Benjamin Netanyahu, Master Strategist?

Aug. 19 2016

White House aides, left-leaning journalists, former American officials, and even some former Israeli officials have condemned Netanyahu as an ineffective leader lacking strategic vision. Yet he has stayed in office longer than any prime minister since David Ben-Gurion, successfully accomplished a reconciliation with Turkey, fostered diplomatic relations with countries from Japan to Guinea—and even with nearby Sunni Arab states—and kept Israel out of the Syrian civil war and the Syrian civil war out of Israel. Lazar Berman makes the case for the prime minister’s strategic genius:

With two major exceptions, Hamas and Iran, Israel has been on a successful foreign-policy streak under Netanyahu. How has it managed to navigate flotillas, wars on its borders, tensions with powerful former allies, and terrorist threats? For one thing, its leadership has shown patience—something not traditionally seen as an Israeli strength. Decision-makers have not run after solutions that aren’t there. They have been comfortable letting situations emerge, showing a confidence that policy will be flexible enough to change with events. Netanyahu didn’t panic over [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s newfound hostility. He was willing to suffer insults while keeping the door open for Turkey’s return. And when the time came, Netanyahu showed diplomatic finesse. . . .

What, then, about Hamas and Iran? What do these problems tell us about Netanyahu’s decisions? Though often portrayed as a warmonger, Netanyahu is extremely cautious around military campaigns. Netanyahu, recall, did whatever he could to avoid a ground incursion in Gaza in 2012. After eight days of bombing, he made significant concessions to Hamas in order to end the flare-up instead of deploying ground troops. He also sought repeated ceasefires before ordering a ground invasion in 2014. And despite massive support for an expanded push into Gaza, Netanyahu made do with a limited incursion to deal with Hamas’s tunnel network. If anything, his approach to Hamas reveals an excess of caution, not zealousness.

In dealing with Hamas, he has also shown some of the other traits mentioned above—patience, for example. The Palestinian Authority isn’t coming back any time soon, and Hamas is an entity Israel knows how to pressure. Remove Hamas and you would get the chaos of rival Islamist groups. Whether this approach is wise remains debatable. Israelis are frustrated by the lack of clear victories in Gaza. And allowing the problem to fester has made the threat worse. But, still, Netanyahu has not sought to invent a solution that doesn’t exist.

Read more at Commentary

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Israeli grand strategy, Turkey

In the Aftermath of a Deadly Attack, President Sisi Should Visit Israel

On June 3, an Egyptian policeman crossed the border into Israel and killed three soldiers. Jonathan Schanzer and Natalie Ecanow urge President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to respond by visiting the Jewish state as a show of goodwill:

Such a dramatic gesture is not without precedent: in 1997, a Jordanian soldier opened fire on a group of Israeli schoolgirls visiting the “Isle of Peace,” a parcel of farmland previously under Israeli jurisdiction that Jordan leased back to Israel as part of the Oslo peace process. In a remarkable display of humanity, King Hussein of Jordan, who had only three years earlier signed a peace agreement with Israel, traveled to the Jewish state to mourn with the families of the seven girls who died in the massacre.

That massacre unfolded as a diplomatic cold front descended on Jerusalem and Amman. . . . Yet a week later, Hussein flipped the script. “I feel as if I have lost a child of my own,” Hussein lamented. He told the parents of one of the victims that the tragedy “affects us all as members of one family.”

While security cooperation [between Cairo and Jerusalem] remains strong, the bilateral relationship is still rather frosty outside the military domain. True normalization between the two nations is elusive. A survey in 2021 found that only 8 percent of Egyptians support “business or sports contacts” with Israel. With a visit to Israel, Sisi can move beyond the cold pragmatism that largely defines Egyptian-Israeli relations and recast himself as a world figure ready to embrace his diplomatic partners as human beings. At a personal level, the Egyptian leader can win international acclaim for such a move rather than criticism for his country’s poor human-rights record.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: General Sisi, Israeli Security, Jordan