Leadership: Who Won The 60 Year War?

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April 17, 2009: It’s a well-known fact that more and more Arab nations are losing their enthusiasm for making war on Israel and are adopting an air of either ambivalence, or normal diplomatic relations, with the Jewish state. What is less apparent, largely because of the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip and the rhetoric coming from Iran, is how far the Israelis have come in 60 years, with their nation becoming progressively safer and more secure with each passing decade. 

As time has gone by, the Israelis have combined military force with some shrewd diplomatic maneuvering to progressively reduce the numbers of dangerous enemies opposing her. When the nation was founded, Israel was under threat of being destroyed almost immediately after its creation, being set upon by the entire Arab world. Fast forward to the present day, and Israel has not been invaded in over 30 years. Egypt and Jordan have both resigned themselves to the fact that they can’t beat the Israelis and the Jordanians have always been more pro-Western and sensible than most of their Arab brothers, having retained a lot of British influence in their military and government sectors. 

The first cracks in Arab resolve to destroy Israel began even before a peace process got started. In 1973, the Egyptians and Syrians made war on Israel, but the Egyptians were under no illusions about their inability to totally wipe out Israel and instead pursued more limited gains. Syria remains recalcitrant but, like so many other poor countries in the Middle East, their armed forces possess obsolete equipment and pathetic levels of training and readiness. Money is also an issue outside of the Gulf oil states, with countries like Syria and Libya barely able to keep what equipment they do have running. Syria’s entire annual defense budget amounts to a pitiful $1-2 billion a year, and no longer receives massive amounts of equipment from a defunct Soviet Union. Such a force would be cut to pieces within minutes of engaging the state-of-the-art Israeli Defense Force. Syria has recently reached some agreements with Russia on force modernization and upgrades, but rebuilding the army completely will take years. 

Furthermore, the Arab states, primarily Egypt, that are well-equipped and moderately well-trained, owe their military power to the United States, which provides billions in equipment every year. Making war on Israel again would be the quickest way to lose that aid. This is something Egypt can’t risk since it can hardly afford to maintain and buy a complete range of up-to-date equipment on its own. 

Some of the Moslem states, like Saudi Arabia and Iran, are unlikely to ever recognize Israel or accept its existence. In the case of the Saudis, they don’t really have a choice, their country being the world center for the Moslem faith and run by the conservative Wahabi sect. Although possessing high-tech equipment, the Saudis don't have the manpower or the geographic location to go it alone and, again, have close contacts with the West. As for Iran, nothing will really change until, or if, the radical Islamic government falls. 

After 60 years, Israel has pared the number of real military threats down to Iran, and the militant groups operating in the West Bank and Gaza, areas at which their forces can strike at will. Although Iran continues to threaten the Jewish nation and Hamas still fires rockets into their territory, the days when Israel very existence was threatened have long passed into history. Today, the Arab militaries are either too broke, too dependent on Western arms supplies, or just simply resigned to Israel’s permanent existence. Any Arab nation, most likely Syria, planning a new conventional attack on Israel in the future will find itself without the benefit of the substantial allies of the past. Such an attack would be not only ill-advised, but almost suicidal. -- Rory Walkinshaw

 


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