(September 23, 2022 / JNS) Caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid and his supporters in the media went berserk Tuesday after Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out against the gas deal the Biden administration is mediating between Israel and Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon.
Since Hezbollah launched two drones against Israel’s Karish gas platform in July, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly threatened to blow up Karish if Israel brings Karish online without first surrendering to Hezbollah-controlled Lebanon large swathes of sovereign Israeli land underneath Israel’s recognized maritime economic zone, including the Qana gas field.
Rather than stand with Israel against Hezbollah, the Biden administration is siding with Hezbollah—Iran’s Lebanese foreign legion against Israel. U.S. mediator Amos Hochstein has pressed Israel to surrender to most of Hezbollah’s outrageous demands. And Israel has folded to the combined U.S.-Hezbollah extortion. Lapid has agreed to give “Lebanon” the Qana field. Together with his partner in strategic collapse Defense Minister Benny Gantz, Lapid insists that with the Qana field, “Lebanon” will be economically saved and once that happens, the Hezbollah-controlled country will magically free itself from Hezbollah’s grip and sign a peace deal with Israel.
Netanyahu’s statement popped their balloon. Summarizing the negotiations to date, Netanyahu warned, “Lapid has entirely collapsed to Nasrallah’s threats. Nasrallah threatened him that if we operate the Karish platform before we sign a gas deal with Lebanon, he’ll attack Israel. Lapid got scared and didn’t bring Karish online.
“Now he plans to turn over to Lebanon, with no Israel control or oversight, a gas field valued at billions of dollars that Hezbollah will use to purchase thousands of missiles and rockets that will target Israel’s cities.”
Netanyahu was right, of course, and that is the problem for Lapid and Gantz. For months the media have hidden the dangers implicit in the deal, and sufficed with parroting government talking points. Lapid intended to avoid public scrutiny, ram the deal through before the Nov. 1 elections and declare himself a genius statesman. When Netanyahu exposed the bluff, Lapid threw a tantrum, accusing Netanyahu of harming Israel’s national interests by interfering with the talks.
The gas deal with Lebanon—and Netanyahu’s decision to tell the public the truth about the deal—is one of three Lapid-Gantz foreign policies that have come under the full gaze of the public this week. Together they highlight the disparity between the Lapid-Gantz foreign policy they will continue to enact if elected Nov. 1, and the foreign policy Netanyahu and the Likud enacted during their 12 years in office, and will restore if they form the government after the elections.
On Tuesday, Lapid let it be known that in his speech before the U.N. General Assembly, he would announce his support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. On the face of it, Lapid’s PLO advocacy makes no sense. There already is a de facto Palestinian state in Gaza. It is an Iranian-backed terror state which has waged five separate missile, rocket and terror campaigns against Israel since Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.
As for Judea and Samaria, the Palestinian Authority, which is supposedly the responsible adult of Palestinian governance, controls little of the territory it ostensibly governs. It uses its sparse resources to prosecute a legal, diplomatic and economic campaign against Israel and to facilitate and participate in terrorist operations by Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah against Jews.
To the extent U.S. funded Palestinian security forces take action against Hamas, they do so not to prevent terror attacks against Israel, but to prevent Hamas from taking over the P.A. Of course, the easiest way for Hamas to take over the P.A. would be through elections. Hamas has led P.A. head Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party in every poll since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006. This is why Abbas keeps cancelling scheduled elections, stretching his four-year term into its 16th year without end in sight. Abbas knows that any elections will oust him and his Fatah cronies from power.
Leaving aside the fact that Israel’s rights to Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem are far stronger than the Palestinians, the fact is that there is absolutely no prospect that a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem could possibly live at peace with Israel today or in the foreseeable future. So Lapid’s advocacy is at a minimum ill-timed and irrelevant.
But it is also devastating. In opting to advocate for the awarding the P.A. with a state, Lapid is legitimizing and empowering Israel’s enemies at Israel’s expense.
And Lapid isn’t alone. While Lapid does PR for a Palestinian terror state at the U.N., his partner Gantz is building one on the ground in Judea and Samaria. Over the past two years, Gantz has given the Palestinians and their European funders free rein to build illegal villages and seize agricultural land throughout Area C, which is administered entirely by Israel under the Oslo peace deals. Gantz has simultaneously barred Israelis from building in the areas and ordered the IDF to block all Israeli construction efforts. Thousands of acres of Area C, which were slated for Israeli settlement have been seized under Gantz’s watch by the Palestinians. These wholesale land seizures now threaten to turn flourishing blocs of Israeli communities like Gush Etzion into isolated enclaves.
Likewise, Gantz has been permitting Palestinian security forces to operate in areas where they are barred from operating under the peace agreements. He has even turned a blind eye to the illegal deployment of Canadian military forces in Area C. As Regavim documented last week, Canadian military forces which operate under the authority of the U.S. Security Coordinator in Jerusalem have been seen in uniform in Gush Etzion and the south Hebron hills harassing Israeli civilians and attempting to enter closed military zones. These operations are breaches of both Israeli and international law. But Gantz has been enabling them.
