web analytics
October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Bibi’

Shiloh Musings: Bibi and Obama Do Not Have to Like Each Other

Sunday, September 25th, 2016

One of the big differences between the Israeli and American forms of government is that an American President is limited to two elected terms, eight years, while an Israeli Prime Minister can hold the office indefinitely, for decades even. Though nobody has been PM for that long. The longest serving David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, like Netanyahu, did not serve all terms consecutively. Click here for a list.

From what it has been said in the news over the years, and the grimaces caught by cameras, United States President Barack Hussein Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Bibi Netanyahu have never really gotten along. The glowing smiles that Obama always has plastered on his face when meeting Arabs are never seen when he’s meeting with Bibi. His speechwriters always prepare him with friendly, funny quips to trade with Bibi, who is well-known for his quick mind and on target ad libs. But Bibi, who in some ways can be considered even “more American” than Obama, has never found a common language and comfortable demeanor with the present POTUS.

They are not going to have to put up with each other much longer. Soon there will be a new American President, and Obama will be able to spend time with whomever he wants. No doubt, that’s the reason for the smiles and jovial mood of last week’s meeting between the two.

Batya Medad

What If Bibi Jabbed Obama at the UN But No One Noticed?

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

No one in the Israeli media or abroad seems to have noticed, and if they did they are yet to elaborate on the fact that in the midst of his optimistic speech before the UN General Assembly in NY, about the stellar future of Israel, and while he was inviting the global community to benefit from Israel’s amazing technological and other gifts, Prime Minister Netanyahu also delivered a shot across the bow of both the UN Security Council and, despite all his flourish of gratitude for the man, at President Obama, too.

Here’s what the prime minister said, verbatim, about 1,200 words into his Thursday’s speech:

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished delegates from so many lands,

“I have one message for you today: Lay down your arms.

“The war against Israel at the UN is over. Perhaps some of you don’t know it yet, but I am confident that one day in the not too distant future you will also get the message from your president or from your prime minister informing you that the war against Israel at the United Nations has ended.

“Yes, I know, there might be a storm before the calm. I know there is talk about ganging up on Israel at the UN later this year. Given its history of hostility towards Israel, does anyone really believe that Israel will let the UN determine our security and our vital national interests?

“We will not accept any attempt by the UN to dictate terms to Israel. The road to peace runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah, not through New York.”

Everything Netanyahu has been doing over the past month or so, most notably his concession to a degraded US military aid package that could hamper Israel’s future ability to both use some of the aid money for its own industry and to appeal to a friendly US Congress for additional funds, were out of his concern for an Obama Administration November surprise.

Since the summer of 2015, the rumor mill has churned an alarming note regarding the outgoing president’s plan to take down Bibi at the final round, after the Nov. 8 vote will have been cast. Once the Democratic Party no longer needed the Jewish and pro-Israel Christian vote, regardless of who was elected, the US envoy at the UN Samantha Power would either vote in favor of a UNSC resolution on a Palestinian State in all of Judea and Samaria, or merely abstain, which would be tantamount to giving it its full support. Indeed, as Netanyahu stressed in his Thursday speech, “the only time that the United States cast a UN Security Council veto during the Obama presidency was against an anti-Israel resolution in 2011.”

There is no valid US vote other than a veto on an anti-Israel resolution, in the context of a healthy alliance between the US and Israel. On Thursday, Netanyahu made it loud and clear: if the UNSC imposes such a vote on Israel, without an American veto, Israel will disregard it.

Here’s an idea one can only raise in a rightwing Jewish publication such as The JewishPress.com: What if the fact that no one has noticed Netanyahu’s unveiled threat is because they were not expecting it? At least not as a full, frontal, in-your-face challenge? Maybe the entire speech was too “messianic” for anyone to grasp the fact that the PM was foretelling a new world order, the biblical kind? I’ll explain.

The Haftora this week is Isaiah 60, 1-22. Of the entire cycle of Isaiah prophecies of comfort Jews recite on the Shabbat days between the 9th of Av and Rosh Hashanah, this one is probably the least mystical. It does not promise any harmony between lambs and lions; instead it describes a scene astonishingly reminiscent of Netanyahu’s speech at the UN Assembly Thursday.

This chapter in Isaiah reads almost like a newspaper account of Israel’s economic, technological and diplomatic rise. It very well could be published as an actual report, with a few textual changes — taking out the camels laden with goods is recommended, for instance — that could be the leading article of some major publication on Rosh Hashanah 5778, when we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Zionist miracle.

Here is a selection of verses, there are 22 altogether — can you see these verses as headlines for current articles?

3: TECHNOLOGY: And nations will walk by your light, and kings by the brightness of your rising.

4. DEMOGRAPHIC GROWTH: Lift up your eyes round about, and see: They all are gathered together, and come to you; Your sons come from far, And your daughters are carried on their mothers’ side.

5. NATURAL GAS: Then you will see and be radiant, And your heart will throb and expand; Because the abundance of the sea will be given to you, The wealth of the nations will come to you.

6. FOREIGN INVESTMENTS: The caravans of camels will cover you, And of the young camels of Midian and Ephah, All coming from Sheba; They will bring gold and incense, And will proclaim the praises of God.

9. MASSIVE ALIYA: Surely the islands will wait for Me, And the ships of Tarshish first, To bring your sons from far, Their silver and their gold with them, For the name of the Lord your God, And for the Holy One of Israel, because He has glorified you.

11. POLITICAL PROMINENCE: Your gates also will be open continually, Day and night, they will not be shut; That men may bring to you the wealth of the nations, And their kings in procession.

