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OpinionU.S.-Israel Relations

Netanyahu: Israel’s indispensable statesman

The Likud leader has developed and deepened Israel’s bilateral ties with dozens of nations worldwide on the basis of shared economic and strategic interests.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the annual Jerusalem Conference of the "Besheva" group in Jerusalem, on March 14, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the annual Jerusalem Conference of the "Besheva" group in Jerusalem, on March 14, 2021. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Caroline B. Glick
Caroline B. Glick is the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate and host of the “Caroline Glick Show” on JNS. She is also the diplomatic commentator for Israel’s Channel 14, as well as a columnist for Newsweek. Glick is the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy in Washington and a lecturer at Israel’s College of Statesmanship.

Over the past decade, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu transformed Israel’s international position. When faced with unrelenting pressure from the most hostile U.S. administration in the history of Israel-U.S. ties, Netanyahu refused to kowtow to Barack Obama. Instead, he leveraged his decision to defy hostile U.S. policies in relation to Iran and the Palestinians to develop strategic ties with Arab states that like Israel were betrayed by Obama’s support for Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

More broadly, whereas Israel’s foreign policy had long been based on the notion that its ties with foreign nations were based on ideological affinity, Netanyahu recognized that shared interests were just as important if not more important than ideology in the international arena. Netanyahu initiated and implemented a wildly successful, peripatetic diplomatic offensive to develop and deepen Israel’s bilateral ties with dozens of nations worldwide on the basis of shared economic and strategic interests. In short order, Israel’s per capita GDP surpassed Japan’s as Israel’s global trade expanded worldwide.

In 2013, Obama’s pro-Iranian bent rendered the United States paralyzed to act as Iran’s Syrian proxy Bashar Assad began massacring the Syrian people. Recognizing the opportunity created by the vacuum in U.S. leadership, Russian President Vladimir Putin deployed Russian forces to Syria for the first time since 1982 to protect Assad’s regime. Russia’s arrival presented Israel with the prospect of losing its air supremacy for the first time in 31 years.

Responding to the danger, Netanyahu flew to Russia for a lightning meeting with Putin. Over the course of the next several months, and several summits, Netanyahu was able to reach an agreement with the Russian leader that enabled Israel to continue its missions in Syria against Iranian targets and missile shipments to Hezbollah.

Netanyahu’s actions were a diplomatic triumph of epic proportions. Not only has Israel been able to achieve its tactical and strategic goals in Syria, but it has also been able to operate in Syria for nearly a decade without being pulled into the civil war there. Moreover, the agreements Netanyahu reached with Putin set the course of cooperative ties between Moscow and Jerusalem on a host of issues, including the return of the remains and personal effects of IDF soldier Zechariah Baumel that had been held in Syria since 1982.

Due to these diplomatic efforts, when Donald Trump entered office in 2017, he and his advisers were greeted by a Middle East where Israel was a regional power that worked closely with several key Arab states to contain Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. Netanyahu quickly developed an intimate relationship with the new U.S. leader, built on trust and mutual support.

Those ties enabled Israel to maximize the benefits of having a friend in the White House. Those benefits—including the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, Trump’s decision to transfer the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, U.S. recognition of the legality of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and of Israel’s rights to sovereignty in Judea and Samaria fortified Israel’s position as a regional power and an attractive ally and partner for states worldwide. Israel’s reinforced position also paved the way to the formalization of Israel’s ties with several Arab states through the Abraham Accords.

Little mention has been made of international affairs during the course of the election campaign that will come to a close on Tuesday. This is unfortunate because in the coming months and years, Israel will face strategic and diplomatic challenges more complex and fraught with danger than it has faced in the past.

Last week, UAE daily The National published the content of an internal State Department document that describes the policies the Biden administration intends to adopt towards Israel and the Palestinians.

Titled, “The US-Palestinian Reset and the Path Forward,” the memo was written by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr. Amr has a long history of hostility towards Israel and support for Palestinian terrorism. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, Amr alleged that those attacks were the consequence of U.S. support for Israel.

“We [Americans] shouldn’t be shocked when our military assistance to Israel and our [U.N.] Security Council vetoes that keep on protecting Israel come back to haunt us,” he wrote.

Amr, who has accused Israel of apartheid, has frequently advocated for U.S. engagement with the Hamas terrorist group and for a three-way deal between Hamas, Israel and the PLO.

According to The National‘s report, the new administration intends to cancel the Trump administration’s policy regarding Israeli exports to the U.S. That policy determined that exports from Area C of Judea and Samaria, which are under full Israeli control, will be marked as “Made in Israel.”

The new administration intends to reinstate U.S. financial support for UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority and will pressure Israel to permit Jerusalemites to vote in the Palestinian elections. It will undertake to reopen the U.S.’s diplomatic mission to the P.A. The memo also makes clear that the Biden administration will reinstate the Obama administration’s policy of pressuring Israel to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines “with mutually agreed land swaps and agreements on security and refugees.”

As to the Abraham Accords, despite the memo’s deliberately vague diplomatic language, it is clear that the Biden administration intends to subvert the accords in a way that will indirectly reinstate the PLO’s veto over Arab-Israeli ties.

The contents of the memo, as described in The National report, are not surprising to anyone who paid attention to statements made throughout the 2020 presidential campaign and since by President Joe Biden and his advisers. But the report does make clear the magnitude of the challenge Israel will face in managing and maintaining its alliance with the United States in the coming years.

This challenge grew even more daunting last Wednesday and Thursday as Biden torpedoed U.S.-Russian relations by calling Putin a “murderer” and threatening him; and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan got into an ugly public fight with their Chinese counterparts on live television.

The need to steer Israel’s ship of state between a hostile ally and two rival superpowers with whom Israel enjoys relatively reasonable if limited ties may well be the most difficult challenge facing Israel’s prime minister in the coming years.

On Tuesday, as Israelis go to the polls, they should pause a moment and ask themselves, “Which candidate is most capable of competently protecting Israel in the regional and international arenas in the coming years?” The answer isn’t hard to ascertain.

Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

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