Aaron Klein – a former radio talk show host, Jerusalem bureau chief for Breitbart News, New York Times bestselling author, Jewish Press columnist, and chief strategist for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest successful election campaign – is now the prime minister’s strategic adviser. This week, he gave The Jewish Press an exclusive interview about the latest developments in Israel.
JP: How did the Abraham Accords come about?
Klein: The Abraham Accords came about in large part because of something that many refer to as the Netanyahu Doctrine, which means peace through strength and peace in exchange for peace.
As early as the 1990s, Netanyahu posited that genuine peace with Arab nations would only be achieved by strengthening Israel as an economic and military powerhouse. Israel became just that under Netanyahu’s leadership.
Gulf nations watched Netanyahu’s heroic efforts to isolate the terror-supporting regime in Tehran, something he did at times alone while many other world leaders turned a blind eye to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. If it weren’t for Netanyahu, Iran probably would already have nuclear weapons.
A turning point was Netanyahu’s 2015 address to a joint session of Congress to warn against the dangerous Iran nuclear deal, a campaign that later helped contribute to President Trump removing the U.S. from the disastrous accord. Netanyahu also ordered the daring January 2018 Mossad raid on a secret Iranian facility, exposing the extent of Iran’s illicit nuclear project.
Netanyahu quietly and at times publically built relations with Arab nations, with those countries fully understanding that Israel is an anchor of stability in the Middle East and that normalization was in their interests on so many levels.
The Abraham Accords also came about because of President Trump’s leadership in the Middle East, especially game-changing decisions to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and affirm Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The Trump Peace Plan laid the foundations for peace by serving as the most realistic Middle East peace plan ever to be released.
Now Israel signed peace deals with the UAE and Bahrain and is formalizing a normalization deal with Sudan. Netanyahu has publically stated that there will be more such deals.
What do you think happens from here?
We’re already seeing the Abraham Accords bear the fruits of real peace. Every day we see on social media that there is real and warm peace with the UAE and Bahrain. Look at the pro-Israel content coming from those countries. It’s amazing.
The countries are already seeing the economic and political benefits. In the last two weeks alone, the UAE and Israel signed a pipeline agreement to bring oil to Europe and bypass the Suez Canal. Abu Dhabi filed official paperwork to open an embassy in Israel as soon as possible.
On the heels of the peace accords, Chevron signed a multibillion dollar deal to purchase the company that operates Israeli gas fields. A UAE cargo ship docked at an Israeli port. And the deals pave the way for more agreements on energy, technology, security and the fight against corona, among many other fields.
Sudan is a pretty big deal, too. A real U-turn. Sudan previously waged war on Israel, sending army companies in the 1948 war seeking to destroy the Jewish state. Sudan was also an important Iran ally and the center of weapons shipments to the terrorist enclave in Gaza.
Now Sudan normalizing with Israel massively isolates Iran, strengthens Israel’s security and even opens shorter and therefore cheaper flight paths for Israelis traveling to places like Brazil and India.
Some people claim these deals are also ideological game-changers.
I think they are – because they shatter the leftist myth that only through painful concessions, especially giving up territory, can Israel make peace. Any nation or entity that would ask for dangerous concessions from Israel doesn’t truly want peace.
These peace deals shift the tectonic plates because they show that the Palestinians no longer maintain a veto over peace. For decades the international community pressured Israel – the side that has proven time and again that they actually want realistic peace – while rewarding Palestinian intransience.
This moved the Palestinians to take even more extreme positions and make more delusional demands that would be suicidal for Israel. Arab nations are tired of waiting around for the Palestinians to come to reality so these Arab countries are acting in their own interests, something Netanyahu predicted would happen over a decade ago.
Earlier this year, many right-wing Jews were hoping Israel would apply full sovereignty over portions of the West Bank. That seems to have been put on hold. Why?
The Trump administration asked Israel to suspend the issue of sovereignty. Without U.S. backing it would have been irresponsible on so many fronts for Israel to unilaterally declare sovereignty.
I say this as someone who is an enormous advocate of Israel maintaining every inch of its Jewish communities in its ancient, historic homeland. As someone who put his life on the line to live for more than half a year as an embedded journalist and radio host in Gush Katif to report on the dangers of Israel’s impending 2005 withdrawal from that territory.
Meanwhile, we are witnessing historic peace deals between Israel and the Arab world that are advancing real regional peace and massively strengthening Israel’s positions.
Protecting Israel’s biblical Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is always a top priority for the prime minister. Did you get to watch the ceremony at Ariel University on Wednesday where Netanyahu celebrated the Trump administration’s move to open Judea and Samaria to academic, commercial and scientific engagement with the United State? It was quite important.
Don’t forget it was Netanyahu who made sovereignty an issue both domestically and internationally and this alone is a major victory. The reason we are talking about sovereignty right now is because of Netanyahu.
He shifted the conversation away from the world talking for decades about which communities Israel needs to evacuate from Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley or eastern Jerusalem to instead a debate for months about which communities Israel might declare sovereignty over.
More people are understanding the ridiculousness of Israel being expected to uproot Jews from their homeland and ethnically cleanse areas of Jews in the name of so-called peace. The mere notion of such an apartheid policy is within itself antithetical to peace.
The U.S. administration’s Peace to Prosperity plan also recognizes this reality and doesn’t call on Israel to evacuate territory to make peace.
Considering that the coronavirus has returned in Israel and that the shutdowns have caused mass havoc, was it a mistake in retrospect to have closed so early and so severely? Might Israel have benefited by acting more like Sweden, which did not shut down on the theory that there’s no defeating the virus, only finding ways of living with it?
I’m not an epidemiologist and am not personally medically qualified to assess the issue of herd immunity. The Israeli government works with the top medical experts when formulating its approach to fighting corona.
Israel goes beyond other nations when it comes to protecting the lives of its own people and is famous for going to great lengths to secure the bodies of Israeli soldiers, as we’ve previously seen. The Torah sanctifies life and finds every single life to be precious and invaluable.
Many lives would have been lost if the Prime Minister didn’t shut down the country the first time and the second lockdown saved many more lives since infection rates were rising quickly, with hospitals warning of a pending overload.
Israel is now emerging with low infection numbers as many European cities are going into second lockdowns or imposing heavy restrictions. Some U.S. states are also seeing a huge surge. The Western world is facing a massive second wave as Israel is past the second lockdown. Some districts in the world now going into lockdown are about the same size as Israel. The second wave came to Israel a bit before Europe and the U.S. because Israel under Netanyahu was one of the first countries to close and was therefore also one of the first to open up.
Weren’t mistakes made, though?
Of course mistakes were made here just like they were made around the world. Coronavirus is new to everyone and some of this begins with trial and error. We’ve never experienced such a plague in our lifetime and there’s no perfect blueprint to follow.
Netanyahu recognized that he opened big venues like wedding halls too early. He also had to contend with populous politicians who voted down restrictions simply to score cheap political points. And like the rest of the world, not everyone here always keep the rules of mask wearing, social distancing or limits on gatherings.
Netanyahu rightly recognized that without health there can be no healthy economy. He also took decisions that helped to secure the Israeli economy during the global pandemic. Israel’s GDP loss is half that of much of Europe. Israeli tax revenues show the economy was bouncing back.
Obviously following the second lockdown more needs to be done to help those in financial need. There are already existing loan, grant and unemployment programs available and Netanyahu is working with the government to bring more plans as necessary.
A major reason Israel is in position to help its citizens with these plans and navigate this pandemic financially is because Netanyahu helped bring Israel to new economic heights before the pandemic. And he will do so again.
By the way, I was in Netanyahu’s office when news of initial infections first emerged from China in early January and he immediately recognized that this was going to become a worldwide pandemic. He was way ahead of the game. Netanyahu was one of the first world leaders to ban entry from impacted countries and he was among the first to quarantine all international travel. Then he was also among the first to impose a national lockdown.