12. SECURITY: Because a nation and kingdom that will not serve you will perish; Yes, those nations will be utterly wasted.

Is that a cool prophecy, or what? Obviously, the running theme through the prophecy is the fact that it’s all being done strictly because God wants it this way. He signed several covenants to this effect and now He’s starting the implementation. So, obviously, we’ll need to behave ourselves, that whole love your fellow Jew thing.

Enjoy your Shabbat…

David Israel

INTO THE FRAY: Ethnic Cleansing—Why Bibi was Quite Right…and Dangerously Wrong

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

…the Palestinian leadership actually demands a Palestinian state with one precondition: no Jews! There’s a phrase for that. It’s called ethnic cleansing. And this demand is outrageous. What is even more outrageous is that the world doesn’t find this outrageous. Some otherwise enlightened countries even promote this outrage. – Benjamin Netanyahu, September 9, 2016

Late last Friday, the Prime Minister’s office—for no immediately obvious reason—released a video, in which Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the frequently raised demand by the Palestinians, that any future state of theirs must be devoid of Jews, as “Ethnic Cleansing”.

Incandescent response

The video produced an incandescent response from the Obama administration. Thus, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau berated Netanyahu in a Washington press conference last Friday. Disapprovingly, she proclaimed: “We obviously strongly disagree with the characterization that those who oppose settlement activity or view it as an obstacle to peace are somehow calling for ethnic cleansing of Jews from the West Bank,” She added tartly: “We believe that using that type of terminology is inappropriate and unhelpful.” “Strongly disagree”, “inappropriate”, “unhelpful” is about as barbed and caustic as formal niceties of protocol allow diplomatic rebukes to get—especially when the target of the censure is, allegedly, a close ally.

Trudeau then went on to catalogue a long list of so-called Israeli “transgressions”, denouncing “ongoing settlement activity [a]s an obstacle to peace”—as if that had any bearing on Netanyahu’s decrying Palestinian demands to purge Jews from existing settlements. Calling “on both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to the two-state solution” she lamented: “We have repeatedly expressed our strong concerns that trends on the ground continue to move in the opposite direction”…

Then, reading from an obviously pre-prepared document, she launched into a tirade, castigating Israel for building “thousands of [housing]units for Israelis in the West Bank”; seizing “West bank land for exclusive Israeli use; a dramatic escalation of demolitions of…Palestinian structures, displacing more than 1000 Palestinians”—conveniently omitting that the bulk of these demolitions were of structures initiated and

funded by the EU, with the express purpose of flaunting Israeli authority and provoking Israeli response.

Alluding to nefarious Israeli intent, Trudeau added darkly: “…this does raise real questions about Israel’s long-term intentions in the West Bank.”

Outrageous and outlandish

But the US wrath was not only outrageous; it was equally outlandish. Indeed, it did not even address the point that Netanyahu raised—and for which he was being so severely admonished.

After all, whatever one might believe regarding the legality of the Jewish communities in Judea-Samaria (pejoratively, known as “settlements”), or the prudence of their ongoing expansion, this is a totally separate issue from the admissibility of the presence of Jews within the frontiers of any future Palestinian entity.

This is particularly true because not only is the legality of the Jewish communities a matter hotly debated by an array of prominent jurists and legal experts, but Trudeau herself states: “Settlements are a final status issue that must be resolved in negotiations between the parties.”

And it is here that Netanyahu has put his finger precisely on the point: For it is the Palestinians’ clearly stated position on this “final status issue” that the presence of Jews is so odious and objectionable that any future peace agreement is feasible only if Palestinian-controlled territory is totally purged of them.

Purposely conflating & obfuscating two separate issues

Thus, in its wrathful response to Netanyahu’s video, the Administration is purposely conflating—and obfuscating—two entirely separate issues:

(a) Undisguised and un-denied Palestinian demands for Judeophobic ethnic cleansing; and

(b) The legal status and political significance of existing Jewish communities..

Accordingly, Netanyahu was being bitterly rebuked for what he didn’t refer to (i.e. the status of the “settlements”), while what he did refer to (i.e. Palestinian Judeophobic demands) was not even addressed! This was hardly an inadvertent oversight on the part of the State Department—as Anne Bayefsky deftly points out in her “All Jews out of Palestine is not a peace plan”, (September 14, 2016). She argues that the reason for the “sudden [US] histrionics” is that “the charge of ethnic cleansing directed against Palestinians is the quintessential inconvenient truth.”

And indeed it is!

For to acknowledge the blatant Judeophobic—indeed, Judeocidal—impulses that characterize Palestinian society, and reflect themselves in their pervasive presence throughout all walks of Palestinian life, is to critically undermine the rationale of the two-state doctrine. After all, this is a doctrine that aims at creating a reality of two-states, living harmoniously side-by-side in peace and prosperity. Clearly, it makes little sense to strive for such a reality if the enmity of one side is so profound and abiding that it cannot tolerate the presence of the other side’s citizens within its frontiers.

From the silly to the surreal

Thus, by raising the issue of Palestinian Judeophobic bigotry, Netanyahu’s video has induced public scrutiny of Palestinian society—something two-state advocates are understandably reluctant to do. For, indeed, the spectacle is not an encouraging one—hardly conducive to their vision of a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Hence the anger it has aroused.

The vehement responses the video elicited ranged from the silly, through the surreal, to the sinister. The mainstream media quickly rallied around the Bibi-bashing banner.

Thus, the LA Times headline blazoned: “U.S. slams Netanyahu after he equates opposition to Israeli settlements with ‘ethnic cleansing’”—which of course he didn’t. What he did was to equate the demand to remove all Jews from any prospective Palestinian state with ethnic cleansing – which of course it is.

