Why Bhutan’s Opening to Israel Matters

Easily lost amidst Jerusalem’s high-profile normalization agreements with Arab states is its recent establishment of diplomatic ties with Bhutan, a tiny Buddhist nation wedged between India and China. The news has not been ignored in India, however, where it was greeted with much enthusiasm. And while Bhutan may not be a country with great strategic, economic, or even symbolic importance, Avi Kumar argues that the development is nonetheless significant:

Israel’s previous lack of ties with Bhutan was not linked to the Arab-Israeli conflict, but was rather due to Bhutan’s strict isolationist policies. The kingdom has a population of little more than 770,000 citizens and only began allowing tourists in 1970. TV and Internet were permitted only in 1999. [It] has full diplomatic ties with only 53 nations. The new agreement with Israel comes after several years of secret communication between the two countries.

In 2017, the country saw its highest number of tourists, at more than 250,000—up from 2,850 in 1992. . . . Also, [the agreement] opens up new avenues for bilateral cooperation in other sectors such as agriculture, water management, and defense, which will benefit both parties significantly and boost both economies.

Israel’s new ties with this relatively isolated kingdom reflect the fact that the new Middle East landscape President-elect Joe Biden will inherit from President Trump is one where Israel’s role in the world at large is bigger and more significant than it has ever been in its 72-year history.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Israel diplomacy, Israel-India relations

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy