Benjamin Netanyahu will complete his eighth (nonconsecutive) year as prime minister in March 2014, more than any Israeli premier except the state’s founder, David Ben-Gurion.
And as the years go by, unsurprisingly, Netanyahu is leaving a deepening imprint on the way in which the country is governed.
Turnover is relatively high among his innermost circle of advisers and aides, who frequently last as little as two years at his side and all too often, especially in recent years, leave amid a cloud of scandal and negative press. At the same time, the role of some of those advisers has become increasingly central, as the Prime Minister’s Office seems to be filling an ever-more influential role in national policy.
“There is an international phenomenon of concentration of foreign policy power in the hands of presidents and prime ministers,” noted Chuck Freilich, a former Israeli deputy national security adviser who has writtena book about Israel’s decision-making process. And this consolidation has happened quickly in Israel, where the PMO now handles all major issues of diplomatic and security policy, including the peace talks with the Palestinians, the Iranian nuclear crisis and the most important of Israel’s diplomatic relationships, such as those with the United States, Britain, France and Germany.
In the PMO under Netanyahu, that sees a great deal of close consultation with key advisers, a notably expanded role for the National Security Council, and a changing structure of the inner “security cabinet” of top ministers.
It also means less influence for the individual ministries and ministers in some areas that used to be their exclusive purview.
When Netanyahu was finance minister under prime minister Ariel Sharon, for instance, it was he who recruited Stanley Fischer as governor of the Bank of Israel. When Karnit Flug was appointed Fischer’s successor in October, in a chaotic and protracted process, by contrast, Finance Minister Yair Lapid most emphatically did not exclusively oversee the selection.
Likewise, the question of Bedouin resettlement would in previous years have been a matter overwhelmingly for the Interior Ministry. Under Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Office has been centrally involved.
‘A dialogical personality’
Amid the process of consolidation, Netanyahu is said to be more open than some of his predecessors were to the views of trusted staff around him.
“Bibi has a dialogical personality,” said one confidant who asked not to be named. “He makes decisions in the course of discussion. He needs a conversation partner to make those decisions.”
Netanyahu takes a close interest in the views of those around him, confirmed another source familiar with the prime minister’s deliberative process. “He’s always asking questions, interrogating you for your opinion, and writing down what you’re saying.”
That aspect of Netanyahu’s personality is both an advantage and a crutch, the confidant added.
The advantage: Netanyahu is “flexible and thorough” when making decisions. “Every decision requires 10 discussions. He’s not hasty like some previous prime ministers.”
The disadvantage: “He can seem indecisive, fickle. No decision is final until it’s actually being implemented. Decisions often change in the course of discussion, both because his reasoning continues to develop and because those who know him well know how to focus their arguments to reach certain conclusions.”
Whether or not this personality trait is beneficial to forming national policy, there is no doubt it gives an outsize role to those who surround and engage the prime minister in those policy discussions.
As power concentrates around a premier who gives added weight to his advisers’ views, those advisers are becoming increasingly important for any understanding of how the machinery of power is managed and critical decisions are made in the State of Israel.
Enlarged role for the NSC
The shift of diplomatic and security policymaking into the hands of the prime minister is a global phenomenon. In part, this is due to inevitable changes in technology, Freilich explained.
“Foreign ministries face a real question. Why are they needed? Today, if a prime minister wants to know what the Americans are thinking, he calls up [Secretary] Kerry or [President] Obama. Foreign ministries don’t have the roles they used to have, where ambassadors on the ground were absolutely essential, especially [in light of modern] media and communications.”
The issues now handled in the PMO “don’t leave the Foreign Ministry with much of anything of consequence,” noted Freilich. “I think that’s understood by most people today. The Foreign Ministry deals with day-to-day caretaking and maintenance of relations.”
In order to effectively manage this workload in the PMO, Netanyahu has slowly constructed over several years Israel’s first policy planning staff directly answerable to the prime minister.
Founded in March 1999 by the first Netanyahu government, just three months before that coalition’s demise, the National Security Council struggled for a long time to find its place in the decision-making structures under other premiers. It received a significant boost when its responsibilities were anchored in law in July 2008, just in time for Netanyahu’s return to the Prime Minister’s Office in March 2009.