Then, there was the particularly disturbing and disappointing op-ed by the national-director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jonathan Greenblatt, who took Netanyahu to task for invoking the term “ethnic cleansing”. He conceded that “Israel has many legitimate concerns about Palestinian policies and behavior, not the least of which is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s rash accusations that Israel commits acts of genocide and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.”

“However” he complained, “the charge that the Palestinians seek ‘ethnic cleansing’ of settlers is just not one of them.” But of course it is—unless you can think of another term for the coercive purge of a group of people because of their collective identity…

“Haaretz” unhinged

The Netanyahu video unleased a maelstrom of almost apoplectic radical Left-wing ire. This expressed itself in an unsurprising kneejerk display of “groupthink” in “Haaretz”, which, ironically, once advertised itself as the “paper for people who think”. It ran a frenzied anti-Bibi spate of largely similar and repetitive news reports and opinion pieces in rapid succession. The list of titles is instructive in itself:

“U.S. Slams Netanyahu’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Video, Calling It ‘Inappropriate and Unhelpful’” (Barak Ravid, Sept. 10); “Netanyahu Accused of Twisting History in ‘Ethnic

Cleansing’ Video (Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, Sept. 10); “ Netanyahu’s Claim of ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Sets a Guinness Record for Chutzpah” (Chemi Shalev Sept. 10); “Yes, Netanyahu, Let’s Talk About Ethnic Cleansing (Gideon Levy, Sept. 11); “Netanyahu’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Video Pushes Obama Closer to UN Security Council (Barak Ravid, Sept.11); “The Real Message Behind Netanyahu’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Speech” (Yitzhak Laor ,Sept. 13); Where’s the outrage over Trump campaign’s shocking statement on ‘ethnic cleansing’? (Asher Schechter , Sept. 13); “Trump Would Be Proud of Netanyahu’s anti-Palestinian Ethnic Cleansing Canard” (Peter Beinart, Sep 14); “Netanyahu’s ‘Ethnic Cleansing’ Video Is Leading Us Down the Road to Masada Redux” (Nehemia Shtrasler Sept. 13).

All these portend the gloom and doom that will befall Israel because Netanyahu had the temerity to designate the demand to expel the members of a community from their homes because of their group affiliation, as “bigotry”—which it undeniably is!

Caveat: Them ain’t Us

But not all the criticism against Netanyahu is without merit. Several critics took him to task for drawing a potential parallel between Israel’s Arab minority within pre-1967 lines and the Jewish communities located in Judea-Samaria. He raised the possibility that this could serve as a model for a peaceful future.

While this might be an enticing scenario to entertain in some parallel universe, where the Palestinian-Arabs are very different to those in this one, in the realities of today, and those likely to prevail in any policy-relevant future, it is a recipe for gory disaster.

Little imagination is required to envision the gruesome fate of any Jewish enclave inside Palestinian-Arab territory and subject to Palestinian-Arab authority—especially if there was no territorial contiguity with sovereign Israel. Indeed, according to far-left Peter Beinart, even the ultra-concessionary Tzipi Livni balked at the idea of abandoning Jews inside areas controlled by the Palestinians. Now, although Beinart is not my preferred source of reference, he does raise a valid point in his previously cited Haaretz piece. He recalls talks that took place in 2008, in which the theoretical possibility of leaving Jewish communities within Palestinian territory was raised. Beinart notes that although these “discussions were speculative…the clear implication [was] that Israeli negotiators had a bigger problem with Jews remaining in a Palestinian state than did their Palestinian counterparts.”

And therein lies the perilous pitfall entailed in Israel disapprovingly brandishing the issue of allegedly implacable Palestinian demands for ethnic cleansing of Jews from any territory transferred to their control. For, quite apart from the fact that transferring/abandoning Jews living under Jewish authority to live under alien sovereignty is the very antithesis of the Zionist ethos, there is another more immediate impediment: While non-Jewish minorities may well flourish in

Israel, Jewish minorities in “Palestine” are very likely to be massacred. For the bitter truth is: Them ain’t us.

The limits of gimmicks

Regrettably, for anyone who nominally endorses the Palestinian-Arabs claim to statehood, flaunting their ostensible demand for the “ethnic cleansing” is a gimmick of limited efficacy—for at least two reasons:

(a) If the Palestinians are indeed seen as an authentic national entity, then their demand to national independence cannot be conditioned on the form of government they choose to institute. It certainly cannot be made dependent on it having a tolerant, open society –just as this is not invoked to negate the sovereignty of an array of brutal tyrannies across the globe—whether Iran, Saudi Arabia or North Korea to name but a few. Strangely enough, I find myself in agreement with Beinart, when he states that “potential future misdeeds do not justify holding a people as non-citizens under foreign control”.

(b) It is far from certain that the Palestinians will continue insisting on purging all the Jewish residents in the territories to be transferred to their control. Indeed, they may well agree to it, even as a temporary tactic. Thus, corroborating Beinart’s earlier remark, Elias Zananiri, vice-chairman of the PLO Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society, writes in his “Netanyahu’s ‘ethnic cleansing’ gimmick” (Sept. 13): “In the Annapolis peace conference in November 2007, the Palestinian side expressed readiness in principle to host those settlers who would choose to stay where they live in the West Bank. Of course, these settlers would live under Palestinian sovereignty and law.”

Clearly, if the Palestinian-Arabs were to drop their demand for having a “Judenrein” state but demanded that any non-Palestinian resident accept these conditions, with expulsion now no longer a demand, Israel would have with little reason to object.

