Peter Berkowitz in the Weekly Standard reports on the consensus he discerned within the Israeli political/military/intellectual class at the seventh annual Herzliya Conference on Israel’s security last week.
First, few Israelis believe that much good is likely to come of the three-way talks among the United States, Israel, and Palestinian Authority president Abbas that Secretary of State Rice has proposed.
Second, last summer’s war with Hezbollah was neither a victory nor a defeat for Israel. Israel’s failure to accomplish its major objectives was due primarily to poor leadership — specifically the fact that the prime minister, the defense minister, and the chief of staff were wracked by indecision. Even so, Israel’s overall position in relation to Hezbollah in Lebanon was better after the war than before.
Third, “despite the distance, dispersion, and fortification of the Iranian nuclear program, members of the national security establishment believe that, between submarines, missiles, aircraft, bunker-busting bombs, and intelligence, Israel certainly has the military capability to set back substantially Iran’s nuclear weapons program.” And, although Israel prefers to live in peace with Iran, it is prepared, if all else fails, to defend itself with (in Prime Minister Olmert’s words) “all the means at our disposal as necessary.”
Fourth, Olmert himself is held in disdain. More generally, Israel’s most immediate national security challenge Israel may well consist “in reforming the Israeli political system so that it will raise up leaders of whom the nation can be proud and who can be trusted to refine and carry out the people’s will.”