Gantz has renewed political contacts with Abbas and violated Israeli anti-terror laws by shoveling hundreds of millions of shekels into P.A. coffers. Gantz justifies his illegal policies by proclaiming them part of a strategy to “limit the conflict”—a euphemism for unilateral concessions to Palestinian terrorist groups.
For 10 years, Netanyahu worked quietly to render the P.A. irrelevant on the ground and in the region. This week, we marked the second anniversary of the Abraham Accords, the greatest demonstration of his success. Reached despite Palestinian opposition, the Abraham Accords showed that Israel does not need to appease Palestinian terrorists to end the Arab conflict with Israel. Through their Palestinian-centric policies, Gantz and Lapid not only legitimize Palestinian terrorists, by returning the Palestinians to center state, they undermine the Abraham Accords by forcing Israel’s Arab partners to stand with the Palestinians against Israel.
This brings us to the third disparity between the Lapid-Gantz foreign policy and the Netanyahu-Likud policies.
Most of Lapid and Gantz’s actions in the international arena are driven less by ideological commitments than by their desire to please the Biden administration. For the past 45 years, the main strategic and political concept that has guided Israel’s security brass and political left alike has been the conviction that Israel’s greatest strategic asset is good relations with the U.S. This concept has led both groups—which more often than not overlap—to value U.S. support over clear Israeli strategic interests. It is impossible to imagine, for instance, that Lapid and Gantz would rush to give Hezbollah the Qana gas field if the Biden administration weren’t applying massive and unrelenting pressure to capitulate to Nasrallah’s extortion. Until Biden came into office, Israeli military leaders were capable of recognizing that the Lebanese government, parliament and military are controlled by Hezbollah.
Likewise, since taking office, Biden and his advisors have applied continuous pressure on Lapid and Gantz to capitulate to every Palestinian demand; limit IDF counter-terror operations and cede massive quantities of land to the Palestinians by turning a blind eye to land theft and barring Israelis from defending and settling on state lands. Given this context, both Lapid’s speech at the U.N. and Gantz’s effective surrender of Judea and Samaria to the Palestinians are rightly see as capitulation to U.S. pressure.
The notion that Israel can forego steps necessary for its national survival in exchange for blind and helpless reliance on the U.S. was always problematic. It became downright dangerous during the Obama presidency and now during the Biden tenure because both administrations’ efforts to appease Iran place Israel at existential risk. For more than a year, Gantz and Lapid have papered over existential risks posed by the Biden administration’s nuclear appeasement of Iran in order to maintain their blind faith in the U.S. administration. But once the details of the deal came out over the past month, that policy became untenable. Israel’s belated efforts to influence the content of the agreement met with total failure; none of Israel’s demands was reflected in the “final” U.S. offer. Israel’s one salvation came in the form of Iranian foot-dragging, apparently the result of a U.S.-Iranian agreement to postpone concluding the nuclear pact until after the U.S. elections in November. Rather than revisit their policy of relying on the U.S. for Israel’s security in light of the devastating content of the deal, Lapid and Gantz have opted to pretend that the brief delay in closing the destructive deal is a testament to their influence on the administration.
This week, Lapid and Gantz’s efforts to pretend that all is well in Israel’s relations with the U.S.—thanks to their fantastic relations with the Biden administration—took another body blow as the media reported that the Biden administration vetoed Israel’s plan to sell Arrow-3 anti-missile systems to Germany. The proposed deal, valued at $3 billion is worth more than U.S. military assistance to Israel. Moreover, as David Wurmser from the Center for Security Policy points out, “The system in Germany was to be the anchor of an integrated structure that includes several other nations. That means the U.S. has in effect vetoed 3-5 sales, not one, which will cost Israel $12-15 billion.”
“It also devastates the affordability of the system for the IDF since it kills any economy of scale,” Wurmser added.
There are many possible explanations for Biden’s veto. It could be that he wants to block Israel and the E.U. from diminishing their dependence on the U.S. security umbrella or U.S.-produced weapons systems or simply freeze Israel out of the market he wants to keep for U.S. defense contractors. It’s possible that he wanted put the squeeze on Israel to force it to make concessions in another arena.
Whatever the explanation for Biden’s veto, the veto itself shows that Israel’s over-reliance on the U.S. is causing it massive strategic and economic damage. There is a difference between an alliance and a dependency. Israel is and has an interest in remaining a strong U.S. ally. But it has no interest in being a U.S. dependent. Lapid and Gantz refuse to recognize this because doing so would force them to scrap the appeasement and self-debasement that lie at the heart of the left’s foreign policy doctrine, and this they will not do.
For 12 years, under Netanyahu and the Likud, Israel pursued a foreign policy based not on dependence on the U.S. but on Israeli economic and military power. The results speak for themselves. The results of the Gantz-Lapid U.S.-reliant appeasement policies also speak for themselves. On Nov. 1, Israelis will decide which one they prefer.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.
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