Gimmicks are not policy

Thus, raising the issue of Palestinian Judeophobic bigotry is an effective measure only if it is invoked to permanently deny, not temporarily delay, Palestinian statehood. While gimmicks may well be effective in promoting policy, they are not a substitute for policy. For Israel, such policy must be the total dis-creditation, de-construction and de-legitimization of the Palestinian narrative and the resultant claim for statehood. In so far as the exposure of the scope and scale of the Palestinian Judeophobic bigotry can be used to promote this policy, it should be utilized.

Using it for other short term, tactical purposes, is liable to be a dangerous double-edged sword.

Dr. Martin Sherman

Shiloh Musings: Bibi: Selling Soul and Country to the Devil!

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

I’m just sick over the fact that our Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, didn’t have the guts and faith to hold out on the so-called aid, sic offered by American lame duck President Barack Hussein Obama.

This “package” is poison for the Israeli economy, particularly our military industries. A sovereign leader always has a choice. By accepting the many stringed offer, Netanyahu is showing weakness.

Republican senator: Israel made a mistake signing security deal
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who oversees the U.S. foreign aid budget, opined on Friday that Israel made a mistake by signing a new $38 billion security agreement with the Obama administration, The Associated Press reported.
Graham said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu could have gotten a better deal if he had waited until President Barack Obama left office.
He stated that there is ample support in Congress among Republicans and Democrats for providing Israel with more military aid. And a new U.S. president, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, would be more generous too, he said on a conference call arranged by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.

I don’t know how we can get out of it… sigh….

Batya Medad

Analysis: Bennett Defending Bibi from Barak While Bibi Tells Buji He’ll Dump Bennett if Buji Pulls a Barak

Friday, August 26th, 2016

A week ago, former Prime Minister Ehud Barak took to the podium at a V15-affiliated Darkenu conference and blamed current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of everything that’s gone wrong in Israel since the onset of Zionist settlement circa 1878, and then accused Netanyahu of “another incident” that showed a “worrying mix of an inability to judge deep security interests” regarding “cooperation with the United States,” with “careless operational behavior” that has caused “most worrisome exposure of Israel to a major security challenge.”

Israeli media and political experts spent the past week trying to figure out what in God’s good name Bibi’s former defense minister was talking about. Barak, meanwhile, refused an offer by Chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee MK Avi Dichter (Likud)—whom Barak appointed head of Shabbak years ago—and wouldn’t share what ghastly national security failure of Netanyahu’s he had in mind. And so Barak, without a care in the world, went back to his private businesses, of which he has many at home and abroad, satisfied that the world still remembers his name.

Much like MK Dichter, Education Minister and Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett also decided to check up on Barak’s nebulous accusations. And so, Ma’ariv reported Friday, he went and talked to people in the know and reached the conclusion that it was absolutely nothing. “Nada, simply a Barak invention, there’s no security story here,” Bennett told his close circle of friends and advisors.

And to put his political capital where his mouth is, Bennett suggested Barak be summoned to a hearing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee — a move committee chairman Dichter might still consider.

While all this fiendish dancing in his honor was going on, Netanyahu found time to meet twice with Zionist Camp chairman Isaac “Buji” Herzog, according to a Channel 2 News report, once on Monday and another time on Thursday last week, in Caesarea, in the home across the street from the Netanyahus’ villa, where movie mogul Leon Edery (movie mogul Moshe Edery’s brother) resides. Each meeting lasted two hours, and was devoted to the topic of Buji joining Bibi’s coalition after Bibi fires his Habayit Hayehudi ministers Bennett, Shaked and Ariel.

Herzog denied the news with all his might, but only managed to convince two of his closest party loyalists. Everyone else was stunned to hear their leader was back for more humiliation, after having been treated like a dog (Labour MK Shelly Yachimovich’s choice of metaphor) by Bibi only to leverage Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu) into joining the government.

Yachimovich, who lost two leadership bids to Herzog, tweeted bitterly that she lives in the wrong city, she should move to Caesarea where all the goodies seem to be given away. She and many in Labor are seriously worried now that their hapless leader, who has just won himself an extra year at the party’s helm without an election, might be plotting a Barak move, which he would justify in the name of peace and brotherhood and his party members would probably give it its rightful name: treason.

A Barak refers to the betrayal by Labor chairman Ehud Barak, whose party suffered one of its worst defeats back in 2009, dropping from 19 to 13 seats and becoming, for the first time in its history, the fourth largest Knesset faction. Barak declared that the will of the voter was for Labor to remain in the opposition that term, then he went and struck a deal with the new prime minister, Netanyahu, who made him his defense minister. This did not go so well with the rest of the party, and so in early January 2011, Barak and four other Labor MKs left their Knesset faction and created a new party, Atzmaut. Those four MKs, whom no one remembers, paid with their political lives for Barak’s additional time in government. Before the 2013 elections Barak decided he had had enough of politics and closed down his new party.


Bibi the Strategist

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

{Originally posted to the Commentary Magazine website}

n June, the Israeli journalist Amir Tibon wrote an article for Politico detailing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s long-standing and bitter fights with Israel’s defense leaders. Former IDF chiefs of staff and spymasters described Netanyahu as messianic, driven by personal calculations, and incapable of protecting Israel’s interests. His former defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, said the prime minister’s conduct had caused him to lose faith in Netanyahu, and ex- Shin Bet Chief Yuval Diskin said he “represents six years of constant failures.” Bibi-bashing of this sort is neither new nor limited to Israel. Diskin’s remarks echoed the charges of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who wrote in his 2014 memoir, Duty, that under Netanyahu “Israel’s strategic situation is worsening, its own actions contributing to its isolation.” Gates claimed that the Jewish state was acting “strategically stupid” as it pursued tactical gains. “Time,” he concluded, “is not on Israel’s side.”

Messianism and stupidity are as bad a combination as one could find in a nation’s leader. What, then, might Diskin and Gates have made of the accord Netanyahu reached with Turkey right around the time the Politico piece appeared? Six years after Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Israel and took to obsessively condemning the Jewish state, Netanyahu got Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to drop his key demands and agree to resume full diplomatic relations with Israel. That victory for Netanyahu’s statecraft is one example of many that highlight an enduring contradiction between his reputation for ineptitude and his record of achievement. And considering what Israel is up against, almost any foreign-policy success would be noteworthy.

Since Netanyahu regained the premiership in 2009, Israel has faced a multitude of challenges—from Turkey’s hostile turn, to Iran’s nuclear program, to Hamas’s cross-border tunnels, to rocket attacks on civilians, to a rash of terrorist knifings and automobile attacks. Any one of them would try the sharpest strategic thinkers. What’s more, Egypt and Syria both collapsed into turmoil during his time in office. The civil war in Syria turned Israel’s quietest border into an ungoverned zone filled by rival jihadist groups. The fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt meant that a Muslim Brotherhood government temporarily bordered the Gaza Strip and could give aid to its Palestinian faction, Hamas. And while Egypt’s current leader, Abdel-Fattah Al-Sissi has since fought Hamas aggressively, the Sinai Peninsula has become an ungoverned home to terrorists who pledge allegiance to ISIS.

Then there’s the United States. With the election of Barack Obama, America’s approach to the Middle East changed in drastic ways. Determined to build bridges to the Muslim world, Obama saw Israeli settlements as the central obstacle to peace with the Palestinians. Thus, he instituted a policy of maintaining “daylight” between Washington and Jerusalem in hopes of wearing down Israel’s supposed obstinacy on settlements. To make matters worse, Obama and his advisers evinced a strong animus against Netanyahu that only escalated as time progressed. 

Washington scaled back its influence at the same moment that Sunni–Shia, tribal, and ethnic battles began gutting Arab states. Iran capitalized on the resulting power vacuum to expand its reach in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and beyond. As for Iran’s nuclear program, Obama and the Islamic Republic entered into the P5+1 Joint Plan of Action. What’s become known simply as “the Iran deal” has both enriched and rehabilitated the regime while leaving its nuclear program largely intact and free from serious scrutiny.

How has Netanyahu handled this dizzying constellation of threats? Although far from perfect, he has shown himself to be a careful thinker, a leader whose reading of complex situations has allowed him to outmaneuver adversaries and protect Israel’s interests. The growing threat from Hamas and the dangers of a rising Iran have not abated. But in reviewing Netanyahu’s actions as prime minister, we emerge with a list of improbable foreign-policy accomplishments of which most world leaders would be proud.

The Border with Syria

Problems generated by the Syrian civil war have exploded outward in every direction. To name a few: Refugees have spilled over into Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, and Europe. Terrorist groups inside Syria, especially ISIS, pose a strategic threat to Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. Additionally, ISIS continues to carry out major terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe.

Yet Israel, on Syria’s western border, remains effectively out of the fray.

Although Syria was long an enemy of Israel, its collapse posed a major strategic challenge for Israeli leaders. Before Syria spiraled out of control, Israel had hoped for (and repeatedly tried to attain) a peace agreement with Damascus. With the Syrian state in chaos, this was no longer even a remote possibility. And with ISIS taking the lead in the fight against Assad, it was clear that Israel couldn’t support either side. In any event, Israel had to deal with more immediate threats emerging from the meltdown. Some of the terrorist groups fighting Assad—including the Al-Nusra Front and the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade—had gained a foothold along Israel’s Golan Heights border with Syria.

There were (and are) still more complicating factors. Mortar fire from the conflict occasionally strays into Israel. Druze residents of the Israeli Golan Heights maintain close ties to family members and other co-religionists on the Syrian side and have vowed to take action if jihadist groups threaten Syrian Druze. And Hezbollah and Iran have tried to take advantage of the chaos to open a new front against Israel in the Golan.

Through it all, Israel has stayed safe. Netanyahu has been quietly shaping the situation to protect his country’s interests. Israel has reached a stable—and officially unconfirmed—understanding with rebel groups on its border. These groups, including some jihadist factions, know they don’t have to protect their western flank from Israel. In return, they refrain from attacking Israel and keep others from doing so as well. In coordination with IDF forces on the border, rebel groups hand over wounded fighters and civilians to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Israel has also transferred aid to these groups, but it is unclear if this goes beyond food and medicine. There is likely intelligence sharing as well.

Israel is also involved in protecting threatened Druze communities in Syria. “The State of Israel is acting on behalf of the Syrian Druze. These matters are being carried out quietly, and without publicity,” said Israeli Druze lawmaker Ayoub Kara in 2015. It’s not known whether this assistance includes a military component.

When Russian forces entered the fight in September 2015 in support of Assad, new difficulties arose. While Turkey made an enemy out of Putin by downing a Russian plane that had strayed toward its airspace, Israel refrained from firing on the two occasions Russian jets flew over Israel. Top-level Israeli military and political leaders coordinate with their Russian counterparts to make sure Israel and Russia don’t fire on each other.

Notably, however, Netanyahu has failed to convince the Russians to keep advanced missiles out of Hezbollah hands. Hezbollah and Iran are doing all they can to strengthen their posture against Israel while Syria bleeds. The advanced Russian weapons given to Hezbollah include anti-tank missiles, ground-to-ground rockets, and radar systems. Though Israel has not been able to stop Russian shipments to Iran and Syria, it has been bombing weapons convoys heading into Lebanon without inviting reprisals from Hezbollah, Syria, or Iran.

