Shmuel Rosner Chief U.S. Correspondent
Posted: December 08, 2006
The Israeli interest in Iraq: who has the answer?
If you want to know how difficult it is for Israelis to decide what American
policy in Iraq would be best for Israel, take a look at the question we asked
our The Israel Factor panel, as a complimentary question to those we asked
about the candidates in the fourth survey we published yesterday.
We knew that the survey is going to be published on a busy news day -
competing for attention with the Baker-Hamilton committee report (who will get
the upper hand, I wonder). Nevertheless, we decided to stick with the
schedule, as we did last month when the survey was scheduled for publication
on Election Day.
Our main focus in this survey was Iran, and the panel reacted to it with some
interesting responses (Read here how strong on Iran is good for Israel). We
couldn't, though, resist the temptation to challenge the panel with the
question of the day, so we asked them this: on a scale of 1 to 5, please rate
the Israeli interest in a continuous American military presence in Iraq (1 is
no interest, 5 is strong interest).
Now, this is a delicate question, especially with all the "blame it on Israel"
game that is going around and that Walt and Mersheimer brought to such
perfection (By the way, last week I was relieved to hear Thomas Ricks of the
Washington post and the bestseller Fiasco telling a radio audience that he
doesn't buy this Israel-was-pushing-America-to-war theory).
Anyway, the panel was handed this question, and replied in the manner
committees tend to reply - a compromise. The average of the responses we got
was 3. Meaning: we can't really decide, we don't know whether it is in
Israel's best interest to continue the war etc. One panel member with whom I
spoke about this issue this week explained to me what his considerations had
been. On the one hand, abandoning Iraq will send the wrong message and will
leave the region in shambles - on the other hand, the conflict is weakening
America, and a weak America can't be a good thing for Israel.
The official Israel was very cautious not to talk too much about the American
adventure in Iraq. When Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, visiting the White House
three weeks ago, decided to make an exception to the rule, it was surprising
to many, and disappointing to many others (read What was Olmert thinking when
he talked about Iraq?). However, one can't really believe that this ongoing
war has no implications on Israel, and that Israel should not consider its
interests in the new context.
Yet again, our panel of experts couldn't come up with a unified assessment -
but it's not as though each member didn't have his own view on the matter.
Actually, there were four 4s - believing that Israel has an interest in the
stay-the-course policy, two 3s - those who were undecided - and two 1s -
panelists who believe that Israel's interest would be served best if America
were to decide to get the heck out of Iraq.
More on Iraq and the ISG on Rosner's Domain:
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