in Israel.)

If you live in a movie that you have created in your fantasy, you send all your warships and warplanes to joint maneuvers with Greece, Cyprus and France in what the Jerusalem Post calls “an effort to strengthen the control over the Eastern Mediterranean Sea ”. This is exactly what my friend would silently criticize: you fly solo and you are “chai bi seret” my friend: you live in a dream world.

But before I get into the details of this dream, let me repeat a Talmud teacher’s response to the question, “Who was the one who had been allowed to be eaten by wolves by his sisters on top of?” a mountain”?

– “They were not sisters but brothers; it was not on top of a mountain, but in a desert; the wolves hadn’t eaten it but the brothers lied about it. “

Sometimes a simple “Ishmael” wouldn’t do!

What region!

Likewise, the long and short of it goes like this: Israel has no navy. It is not Cyprus but the Greek sector of the former Republic of Cyprus. The French navy is for the most part immobile these days, and Greece cannot afford gasoline for its ships and planes unless Israel supplies them in secret. No, it is not going to “strengthen its control over the eastern Mediterranean”.

Even if you want to, the “EastMed” is not a small pond in the neighborhood. It is a gas pipeline that includes 1,300 kilometers (807 miles) of offshore sections and 600 kilometers of onshore sections “to transport natural gas from the Levantine Basin in Israel, as well as gas fields from Cypriot waters, to the Greece and Italy ”.

In their legal jargon, international lawyers call it “the gas fields in Cypriot waters” but (a) there is no longer an entity called Cyprus, and (b) when you reestablish this republic, you must include the Turks of this island in the decision-making mechanism – who may or may not approve the 2011 agreement.

It is evident that the disintegration of Turkish-Israeli relations after 2010 prompted Israel to forge ties with the Greek Cypriot administration. But 11 long years have passed since then and it is time for Israel to put its course on thinking and start thinking about the alternatives: a shorter route on dry land, as they say – more political, military and economic cooperation. strong with Turkey. Ask the Sephardic immigrant of 1492 and reread the 1950 Ben-Gurion-Menderes Alliance of the Peripheries document.

The Ben-Gurion-Menderes Pact is not as complicated as the “deal of the century” drafted by former US President Donald Trump and his son-in-law. You can add an article to this historic pact on the equal treatment of the Palestinian state. So you don’t need Kyriakos Mitsotakis from Greece and Emmanuel Macron from France. This decision will also prove to Israel’s friends and close neighbors just how realistic Israel is. It’s not as complicated as organizing large-scale extraterritorial exercises in Crete or bootlicking in Jeddah.

Your navy, my navy

The Greek navy may be aiming “to meet modern challenges and threats in the marine environment”, but Israel does not. The Israeli Navy is relatively small compared to other Israel Defense Forces (IDF) units, and Israel’s 150-mile-long Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is too large for it.

No exercise will make the Greeks reliable allies if this region is to be defended against, say, Turkey. The IDF must have realized that the Aegean Sea is too difficult, especially when it comes to submarine warfare.

The British tested the reliability of the Greek in the 1920s and they didn’t like it. The Israeli army has regularly joined the US Navy in military exercises, but France has just participated in a naval exercise with it for the first time. Commanders should ask themselves (a) why now? (The correct answer would contain “Total SA”), and (b) how did it go? (The correct answer would contain the word “wrong”.)

The Arab Spring could have bigger consequences for Israel than for any other non-Arab country. Threats across the region are coming from uncertain directions. Israel also has important policy questions arising from the Syrian crisis.

While Syria continues to be a battleground of proxy wars between regional and international rivals, Israel cannot (indeed, should not) deal with submarine battlefields.

All Israel needs is a new government that can lift its head out of the clouds and see the realities of the world as they are, not “chai bi seret”.

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