Israel’s air force also interfered with Hezbollah’s plan to threaten Israel from the Golan Heights. On January 18, 2015, Israeli jets struck a convoy moving through the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, killing six Hezbollah men and an Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps general. One of the Hezbollah dead was the son of senior member Imad Mughniyeh. The convoy was reportedly part of a joint Iran/Hezbollah effort to develop a new unit that would kidnap Israelis, fire rockets, and attack soldiers. But Hezbollah made do with one attack on an IDF vehicle, killing an officer and a soldier. While Hezbollah continued to talk tough, that was the extent of its response.


In May 2010, Israel committed what seemed to be a catastrophic blunder. As part of a campaign to weaken Israel’s blockade on Gaza, a Turkish NGO organized a flotilla in hopes of either reaching the coastal strip or forcing Israel into an embarrassing mistake. IDF naval commandoes succeeded in stopping the flotilla. But a group of activists on one ship, the Mavi Marmara, set upon the soldiers with stockpiled knives and pipes. In the ensuing struggle, nine Turkish activists were killed and ten Israeli commandoes wounded. World reaction came down hard. British Prime Minister David Cameron’s condemnation was emblematic: “Let me be clear: the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was completely unacceptable.”

Relations with Turkey, already tense, deteriorated. Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador and recalled its own. It threatened to deploy its navy to accompany future flotillas and to prevent Israeli “exploitation” of natural gas in the Mediterranean. Both sides flexed their muscles, with Israeli jets allegedly approaching Turkish naval forces and Turkish ships sailing provocatively close to Israeli waters.

Yet after the Mavi Marmara incident, the flotilla problem, expected to get worse, dissipated. Under Netanyahu, Israel used diplomacy, espionage, and appeals to international law to nullify the threat. When the NGO organized another flotilla in 2011, it never got out of port. Israel managed to create deep and broad international opposition to the campaign. Parties ranging from the UN and the Middle East Quartet to France and Canada came out against the planned voyage. Even Turkey’s foreign minister said that organizers should reconsider their plans. The Obama administration reportedly tried to convince Turkey to stop the flotilla in exchange for a Middle East peace conference hosted by Ankara.

Other measures also had an effect. Some of the vessels were damaged in port (Israel denied involvement). The Greek government, in whose ports most of the ships were docked, forbade the ships from leaving. Some boats tested the ban and were arrested by Greek authorities. Israeli NGOs waged legal war against the flotilla, warning insurance companies that they could be held responsible for terrorist attacks involving any cargo carried by the ships.

Israel easily intercepted the one vessel that managed to sail toward its waters, with no violence or international opprobrium. A subsequent flotilla attempt in 2015 was also intercepted by Israel with no cost in blood or diplomatic standing. Israel even prepared flyers for the participants that read: “Perhaps you meant to sail somewhere else nearby—Syria, where Assad’s regime is massacring his people every day, with the support of the murderous Iranian regime.” Through it all, Israel never backed down from its red lines, showing that Jerusalem would enforce the blockade.

Netanyahu has since developed a strategic partnership with Turkey’s rivals, Greece and Cyprus. The relationship has led to massive Israeli and Cypriot natural-gas discoveries. A proposed “East Med Pipeline” would link Israel, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy, and the Bulgarian government has also thrown in its support. Not insignificantly, the project would bypass Turkey, foiling its ambitions to become the natural-gas hub for Europe. The rebalance has also produced fruitful military partnerships. In 2013, Israel’s air force joined its American, Greek, and Italian counterparts in Israel’s largest-ever multinational air-war training maneuvers. Cancelled joint maneuvers between Israel and Turkey were quickly replaced by exercises between the American, Israeli, and Hellenic navies. Cyprus joined in search-and rescue-exercises in 2014.

Netanyahu, however, always kept the restoration of ties with Turkey as a strategic goal. In 2013, Obama arranged a telephone call between Netanyahu and Erdogan. The Israeli PM apologized “for any errors that could have led to loss of life” in the Mavi Marmara raid. The two leaders came to terms on compensation. Erdogan walked back comments criticizing Israel and agreed not to prosecute Israeli officials for their part in the incident. And Netanyahu won on his major strategic concern: The Gaza blockade would remain firmly in place.

Ultimately a bumbling Turkey, not Israel, would become isolated. In 2016, Turkish officials looking for a new source of natural gas in the wake of tensions with Russia sat down to talks with the Israelis. On June 29, Israel approved the reconciliation agreement. Israel agreed to pay $20 million to the families of those killed on the Mavi Marmara. The renewed ties have weathered their first challenge, as Erdogan passed on an opportunity to implicate Israel in the recent failed coup in Turkey.

Not surprisingly, Netanyahu received bitter criticism about the deal. “Netanyahu cares for Gaza and not for our soldiers,” said Zahava Shaul, whose son Oron was killed in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, his body still held by Hamas. “Netanyahu has not kept his promises.” He had a particularly rough time with politicians on his right. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the deal would have “bad consequences.” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said the deal harms Israel’s resilience and national honor.

Netanyahu, knowing such attacks would come, maintained that it was in Israel’s strategic interest to resume ties with a powerful Muslim state from a position of strength. He took the long view and never wavered.

Sunni Neighbors

Despite the conflagrations in the region, Israel’s ties with Sunni Arab states have generally grown stronger with Netanyahu in office. Shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and growing strength have paved the way for quiet but effective cooperation.

In Saudi Arabia, Iran’s most potent Arab foe, Israel sees a counterweight. Jerusalem has therefore offered greater leeway to the Saudis on various defense and strategic matters. In 2011, Israel gave the green light to Germany for the sale of Leopard 2 tanks to Riyadh. And when Egypt wanted to hand over the strategic Red Sea islands of Tiran and the Sanafir Islands to Saudi Arabia, Israel registered no objection, noting that it had received written assurances from Riyadh that its freedom of passage would be guaranteed. In July, a retired Saudi general and ex-government adviser visited Israel publicly and met with Knesset members and senior Foreign Ministry officials.

Israel’s relations with Sissi’s Egypt have similarly grown warmer, after the brief but dangerous rule of Mohammed Morsi. Israel’s Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan has in fact called recent intelligence cooperation between the two countries “unprecedented.” In 2011 and 2013, Netanyahu assented to an increase in Egyptian troops in the Sinai to combat jihadist forces. When Egyptian jets violated Israeli airspace in 2015, defense officials dismissed it as “minor.” For the first time ever, Egypt voted for Israel at the UN, supporting its membership in a committee on outer space. Cairo returned its envoy to Israel in February 2016, filling a vacancy that had lingered since 2012 when an Israeli airstrike killed top Hamas commander Ahmed Jabari at the outset of Operation Pillar of Defense. In July 2016, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry came to Israel for a rare and cordial public visit and even watched the Euro soccer final with Netanyahu.

Israel’s security and economic relationship with its eastern neighbor, Jordan, has continued on relatively sure footing. In December 2015, the two countries unveiled an $800 million plan to build a canal to save the Dead Sea. A month earlier, Israel’s Interior Ministry initiated a program to bring 1,500 Jordanian citizens to work in hotels in Eilat. Israel’s gas finds have also led to economic cooperation. In April 2015, Netanyahu approved a 15-year, $500 million natural-gas deal with Jordan, though lawmakers in Amman are working to get the deal cancelled.

Israeli and Jordanian pilots trained together over Alaska during a military exercise in the summer of 2015. Israel also gave Jordanian military 16 Cobra helicopters to help in its fight against the Islamic State. And the two countries maintain close intelligence ties, especially regarding terrorist groups in Syria.

It’s worth noting that in late 2015, Israel announced plans to open a diplomatic office in a renewable-energy agency in the United Arab Emirates, Israel’s first diplomatic presence in the Persian Gulf region since 2000.


In July 2016, Netanyahu returned from a resoundingly successful tour of Africa. The trip highlighted growing relationships that had previously passed below the media radar. Netanyahu walked away from the trip with real accomplishments. Ethiopia and Kenya publicly supported restoring Israel’s observer status at the African Union, which had ended in 2002. Muslim-majority Guinea renewed ties with Israel that had been suspended since 1967. Finally, Tanzania said it planned to open an embassy in Israel.

In strengthening these ties, Netanyahu sees an opportunity to gain allies and shatter the Palestinians’ automatic majority in international fora. “It might take a decade, but we will change the automatic majority against Israel. That’s something that has never been possible in the past,” he said. A lofty goal, perhaps even too ambitious, but it shows his interest in original solutions in dealing with the Palestinians.


A long-term peace deal with the Palestinians is simply not in the offing. Until Palestinian leadership has more to gain from recognizing Israel’s right to exist than it does from claiming victimhood, a lasting peaceful solution is a dream. Thus the problem remains unsolved, with all that entails: rockets, terrorism, lawfare, and international condemnation.

On the other hand, since the Israeli victory in the Second Intifada, Palestinians outside of Gaza have not been able to threaten the State of Israel in any serious way. Periodic outbreaks of violence (some recently in the West Bank) inevitably lead commentators to warn that the third intifada has arrived, but these episodes fail to gain widespread support. Nor do the attacks change anything for the Palestinians. As ghastly as all the attacks are, they are strategically ineffective.

The Palestinian Authority’s major effort against Israel has taken place in international bodies, and while this causes headaches, it has failed to change anything on the ground. Initiatives hailed as game changers have raised expectations without much to show for it. The Palestinian plan to gain full recognition as a UN member state, for example, ran into opposition from Western leaders, and stalled. PA President Mahmoud Abbas succeeded in gaining recognition only as a non-member observer state. The “diplomatic tsunami” Israel was supposed to face never materialized.

The PA continues to try to get a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Israel withdraw from the West Bank, but the United States has proven reliable in threatening a veto. In December 2014, when a vote came up, two of the 15 UNSC members voted no and another five abstained—preempting a U.S. veto entirely. Abbas’s UN speech in September 2015, in which he promised to drop a “bombshell,” contained nothing of the sort. As usual, he warned that the Palestinians would withdraw from agreements with Israel and declared that Palestine was a state under occupation. In April of that year, the PA made good on its threat to join the International Criminal Court, but even Palestinians understood there would be no action against Israel. “I don’t want to disappoint our people, but the ICC procedures are slow and long and might face lots of obstacles and challenges and might take years,” said PA Foreign Minister Riad Malki. In the meantime, Abbas’s approval plummeted; it reached 16 percent in 2015.

Palestinians have lost faith in their national movement. Young Palestinians who attack Israelis “are battling … the growing Palestinian realization that their national movement has no answers, no narrative or political vision that offers a way forward to better days,” writes the Times of Israel’s Haviv Rettig Gur. “These young killers are striving, in their kamikaze fervor, to rekindle the idea among Palestinians that straightforward victory remains possible, if only because the alternative—the possibility that Israel cannot be dislodged, that the nostalgic vision of an undivided, unfettered Palestine cannot be reclaimed—is simply too monstrous to accept.”

But in Gaza, the menace of Hamas continues to grow even in the face of Israeli operations meant to damage the group and restore deterrence. The organization’s willingness to fight Israel every few years shows that Israel has not been able to deter it for long. What’s more, Hamas comes back improved in every round. It has developed the Nuhba Force, several thousand strong, to carry out raids through tunnel networks into Israeli territory. In 2014, Hamas forces killed 66 soldiers during Operation Protective Edge. It even managed to shut down international traffic into Ben Gurion Airport for a day. The range of Hamas’s rockets is expanding, and now it’s able to threaten Tel Aviv and Jerusalem almost at will.


Hamas isn’t the only threat that Netanyahu has failed to stymie. Despite years of effort, he was powerless to prevent the P5+1 powers from concluding an Iranian nuclear deal in 2015. Netanyahu was the most vocal world leader opposing the deal, and he was willing to let the already cold relationship with Obama get worse as he pressed his case. He made a series of high-profile speeches condemning the deal, including a controversial March 2015 address to a joint meeting in Congress, against the wishes of the White House and most of the Democratic Party. It was all to no avail.

There were some bright spots in the campaign against Iran. Somebody—many think the Israelis—orchestrated a series of assassinations against Iranian nuclear scientists. The Stuxnet computer virus, allegedly jointly developed by Israel and the United States, wreaked havoc on Iranian computers at the Natanz uranium facility in 2009 and 2010.

Yet, the dangerous deal is now a reality. Since it was reached, Iran has enjoyed the release of billions of dollars in frozen assets, encouraged by the United States. America is even buying millions of dollars’ worth of heavy water from Iran. The country’s nuclear program remains a threat.

With two major exceptions, Hamas and Iran, Israel has been on a successful foreign-policy streak under Netanyahu. How has it managed to navigate flotillas, wars on its borders, tensions with powerful former allies, and terrorist threats? For one, its leadership has shown patience—something not traditionally seen as an Israeli strength. Decision-makers have not run after solutions that aren’t there. They have been comfortable letting situations emerge, showing a confidence that policy will be flexible enough to change with events. Netanyahu didn’t panic over Erdogan’s newfound hostility. He was willing to suffer insults while keeping the door open for Turkey’s return. And when the time came, Netanyahu showed diplomatic finesse.

Netanyahu has also managed to analyze complex situations and determine the country’s interests. Israel wisely chose not to pick a side between Assad and the rebels. The willingness to risk working with rebel groups on its borders and provide humanitarian aid served the country well.

At the same time, Israeli policy has been firm. Netanyahu was willing to strike deep inside Syria and Lebanon to keep weapons out of Hezbollah’s hands. Rebel groups on the Golan know that if they begin attacking Israel, they will face a painful response.

What, then, about Hamas and Iran? What do these problems tell us about Netanyahu’s decisions? Though often portrayed as a warmonger, Netanyahu is extremely cautious around military campaigns. Netanyahu, recall, did whatever he could to avoid a ground incursion in Gaza in 2012. After eight days of bombing, he made significant concessions to Hamas in order to end the flare-up instead of deploying ground troops. He also sought repeated cease-fires before ordering a ground invasion in 2014. And despite massive support for an expanded push into Gaza, Netanyahu made do with a limited incursion to deal with Hamas’s tunnel network. If anything, his approach to Hamas reveals an excess of caution, not zealousness.

In dealing with Hamas, he has also shown some of the other traits mentioned above—patience, for example. The Palestinian Authority isn’t coming back any time soon, and Hamas is an entity Israel knows how to pressure. Remove Hamas and you would get the chaos of rival Islamist groups. Whether this approach is wise remains debatable. Israelis are frustrated by the lack of clear victories in Gaza. And allowing the problem to fester has made the threat worse. But, still, Netanyahu has not sought to invent a solution that doesn’t exist. Israel has maintained its blockade and even strengthened it with Egyptian support.

On Iran, Netanyahu unquestionably failed to achieve his desired outcome. Again, perhaps he was too cautious about taking action to disable Iran’s nuclear program. In any event, Obama was determined to reach a deal. So why did Netanyahu come to Washington and criticize Obama’s unstoppable policy before the U.S. Congress? As critics have noted, the speech risked alienating Democrats and damaged whatever trust remained between him and Obama. But from Netanyahu’s perspective, the vocal effort against the nuclear deal cost him little that wasn’t already lost. He angered congressional Democrats who weren’t well-disposed to him in the first place, and Obama had already decided that Netanyahu was part of the problem.

Netanyahu’s campaign against the Iran deal did reap some benefits. He showed Israelis he was willing to stand up to Obama, whom they came to see as insensitive to their concerns. Millions of Americans saw him on TV eloquently making his case in front of hundreds of applauding congressmen. And he gained credibility among Sunni Arab partners who were equally concerned about Iran’s nuclear program.

Like any leader, Netanyahu makes some decisions for domestic political gain and some for reasons that are hard to discern at all. But critics fail to appreciate the complexity of the challenges facing Israel, and how it is forced to quickly adapt to changes that render existing assumptions meaningless. Under Netanyahu, Israel has managed to stay out of wars that sucked others in, improve its diplomatic position while isolating rivals, remain flexible on policies but firm on red lines, and keep its residents safe. In the Middle East, and increasingly beyond, these are no small accomplishments.

Lazar Berman

Bibi at the Bolshoi [photos]

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with his wife Sara and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia, June 7, 2016.

Bibi Putin Sara at the Bolshoi Theatre

Bibi Putin Sara at the Bolshoi Theatre

Bibi Putin Sara at the Bolshoi Theatre

Photo of the Day

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/photos/bibi-at-the-bolshoi-photos/2016/06/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: