Netanyahu's Strategic Achievements: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, Aug. 11, 2017 — No one yet knows whether the current police investigations will land Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court or bring about a change in government.
Netanyahu's Empathy for Trump: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 24, 2017— Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attacked by the media for not jumping on the bandwagon and condemning US President Donald Trump for his response to the far-right and far-left rioters in Charlottesville earlier this month.
Will Netanyahu Stand Up to Trump on Charlottesville?: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Aug. 24, 2017— During the eight years that he was saddled with President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was bitterly criticized from the left by those who believed that he was endangering Israel’s vital alliance with the US.
Israeli Opposition Bets on Millionaire to Take it Back to Power: John Reed, Financial Times, Aug. 21, 2017 — Israel’s centre-left opposition, which was founded by eastern European socialists and once ruled the country for decades, has chosen an unlikely new leader: the son of Moroccan immigrants who rose from poverty to become a multimillionaire.
Differing Scenarios for a Post-Netanyahu Government: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Aug. 9, 2017
Bouncing Bibi?: Jim Fletcher, Breaking Israel News, Aug. 15, 2017
Is Ehud Barak on his Way Back to the Knesset?: David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 15, 2017
Naftali Bennett's Fine Words: Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2017
David M. Weinberg
Israel Hayom, Aug. 11, 2017
No one yet knows whether the current police investigations will land Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in court or bring about a change in government. But what is intolerable is the false narrative of diplomatic delinquency that is being hurled at Netanyahu, in complete contradiction to the historical record. Day and night, opposition critics and left-wing former security types attack Netanyahu for "doing nothing." They assail his decade-long leadership as having "achieved nothing" and especially for having "missed opportunities for peace." They claim that Netanyahu has left Israel "isolated." They say he is driven only by personal calculations, or alternatively, by messianic ideologies, and is incapable of protecting Israel's interests.
Such criticism stems from a misreading of Israel's strategic situation, and belies a total unwillingness to consider Netanyahu's intelligent long-term strategy for securing Israel's security and global standing. This is unfortunate, because an honest look at Netanyahu's record suggests significant strategic accomplishments. As prime minister, Netanyahu has been confronted by many questions: How does Israel steer clear of Arab civilizational chaos while defending its borders in an extremely unstable and unpredictable security environment? How does Israel prevent runaway Palestinian statehood and the emergence of a radical state that prolongs and exacerbates conflict with Israel instead of ending it? How should Israel handle an impatient world community that has gotten into the habit of punishing Israel for the absence of unrealistic diplomatic progress with the Palestinians? And how does Israel stymie the rise of Iranian regional hegemony and prevent its development of nuclear weapons?
Netanyahu's approach to these challenges can summarized as: Apply caution alongside creativity. Navigate warily, yet maneuver innovatively. Netanyahu has sought to ride out the Middle Eastern storms by securing Israel's borders; refraining as much as possible from bloody wars; seeking out and securing new security and diplomatic alliances; and forestalling grandiose and dicey diplomatic experiments in Israel's heartland. At the same time, he has kept all Israel's options open, while ensuring domestic government stability and the growth of Israel's economy.
Wise and important actors around the world have come to accept Netanyahu's central strategic platform: the assertion that the main game in the region is no longer Israel versus the Palestinians or Israel versus the Arabs. Instead, the main basis for defense and diplomatic activity in the Middle East is an unofficial alliance between Israel and most of the Arabs (together with Western powers), against the Iranians and the jihadis. The forces of stability and moderation are pitted against the forces of violent and radical Islamic revolution. The same wise and important actors have come to appreciate Netanyahu as one of the free world's finest statesmen. From China, India, Russia and Africa, in addition to North America and even Europe, they are beating a path to Netanyahu's doorstep seeking opportunities to cooperate with Israel, not to isolate it. Behind the scenes, Israel's relations with Egypt and key Gulf states have never been better, according to all reports.
So there is an Israeli "grand strategy" of sorts, and it has been largely successful. It involves steadfastness, patience, and looking over the horizon. It involves being both flexible and firm. It involves positioning Israel as an anchor of sanity and a source of ingenuity. For many years, it involved bobbing and weaving around then-President Barack Obama in order to keep America on Israel's side. Alas, there is a big chink in this contention and in Israel's armor, which is the growing power of Iran and its allies (Hezbollah and Hamas) on Israel's borders. Netanyahu was unable to stop Obama's terrible deal with Tehran, and as a result Iran is more belligerently adventurous than ever. Israel's account with Iran, and with those in Washington and the West that continue to pump for Iran, remains open.
Many in liberal circles will acknowledge Netanyahu's acumen in advancing a broad strategic vision, but find it awkward to defend his policy towards the Palestinians. They fail to understand that the Israeli public elected Netanyahu largely in order to put a brake on the failed Oslo process. Netanyahu represents a majority of Israelis who felt that the repercussions of the breakdown of a bad peace process were incalculably less worse than its continuation. It is obvious that the Palestinians have been radicalized, and suffer from chronic leadership deficit. Their cloying victimhood clogs their ability to think straight. No Palestinian truly accepts Israel's deep historical and religious rights in the Land of Israel. Gaza seems permanently locked in the jaws of Hamas, and Islamists would capture the West Bank too if the IDF halted its nightly raids into Hebron and Nablus. This makes neat territorial deals and grand treaties of reconciliation with the Palestinians nearly impossible, and adds to the long-term fragility of Israel's frontiers.
So Netanyahu's go-slow posture in relation to the Palestinians makes a lot of sense. Anyway, the "Palestinian problem" has been marginalized as a priority issue for Middle East Arab leaders. In relative terms, and viewed in a broader context, Palestinian nationalism is one of the more controllable problems that Israel faces. The frictions can and are being managed. Beyond this, Netanyahu is essentially making an additional argument on Israel's behalf: that Israel should be judged on its many successes (in promoting regional stability, and in immigrant absorption, education, democracy, human rights, high-tech, bio-tech and cyber-tech, etc.), rather than on its failures in peacemaking with intransigent adversaries.
Evelyn Gordon wrote last year in Mosaic that when Israel's left-wing politicians "encourage the world to judge Israel on its peacemaking credentials rather than on the myriad positive goods Israel provides, they invite the perverse and false conclusion that the Jewish state has been a failure rather than a resounding success. Peace is obviously desirable, but Israel doesn't exist to achieve peace. It exists to create a thriving Jewish state in the Jewish people's historic homeland." And by extension, to contribute to the world in numerous ways. Israel is doing so famously.
An overwhelming majority of Israelis ascribe the last decade of stability and triumph to Netanyahu's leadership. He may not be the ultimate paragon of virtue, but which politician is? However, his prudence and professionalism have best served Israel's strategic needs. Netanyahu has not been "just playing petty politics in order to survive," nor has he mainly spent his time monkeying with the media or smoking cigars and drinking champagne. He has driven Israel forward on the basis of a coherent strategic worldview and improved Israel's fortunes.
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, Aug. 24, 2017
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was attacked by the media for not jumping on the bandwagon and condemning US President Donald Trump for his response to the far-right and far-left rioters in Charlottesville earlier this month. It may be that he held his tongue because he saw nothing to gain from attacking a friendly president. But it is also reasonable to assume that Netanyahu held his tongue because he empathizes with Trump. More than any leader in the world, Netanyahu understands what Trump is going through. He’s been there himself – and in many ways, is still there. Netanyahu has never enjoyed a day in office when Israel’s unelected elites weren’t at war with him.
From a comparative perspective, Netanyahu’s experiences in his first term in office, from 1996 until 1999, are most similar to Trump’s current position. His 1996 victory over incumbent prime minister Shimon Peres shocked the political class no less than the American political class was stunned by Trump’s victory. And this makes sense. The historical context of Israel’s 1996 election and the US elections last year were strikingly similar. In 1992, Israel’s elites, the doves who controlled all aspects of the governing apparatuses, including the security services, universities, government bureaucracies, state prosecution, Supreme Court, media and entertainment industry, were seized with collective euphoria when the Labor Party under the leadership of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won Israel’s Left its first clear-cut political victory since 1974. Rabin and Peres proceeded to form the most dovish governing coalition in Israel’s history.
Then in 1993, after secret negotiations in Oslo, they shocked the public with the announcement that they had decided to cut a deal with Israel’s arch enemy, the PLO, a terrorist organization pledged to Israel’s destruction. The elites, who fancied themselves the guardians of Israel’s democracy, had no problem with the fact that the most radical policy ever adopted by any government, one fraught with dangers for the nation and the state, was embarked upon with no public debate or deliberation. To the contrary, they spent the next three years dancing around their campfire celebrating the imminent realization of their greatest dream. Israel would no longer live by its sword. It would be able to join a new, post-national world. In exchange for Jerusalem and a few other things that no one cared about, other than some fanatical religious people, Israel could join the Arab League or the European Union or both.
From 1993 through 1996, and particularly in the aftermath of Rabin’s assassination in November 1995, the media, the courts and every other aspect of Israel’s elite treated the fellow Israelis who reject- ed their positions as the moral and qualitative equivalent of terrorists. Like the murderers of innocents, these law-abiding Israelis were “enemies of peace.” As for terrorism, the Oslo process ushered in not an era of peace, but an era of unprecedented violence. The first time Israelis were beset by suicide bombers in their midst was in April 1994, when the euphoria over the coming peace was at its height. The 1996 election was the first opportunity the public had to vote on the Oslo process. Then, in spite of Rabin’s assassination and the beautiful ceremonies on the White House lawns with balloons and children holding flowers, the people of Israel said no thank you. We are Zionists, not post-Zionists. We don’t like to get blown to smithereens on buses, and we don’t appreciate being told that victims of terrorism are victims of peace.
