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2017: Israel’s Year of Diplomatic Triumph

Jan. 29 2018

From West Africa to Australia and from France to Colombia, the Jewish state has managed over the past year to improve its ties with friendly nations and forge new bonds with countries that had once been hostile, or at least chilly. Benjamin Netanyahu’s official visit to India, and American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are but the most recent such developments. To Eran Lerman, the example of Singapore is especially instructive:

In the past, the robust relationship between Israel and Singapore was formed by the security sector and was predominantly conducted in secret. (IDF officers, under the guise of “Mexican instructors,” were involved in building the small island nation’s ability to defend itself since its earliest days). Israel’s President Chaim Herzog’s visit in 1986 nearly sparked a military confrontation between Singapore and its Muslim neighbor Malaysia. Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin’s visit in 1993 was abrupt and unofficial.

[By contrast], the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s participation in the [2015] funeral of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew—one of the greatest statesmen of the previous century—raised no objections. In April of 2016, Lee Hsien Loong (his son, who today serves as prime minister) came to Israel for a visit that was the first of its kind. He even publicly addressed the issue of security assistance and the depth of the ties between the two countries. This new and overt stage in the relations between the two countries manifested itself by the time Netanyahu made his reciprocal visit.

Lerman explains what he sees as the reasons for the recent diplomatic moves, and their limitations:

The emerging transformation of attitudes toward Israel is founded, first and foremost, on an ever-widening recognition of the nature and severity of the common strategic challenge which totalitarian Islamism poses to many of the world’s countries. Along with this comes the growing appreciation of the benefits offered by a closer partnership with Israel in a variety of fields, including security and economics, innovation, and technology.

It is also easier to associate with Israel today due to Israel’s prudent management of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel’s strategy of measured and low-key response to Palestinian provocations is proving to be a wise, long-term strategic approach. . . .

Of course, Israel’s diplomatic hardships are not yet a thing of the past. Israel’s positions on the Palestinian issue and on the future of Jerusalem have not been well received in Europe, including by close allies like Germany. The automatic majority against Israel in the UN General Assembly, even if it has been reduced, still exists. Russia’s policy in Syria and its close ties to Iran are troubling. The BDS movement is still active, and has scored occasional successes.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Terrorism

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen