Benjamin Netanyahu, Master Strategist?

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

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy