Photo Credit: Kobi Gideon (GPO)
PM Netanyahu banned his DM Yoav Gallant from visiting Washington. It worked.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan on Thursday announced his plan to visit Saudi Arabia on Saturday to repair Washington’s ties with Riyadh, Reuters reported. Speaking at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Sullivan said his other agenda is to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. “Ultimately, getting to full normalization is a declared national security interest of the United States. We have been clear about that,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said that a meeting between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in the works, and there would be an announcement when the time is right.


On Wednesday, News12 reported that Netanyahu forbade Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to fly to Washington for talks with Pentagon and White House officials, ostensibly because President Biden had humiliated the PM publicly when he announced there would be no White House visit for him any time soon. Biden made the impromptu announcement on the tarmac, between flights, responding to a reporter’s question one day after US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides reassured Israeli reporters the visit was happening very soon.

It turns out Netanyahu’s gambit was successful, and the grownups in the Oval Office with Biden (I know, it’s funny to call people next to the octogenarian president “grownups”) are trying to mend the broken relationship.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Israel, January 19, 2023. / U.S. Embassy Jerusalem

Sullivan told his audience that when he was talking to National Security Chief Tzachi Hanegbi in Jerusalem recently, Netanyahu walked in and joined the conversation, suggesting there was nothing wrong with the relationship between the two countries.

Journalist Ben Kaspit, a sworn enemy of Netanyahu’s who was reportedly involved in the initiation of the police investigation against the PM, where Kaspit walked a tightrope between journalist and police informant, celebrated on Friday in his Maariv column: “The fact that the Prime Minister of Israel does not allow his Defense Minister to go to critical meetings on security matters in Washington proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the claim that the man is unfit for his position.”

No, it doesn’t. Kaspit, who authored a scathing biography of Netanyahu, knows very well that the PM is a gifted chess player who thinks several moves ahead and is thoroughly familiar with this administration which is almost a copy & paste version of the Obama administration with which he dealt eight years. And the proof is in the pudding: threatening to sever communications between Israel’s security apparatus and the Pentagon made an impression, and the impulsive statement of a sometimes delirious president does not foreign policy make.

Admiral John Kirby told the White House press on Thursday that Sullivan’s keynote address at the Washington Institute’s Annual Conference would outline the administration’s approach to the Middle East region, “including how diplomacy and deterrence is fostering a more secure, stable, prosperous region that’s interconnected with the world.”

That’s more wishful thinking than thinking, of course. An inevitable part of the US withdrawal of its military from the Middle East has been the hectic response of the Saudis and the Gulf States in search of protection from the Iranian threat. They found it in China, which brokered a peace settlement between the rich oil producers and the Islamic Republic that until moments earlier dedicated its resources to destroying them. The axis of evil of China-Russia-Iran has been resurrected and the US is out of the game.

Sullivan declared he was going to undo all this damage this coming Shabbat, adding, “Now as a sign of my seriousness about how much we’re focused on this, and how seriously we are taking this, I am not going to say anything further lest I upset the efforts we are undertaking on this issue.”

A magician never reveals his secrets.

But Sullivan did say the United States still seeks a diplomatic solution to Iran’s nuclear program: “Yes, we will take the necessary action to ensure that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon,” he declared.

You know, Iran has a 900-kilometer border with Pakistan, which in May 1998 declared it had successfully detonated five nuclear devices in the Ros Koh Hills of Balochistan, and a sixth device two days later at a site 100 km to the southwest. Iran doesn’t have to develop its own nuclear bomb, it can have one delivered.

Sullivan was not concerned. “At the end of the day, that is the fundamental test – Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon. They do not today and they cannot have one,” he said.

As usual, being an ally of the US is like playing baseball with the rich kid next door who owns the ball, the mitts, the bats, everything, and is a little, you know, touched in the head. As soon as the Democrats have taken the White House, they went about ruining the age-old ties with the Saudis, over the 2018 murder by Saudi agents of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And they compounded this by accelerating their withdrawal of troops from the region––not as catastrophically as the shameful retreat from Kabul, but close.

But this Shabbat, Jake Sullivan will do his best to rudder the ship. Here’s one ray of hope: Sullivan said that his meetings in Saudi Arabia would include representatives from India and the United Arab Emirates, to discuss “new areas of cooperation between New Delhi and the Gulf as well as the United States and the rest of the region.”

I don’t know about you, but when I hear “India” in the context of the Iranian threat, I think “Pakistan.” If there’s a chance for an axis of good in the Middle East, it must include India, Saudi Arabia, and, you know, the Jews.


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