Trump likewise replaced the most radical president the US has ever known. Throughout Barack Obama’s eight years in office, despite his failure to restore America’s economic prosperity or secure its interests abroad, Obama enjoyed the sycophantic support of the media, whose leading lights worshiped him and made no bones about it. In one memorable exchange after Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, where he presented the US as the moral equivalent of its enemies, Newsweek editor Evan Thomas told MSNBC host Chris Mitchell that Obama was “kind of God.”…
In 1996, the Israeli elite greeted Netanyahu’s victory with shock and grief. The “good, enlightened” Israel they thought would rule forever had just been defeated by the unwashed mob. Peres summed up the results by telling reporters that “the Israelis” voted for him. And “the Jews” voted for Netanyahu. His followers shook their heads in mildly antisemitic disgust. Their mourning quickly was replaced by a spasm of hatred for Netanyahu and his supporters that hasn’t disappeared even now, 21 years later. The media’s war against Netanyahu began immediately. It was unrelenting and more often than not unhinged. So it was that two weeks after his victory, Jerusalem’s Kol Ha’ir weekly published a cover story titled, “Who are you, John Jay Sullivan?” The report alleged that Netanyahu was a CIA spy who went by the alias “John Jay Sullivan.” It took all of five minutes to take the air out of that preposterous balloon, but the media didn’t care – and it was all downhill from there…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Jonathan S. Tobin
JNS, Aug. 24, 2017
During the eight years that he was saddled with President Barack Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was bitterly criticized from the left by those who believed that he was endangering Israel’s vital alliance with the US. Netanyahu’s critics warned that his public confrontations with the US president were both inappropriate, and had the potential to turn support for the Jewish state into a partisan issue — since some Democrats interpreted these disputes as a reason to accelerate their drift away from the pro-Israel camp.
Today, however, the same people who spent eight years slamming Netanyahu’s willingness to publicly take on a US president are now loudly lamenting his refusal to do just that. Netanyahu was slow to respond to the antisemitic and racist march in Charlottesville, Virginia — and Netanyahu’s refusal to issue any statement that could be interpreted as criticizing Donald Trump is being blasted as a betrayal of Jewish values and his country’s best interests. Are his critics hypocrites? Of course. Are they wrong? Not entirely.
What these people are demanding might create a dangerous breach with a US president who has seemed to support Israel in its conflicts with both the Palestinians and Iran. But a refusal to speak out against the US president would also conflict with Netanyahu’s own definition of his responsibility, which is to be not just the head of Israel’s government, but also a defender of the interests of all Jews. Obama came into office determined to achieve more “daylight” between Israel and the US. And as Obama’s quest for a rapprochement with Iran took shape, the hostility between the two leaders reached unprecedented levels.
Netanyahu’s decision to accept a Republican invitation to address Congress to urge it to reject the Iran nuclear deal enraged Obama and the Democratic Party. Though most Israelis agreed with Netanyahu’s arguments, many worried that he went too far in opposing Obama, and provided an excuse for those Democrats who wished to abandon Israel. Trump’s election provided a welcome change. The Palestinians were frustrated by what they saw as strong support for Netanyahu’s positions. So it is hardly surprising that Netanyahu has sought to avoid trouble with Trump. When American Jewish liberals were lobbing largely unjustified accusations of antisemitism at the president, Netanyahu stood by Trump.
Even after Charlottesville, that decision to avoid criticizing Trump remains the position of many on the Israeli right and diehard Trump loyalists. Many among the prime minister’s supporters probably also agreed with Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara when he said that the “terrific relations” with Trump mean “we need to put declarations about the Nazis in proper proportion.” As Lord Palmerston said, nations “have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” That aphorism can be used to justify embracing some strange bedfellows in the defense of Israeli security. But the problem for Netanyahu is that it ill behooves a prime minister who based his challenge to Obama on the need to defend the interests of all of the Jewish people, to now lose his voice with respect to antisemitism.
I believe that some on the Israeli left want to instigate a spat between Netanyahu and Trump, partly because they want Trump to put pressure on Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. In my view, they also don’t expect that any of the possible alternatives to Netanyahu would have the guts to challenge Trump. But critics are correct to note that Netanyahu staying silent after Trump displayed a degree of moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and their opponents is problematic. In my view, left-wing antisemites and Israel haters currently pose a more potent threat to Jewish interests than the Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and alt-right malcontents that marched in Charlottesville. But in the wake of Charlottesville, it’s no longer possible for the Jewish right — in either Israel or the US — to ignore the threat coming from these groups, now that they’ve received some encouragement from a sitting US president…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Financial Times, Aug. 21, 2017
Israel’s centre-left opposition, which was founded by eastern European socialists and once ruled the country for decades, has chosen an unlikely new leader: the son of Moroccan immigrants who rose from poverty to become a multimillionaire. But since Avi Gabbay, a former telecoms chief executive, emerged as the surprise victor of last month’s primary for the Zionist Union — formed after Labour merged with a smaller party — its sagging poll numbers have rebounded.
