Recently, this writer attended a dinner at which the keynote speaker was Yossi Cohen, the former director of Mossad, Israel's external intelligence service.
The focus of Cohen's address was the impact of global events on Israel's strategic security.
No One Came to Save a Single Infant . . .
Although he touched only briefly on the ongoing war in Ukraine, what he said was perhaps more policy-relevant than his observations on topics to which he devoted most of his time— Iran, the Arab world, the Russian deployment in Syria, and the United States.
After giving a brief tour d'horizon of the combined military might of NATO, he pointed out poignantly, that despite this potentially awesome prowess, "no one came to save even one Ukrainian baby."
Indeed, for Ukrainians, the situation must be particularly galling.
After all, it was barely 20 years ago that the Budapest Memorandum was signed, in which Russia, the U.S., and the UK pledged to refrain from threatening or using military force or economic coercion against Ukraine and undertook to respect Ukrainian independence and sovereignty in the existing (1994) borders.
Clearly, there have since been blatant Russian violations of the Memorandum
Western Democracies are Unreliable
In a caustic review of Ukraine's fate — and the chain of events that led up to it — Erielle Davidson of George Mason University berates the "stark failure of the Budapest Memorandum."
She writes, " . . . Western democracies are unreliable and fickle. International agreements involving the abdication of strategic assets in exchange for vague 'assurances' of undefined future support are not worth the paper they are written on."
Extending the scope of her analysis of Ukraine's experience, Davidson continues": "Ukraine is not the only country the U.S. and European countries have insisted make dangerous concessions for paper peace with an undemocratic, bellicose neighbor."
Demanding Jerusalem Repeat Kiev's mistakes?
She then goes on to trace the pertinence of the events in Ukraine for the situation Israel is facing in the conflict with Palestinian-Arabs and the wider Arab world.
She observes: " . . . this has been the entire blueprint of Western democracies' approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: push the Israelis to cede strategic territorial depth in the hopes that governments run by terrorists will behave. In exchange, Israel would ride a brief wave of Western plaudits and vague assurances of assistance, if the Palestinians were to seek to destabilize or attack the smaller Israel."
According to Davidson, "An Israeli deal with the Palestinians would surely be met, like the Budapest Memorandum, with fanfare and goodwill in the short term. The world, supposedly, would have become a more peaceful place."
However, as she asserts: " . . . Ukraine's concessions in the 1990s are hardly remembered today . . . the Ukrainian war . . . represents the failure of a Western peace process — a failure that our ally Israel should certainly remember when an unchastened American and European foreign policy establishment inevitably asks Jerusalem to repeat Kiev's mistakes."
Israel: The Failure of International Guarantees
Indeed, in a paper entitled When International Agreements Utterly Failed, David Makovsky, distinguished fellow at The Washington Institute, analyzes the events that led to the 1967 Six-Day War, which erupted after Egypt closed the Tiran Straits to Israeli navigation.
This comprised a critical blow to Israel, which at the time relied on strategic oil imports from Iran supplied via the Straits.
Israel dispatched then-Foreign Minister Abba Eban on an urgent trip to urge the international community to re-open the Straits and avert war. However, Eban encountered an apathetic and cynical international response.
Thus, even though the then-French president, Gen. Charles De Gaulle conceded that a commitment had been made to Israel to keep the Tiran Straits open, he curtly dismissed the pledge, declaring, "that was 1957 . . .now [is] 1967."
No Guarantee Can Guarantee a Guarantee
Accordingly, Israel's strenuous diplomatic efforts to persuade the western powers to pressure Cairo to reopen the Straits proved to no avail.
Along with the closure of the straits, Egypt began mobilizing forces along Israel's southern border — thus triggering Israel's preemptive strikes against Egyptian positions and airfields that heralded the outbreak of the Six-Day War.
In his paper on failed international guarantees, Makovsky remarks: "we should not forget . . . cannot be based on abstract international guarantees about the future"; and laments: "When the political context changed . . .the guarantees evaporated."
Indeed, as the late Menachem Begin reportedly once remarked to then-U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance a decade later, " . . . there is no guarantee that can guarantee a guarantee."
No One Will Come . . .
For Israel, the message is starkly unequivocal.
It must be remembered that should it cede vitally important strategic territory at the behest of foreign governments, this could well tempt its adversaries to launch a deadly assault on it.
Moreover, it should remember it can expect scant support from other countries, unwilling to come to its aid.
For, as Yossi Cohen warned in his address, if Israel is attacked, it must assume that "no one will come."
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies and served for seven years in operational capacities in Israel's intelligence community. Sherman lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees — B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), MBA (Finance) and Ph.D. in Political Science/International Relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and has authored two books as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. He was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971. Read Martin Sherman's Reports — More Here.
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