Israel Ignores the Lesson
By: Shosh Warshai Translated from Maariv (Israel).
Fifty years have passed since the Cuban missile crisis, when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war that could have put an end to the human race. On Oct. 18, 1962, American surveillance aircraft uncovered Soviet launching sites for [ballistic] missiles with [thermo-] nuclear warheads, in Cuba — a distance of [only] 145 kilometers [90 miles] from the shores of the United States. It was estimated that, should the warheads be launched, about 80 million Americans would die within several minutes. What led to the resolution of that crisis, and what can we learn today from the steps taken at the time that probably averted a third world war?
About This Article
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy understood that only diplomacy could prevent a nuclear war. Fifty years later, writes Shosh Warshai, it seems that Israel does not heed that lesson of history.Publisher: Maariv (Israel)
Cuba as an example
Author: Shosh Warshai
First Published: September 2, 2012
Posted on: September 7 2012
Translated by: Sandy Bloom
President Kennedy read historian Barbara Tuchman’s famous book "The Guns of August" (also called "August 1914") when the Cuban missile crisis erupted, and he became obsessed with absorbing the lessons to be learned from that unnecessary war, World War I. As a result, Kennedy refused to be led by the nose by the military top brass that urged him to blow up the Cuban missile sites immediately.
Kennedy understood that it was crucial to read the regional and international maps correctly. Thus he focused on diplomatic activity to avoid escalation of the crisis while obtaining as widespread support as possible from the other countries of the world, for the steps that his government would take. The [problematic] zones he faced at the time included: West Berlin, a Communist East German enclave, with its hubs of tension; Vietnam, in which the struggle between the Communist north and the pro-Western south had begun to heat up; and Africa and Latin America, where the rivalry between the Soviet Union and the United States for regional influence had ratcheted up.
On this background, it was clear to Kennedy that the Cuban crisis had to be resolved judiciously and sensitively to avert a terrible, irreversible catastrophe. Therefore he decided to accept the temperate proposal of Secretary of Defense McNamara — a naval blockade of the Cuban shore to allow the Soviet Union time to think things out and avert an escalation. Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union’s premier, was not satisfied with an American promise to refrain from invading Cuba if the Soviet missiles were removed, and Kennedy — who still held several options up his sleeve — understood that in order not to threaten world stability, it was up to him to offer a better deal to the Soviet Union. The Soviets accepted the US proposal to remove American missiles from Turkey (that threatened the Soviet Union), in return for removing their Soviet missiles from Cuba [that threatened the United States].
Does the Israeli government view the connection of areas of tension in its surroundings, to the Iranian issue? Does it have alternative strategies for calming the region? It does not seem so.
The Palestinian issue begs a solution. Instead of pursuing moderating tactics, the state of Israel escalates the situation and legitimizes the construction of more neighborhoods in the territories, illegal outposts and a university in Ariel. These steps arouse regional antagonism that plays into Iranian hands.
The unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict constitutes fertile breeding ground for Tehran involvement — as Tehran aspires to become a regional power, by means of massive assistance to radical Islamic forces in the area. The political autism regarding the Palestinian issue exacts a very dear price, threats from north and south, rising tensions that necessitate constant vigilance and the channeling of energy and resources mainly toward defense. It also causes regional instability and a murky, brittle relationship [of Israel] with everyone around it. Without real desire [for peace], confidence-building measures and real concessions from our side toward the Palestinians, we will not be able to cope with the difficulties that weaken us, for an extended period of time. We will also not be able to receive widespread legitimacy and support needed to deal properly with the Iranian threat.
The author is a history professor at Tel Aviv University.
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