The 50-year-old is now pitching himself as a credible alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu, the rightwing prime minister, who opponents criticise for presiding over a country increasingly riven by disagreements over politics, religion and policies towards the Palestinians. “Israelis today are looking for someone who will unify them. It doesn’t matter if you are from the right side or the left side; people want to be unified again,” says Mr Gabbay in an interview with the Financial Times. “This is the opposite of what Netanyahu is doing.” He thinks his theory will be tested sooner rather than later.
The next election is scheduled for 2019. But with Mr Netanyahu increasingly tarnished by corruption probes, Mr Gabbay believes a vote could be held within a year, which would give him a chance of leading his party back to power. The prime minister has been named as a suspect in the probes but denies any wrongdoing Polls show the Zionist Union running either second or third behind Mr Netanyahu’s Likud, alongside Yesh Atid, a centrist party headed by former TV presenter and finance minister Yair Lapid. In Israel’s fragmented Knesset, Mr Gabbay estimates that his party would need 30 seats to win — a quarter of the total and the same number Likud holds. A victory of that scale would be a tall order for a party that has not headed a government since Ehud Barak’s stint as prime minister from 1999 to 2001. Likud and parties to its right have dominated Israeli politics since, winning over a critical mass of Israelis with hardline rhetoric on security issues. Before the last election in 2015, polls suggested the centre-left was set to win. But Mr Netanyahu turned the vote in his favour in the campaign’s final days with controversial remarks about Israeli Arabs voting “in droves” and dismissing the notion of creating a Palestinian state. These energised Likud’s political base.
Still, Mr Gabbay believes Israeli moderates can hold sway, adding that social media is amplifying the voices of the extremes. “The moderate people, who are the majority, don’t participate in these discussions [on social media], you don’t hear them, but they are the majority,” he says. “In Israel, more people than ever are participating less in this left-right discussion and [focusing] more on who is the leader, who will take care of us.” In a news cycle dominated by police probes into allegations that Mr Netanyahu received gifts from benefactors and sought a deal to garner favourable coverage from a leading newspaper, Mr Gabbay’s story has managed to surprise and disarm Israel’s often cynical urban elite. Mr Gabbay was raised in a family of 10 in a Jerusalem transit camp for Jewish immigrants, before being identified as a gifted child and tracked into elite schools. After working in the finance ministry he entered business, rising to head Bezeq, Israel’s biggest telecommunications group. In a party founded by Ashkenazi Jews of eastern European descent, he is only the second Labour leader of Middle Eastern Jewish background, representing a community whose members often face discrimination.
In his victory speech last month, Mr Gabbay coined a rhyming slogan picked up around Israel, when he promised “leadership that takes care of Dimona and not just of Amona” — referring to a working-class town in southern Israel and a West Bank settlement outpost whose fate recently monopolised political debate among the rightwing. He backs a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But also says he favours keeping Jerusalem unified “forever” and asserts that the city “cannot be capital of two states” — a view in keeping with the Israeli mainstream, but at odds with the Palestinian position.
Mr Gabbay entered politics before the last election, running in the centrist Kulanu party, then serving as environment minister when it joined Mr Netanyahu’s coalition in 2015. He quit last year after Mr Netanyahu installed Avigdor Lieberman, a hard right politician, as defence minister. If elected, he says he would set an eight-year term limit for prime ministers, a dig at Mr Netanyahu who will be Israel’s longest-serving leader if he survives his current term until 2019…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Differing Scenarios for a Post-Netanyahu Government: Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor, Aug. 9, 2017—The fact that Ari Harow has turned state witness against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constitutes a strategic milestone in the investigations against Netanyahu.
Bouncing Bibi?: Jim Fletcher, Breaking Israel News, Aug. 15, 2017—Lots of fears out there that corruption charges will topple Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, and even perhaps repeat the fate of former premier Ehud Olmert, who went to prison for similar things.
Is Ehud Barak on his Way Back to the Knesset?: David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Aug. 15, 2017—Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak may be preparing for a return to politics, four-and-a-half years after he stepped down as Defense Minister and left the Knesset, Israel Hayom reported on Tuesday.
Naftali Bennett's Fine Words: Jeff Barak, Jerusalem Post, August 27, 2017—Just in time for the start of the new school year, Education Minister Naftali Bennett laid down an important lesson in tolerance when he came to the defense of his lesbian spokesperson Brit Galor Perets earlier this month.