Some Netanyahu supporters see him like Trump supporters see the president here in America: the subject of a leftist and media witch hunt. Do you think he is?
If it looks like a witch-hunt, swims like a witch-hunt and quacks like a witch-hunt then it is probably a witch-hunt.
Legal scholars agree the cases themselves are unprecedented in international law. Never before has a politician been charged with “bribery” for a few none negative news articles. Politicians try all the time to get positive press. By this absurd standard, they are saying positive coverage of a politician in the media is a crime.
What else are we talking about here? Receiving cigars and Champaign from a friend who visited? Come on.
Let’s just look at some recent revelations. And bear with me for a little bit as we get a drop into the weeds. But I think these details didn’t get much exposure in the English media and they are important in understanding what’s happening.
You have reports of witnesses changing their testimony under intimidation and dirty tricks being used by police investigators against witnesses. Amazingly, the specifics of some of these alleged dirty tricks were inexplicably placed under gag order even though there is enormous public value in airing the details in the news media.
If these tricks were deployed by investigators in any case in America, the case would be immediately tossed out. Israel, however, allows for the “fruit of the poisonous tree” doctrine, which permits the use of materials obtained by illicit means.
A few weeks ago, Amit Segal, the respected reporter for Channel 12, Israel’s largest television network, revealed more evidence showing the cases against Netanyahu were politicized and problematic from the beginning.
Segal’s report exposed documentary evidence indicating that State Attorney Shai Nitzan, an opponent of oppose Netanyahu, seemingly acted through the lens of wanting to target Netanyahu when Nitzan approached another high profile case.
An email documents Nitzan as allegedly burying police misconduct that he himself admitted was “outrageous” in a case in which an Arab Israeli may have been wrongly accused of terrorism. Nitzan wrote that highlighting police investigatory problems in the matter “will only do good to those who want our harm” – that is, Netanyahu.
Many Israelis were shocked by a follow up in which Channel 12 aired a recording of Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, who infamously charged Netanyahu in all three cases, saying in his own words that Shai Nitzan “wants to have me by the throat” by failing to clear Mandelblit of wrongdoing in an open case against the attorney general that the public largely didn’t even know existed and that Nitzan purportedly refused to close.
So Mandelblit was caught in a recording with a close confidante revealing that he personally felt that Nitzan had him “by the throat.”
For some here, the Mandelblit recordings poured fuel on claims circulating on social media for months that Mandelblit was being extorted by Nitzan to bring the charges against Netanyahu.
I personally heard from Israelis who are uber-lefties who said that these recent revelations, especially the Mandelblit recording, prompted them to rethink the cases against the prime minister.
There are so many other problems with the cases that are too voluminous to detail unless you want this interview to go on forever. Just one other revelation then I’ll stop. Channel 12 reported the State Attorney Office hid for a year and a half that a senior investigator in Netanyahu’s case was is in intimate contact with a woman fervently opposed to Netanyahu. Sort of reminds me of the James Comey FBI’s Lisa Page and Peter Strzok.
Then it turned out the State Attorney’s Office itself said that this investigator was not allowed to access Netanyahu’s case files yet they reportedly allowed him to be a senior investigator in one of the cases and removed him from the investigatory unit only after this was exposed in the media.
How does Netanyahu see the cases? Does he think he did anything wrong? You mentioned Strzok and Page. Do you see the Netanyahu cases like the claims against Trump?
The cases do remind me personally of the Russia hoax that deceptively targeted President Trump. As your readers may remember, I was one of the main reporters who investigated and exposed the Russia hoax as a political witch-hunt so for me the analogy is particularly apt.
Of course Netanyahu sees the tainted cases for what they sure seem to be — an attempt to depose a strong rightwing leader whom the left couldn’t get rid of in repeated elections or through numerous failed protest movements.
I point out that after Mandelblit indicted Netanyahu, the prime minister faced an election where the cases against him were the main issue for the opposition. Netanyahu won with unprecedented voter turnout for the Likud in the last election — the Likud under his leadership received more votes than at any point in the party’s history. This was a resounding vote of confidence in the prime minister and his leadership and a glaring vote of no confident against the witch hunt and those who brought these allegations against him.
Like Trump, Netanyahu is reported to work non-stop almost the entire day. Is that characterization correct? If yes, how does he do it, day in, day out, for 11 years straight?
Eleven years? Ha. He’s been doing this in one form or another for decades.
It is hard to believe what I am about to tell you unless you personally witness the super human phenomenon that is Prime Minister Netanyahu but he works virtually every waking minute from when he wakes up in the morning until he goes to bed, which I’ve never seen him do before Midnight.
Even when he’s sleeping he can be awakened by the “red phone” if there are security emergencies, like attacks from Gaza. I’ve been around him for about one year now and have never seen him stop — not once!
His personal philosophy is that when it comes to securing the Jewish state not a minute can be wasted.
He even eats many of his meals – usually in under three minutes – while he’s on the phone working or during work meetings. When he gets into his car, he goes straight to the phone and has work calls during the entire drive.
Even on his birthday last week, Netanyahu worked nearly the entire day with the exception of about an hour to celebrate privately with his family.
Those fringe anti-Netanyahu activists who claim that he spends most of his time on personal affairs ought to be utterly ashamed of themselves. He spends virtually all waking hours working tirelessly for the state of Israel with hardly any time for himself. And he works to this level without complaining about it. In fact, he’s honored to serve the Jewish nation.
These days he’s working on security, diplomacy, coronavirus management plans and reopening strategy while keeping the infection rate low. He’s working on financial aid packages for citizens, furthering peace accords with the Arab world and dealing with the constant stream of urgent matters that come up when running the state of Israel.
He’s using his diplomatic connections to ensure that Israel gets to the front of the line for viable coronavirus vaccines and treatments. And he transitions from one issue to the next without taking breaks.
Israel is one of the most complex countries to run and there is no one else who can lead it quite like Netanyahu does. I say that not only because of his work ethic and leadership capabilities. But especially because of his intellect and education.
Look at just some of what he’s accomplished. Historic peace deals that change the entire paradigm of Mideast peace. A crippling sanctions regime on Iran. Years of actions that probably stopped Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Diplomacy that led to President Trump’s historic recognitions and actions that we spoke about earlier.
Making Israel into an economic powerhouse. A road and infrastructure initiative that modernized Israel’s roadway system. Natural gas exploration, even when other politicians claimed it was hopeless, leading to game-changing discoveries and Israel’s increased energy independence. And his Netanyahu’s successful protection of Israel from regional enemies.
If he does nothing else as of today, Netanyahu will already go down as one of the greatest Jewish leaders of all time.
You were a major reporter for Breitbart and the host of a radio show in New York City for many years. What led you to leave these influential positions to become a strategic adviser for Netanyahu? Where do you see yourself heading after this?
When it comes to my job, I always have the same goal of seeking the most impactful platform to bring light into the world and fight the forces of darkness. I’m enormously appreciative of Prime Minister Netanyahu for giving me this opportunity to work with him to directly strengthen and defend the Jewish state especially during this historic period when Iran is finding itself more isolated then ever.
I haven’t put energy into to what I want to do next. I barely found the time to do this interview due to our insane schedule. But whatever I do next it will need to further the same goal of strengthening Western civilization, whether in the U.S. or in Israel or – even better – both.
Regardless of what I do next, I would very much like to separately also return to the U.S. talk radio airwaves with a Sunday radio show. I miss my radio audience and have heard from the radio networks that they will make space for the return of my show when I am ready. I would even do the Sunday show now from Jerusalem while working for Netanyahu were it not for the nonstop schedule here which simply doesn’t allow for that. I also miss the Jewish Press audience and I’m sure we will continue to connect just like we are right now.