All former officials and confidants who spoke with The Times of Israel for this story emphasized the enlarged role Netanyahu has carved out for the National Security Council. Its head, the national security adviser, has his office just meters away from the prime minister in the Aquarium, the glass-fronted inner sanctum in the PMO reserved for the premier himself and his closest aides.
The NSC is now responsible for the highest-level contacts between Israel, the US, major European powers and even, more recently, Russia. It regularly communicates, officially and unofficially, publicly and secretly, with the highest levels of these governments. It even handles the high-level policy workload on broader issues of geopolitical import, such as Israel’s gas exports.
One recent example is telling. After the public spat between Netanyahu and Obama over the interim nuclear deal with Iran in November, the two leaders agreed in a December phone call that Israel would send a senior official to Washington to handle US-Israeli talks on the permanent agreement with Tehran. For perhaps the most critical and sensitive discussions on the issue Netanyahu himself has called his government’s number one priority, the prime minister chose to send his newly installed national security adviser, Yossi Cohen.
When he appointed Cohen’s predecessor, former IDF major-general Yaakov Amidror, to the top NSC post in 2011, Netanyahu’s public statement left little doubt as to how he viewed the position. Amidror, he said, “will lead the National Security Council as a body central to determining Israel’s national and security policies.”
The two national security advisers who preceded Cohen were former Mossad head of intelligence Uzi Arad, a noted expert on the Iranian nuclear question, and Amidror, who has written extensively on the security challenges posed by neighboring Arab states and Palestinian terror groups. Both are known as wide-ranging strategic thinkers.
But the choice of his newest adviser, a former Mossad number two, has raised eyebrows. Cohen is generally thought of as a keen operations man, say insiders, not a strategic and policy planning expert.
“Cohen’s predecessors all had extensive strategic and diplomatic experience,” said Freilich. “Ilan Mizrahi [who served for a year and a half under Ehud Olmert from 2006 to 2007] was, like Cohen, a Mossad operations man. But even he had some diplomatic experience by the time he became the national security adviser. Cohen doesn’t seem to have that background.” Even so, Freilich concluded, Cohen “is a very smart man and can learn.”
“Yossi Cohen is an operational guy,” agreed a source close to the PMO. “He’s very much about implementation. But that’s also part of the NSC’s work. It prepares briefing papers for meeting foreign officials, writes briefings, handles a lot of day-to-day diplomacy. A lot of foreign governments speak to the NSC.”
Cohen is one of a triumvirate of key national security advisers on whom Netanyahu relies on a daily basis, according to several sources familiar with the inner workings of the PMO. The other two are the prime minister’s military secretary, Maj. Gen. Eyal Zamir, and the cabinet secretary, former chief military advocate general Maj. Gen. (res.) Avichai Mandelblit.
Not all cabinet secretaries have been influential figures in recent years, with some chosen by the prime minister for their past loyalty or effective management skills.
But Mandelblit is in the room a lot with the prime minister, several sources said. “He has a quiet and low-key personality, but quiet waters run deep,” said one. “He is an expert in international law, so he’s in a lot of diplomatic meetings where you didn’t necessarily see his predecessor.”
With Mandelblit’s appointment in April, “the status of the post has possibly been enhanced.”
But the rise of the NSC has not occurred without causing friction with the other major national security advisory post, that of the military secretary.
Unlike the national security adviser, “the military secretary doesn’t have a support staff. He has one or two people working for him,” notes Freilich.
Freilich believes “there has to be a serious change in the role of the military secretary. He shouldn’t be in charge of preparing meetings. He has to be a serious strategic planner. Maybe the military secretary should become deputy head of the NSC.”
The NSC’s centrality is also highlighted by the fact that it took on most of the duties held by Netanyahu’s former adviser and new ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer.
The US-born Dermer, who cut his teeth in political consulting as a Republican pollster in the United States in the 1990s, held a unique position at Netanyahu’s side as a political adviser, foreign policy analyst, and a key source of insight into Netanyahu’s main foreign policy target: the United States. He left the PMO in March and was appointed ambassador to Washington in July.
Tellingly, Dermer is not being replaced.
“Dermer was personally close to the prime minister. His job was to be the close adviser,” said one former official. “Now the head of the NSC is filling that role.”
“There’s no doubt Dermer had a unique role with the prime minister,” said another source familiar with the pair. “They had a relationship that predates him taking office. [Dermer advised Netanyahu from 2008, a year before he became prime minister.] Now that Dermer has moved on to Washington, different parts of his responsibilities were divided up. A lot of it went to the NSC.”
The growing centralization of policymaking around the prime minister is also highlighted by Netanyahu’s preference, like other recent premiers, for “external” advisers, individuals who are given senior policy roles but are not government employees. The two key external advisers are attorney Yitzhak Molcho and former ambassador to the UN Dore Gold.
While Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is the top political face of the peace talks with the Palestinians, Molcho is the personal representative of the prime minister. It is significant that as per Netanyahu’s instructions, the negotiators cannot meet without Molcho being present. A close personal confidante of the prime minister, who also serves as Netanyahu’s family attorney, Molcho has served as Netanyahu’s chief peace negotiator for many years, managing his contacts with Yasser Arafat during his first government in the 1990s, and again with Abbas since 2010.
Gold has a similarly long relationship with the prime minister, having served as a peace negotiator alongside Molcho in 1996-7, and then spending much of Netanyahu’s first term, from 1997 to 1999, as Israel’s ambassador to the UN. An outspoken activist — Gold has published three books in recent years about the radical ideology of the Saudi state, Iran’s nuclear drive and the future of Jerusalem — Gold has served as president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a conservative policy think tank in Jerusalem, since his retirement from public service.
Last month, it was announced that Gold would return to Netanyahu’s side as an external adviser. While Netanyahu has emphatically placed the peace talks in the hands of Molcho, US-born Gold’s experience at the UN and other international forums, his expertise in Middle East politics (he holds a PhD on the subject from Columbia University) and his knowledge of the United States suggest he will likely fill part of the role left vacant by the departed Dermer.
No survey of Netanyahu’s inner circle is complete without noting the looming presence, or at least the allegations of the looming presence, of Netanyahu’s wife.
Sara Netanyahu, a child psychologist, has been the target of scorn and criticism from many Israeli journalists and news outlets, and indeed won a major libel suit against an Israeli paper for its critical portrayal of her, a remarkable feat given Israel’s comparatively strict legal definitions of libel.
It is not always easy to sift through the over-the-top criticism, much of it generated by her husband’s opponents, to understand her precise role at the prime minister’s side.
There is no doubt she plays a central role in the prime minister’s inner circle. Netanyahu “listens to her on almost everything,” said a former official. “Not on Iran, of course, but on almost everything.”
Nor does he consult with her on peace talks with the Palestinians, said another source.
In fact, she does not advise the prime minister on policy, most former officials and observers agree, but rather on political questions. She is his self-appointed but much-trusted political handler and occasional media adviser.
“She’s very concerned with what happens to him,” said one source close to the prime minister. “She admires [Netanyahu], thinks he is practically a gift from God to the Jewish people and the State of Israel, and is very sensitive to attacks on him. She also follows the media carefully.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing chief of staff, Gil Shefer, made a point of involving Sara in all goings-on in the Prime Minister’s Office and in his political activities, sources said. Shefer’s replacement, the US-born Ari Harow, who is returning to Netanyahu’s side after having served as an adviser and chief of staff from 2007 to 2010, is also expected to make coordination with Sara Netanyahu a key function of his job.
The chief of staff role is larger than mere coordination with Israel’s First Lady, of course. But with Sara taking a keen interest in the prime minister’s domestic political position, and with the effective merger of a PM’s personal and professional lives once he or she moves into the Prime Minister’s Residence, it is not a minor part of the role, either.
What about the cabinet
Finally, Netanyahu’s decision-making process cannot be understood without examining the changing structure of his cabinet. In the last government, Netanyahu appointed a security cabinet — the committee of ministers charged by law with national security decisions — that hovered around 15 members. But he was frustrated repeatedly by leaks and indecisive debate in the large group, and decided to form an ad hoc “Group of Seven” cabinet that eventually expanded to become a Group of Nine. It was in this smaller, unofficial committee where real decisions and high-level policy discussions actually took place.
Netanyahu has applied that lesson to his current government. He restructured the security cabinet down almost to the minimum size required by law. It now comprises just eight members: Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Finance Minister Yair Lapid, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Justice Minister Livni, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and Home Front Security Minister Gilad Erdan. It is advised on an ongoing, permanent basis by two senior officials, Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and — who else? — the prime minister’s national security adviser Yossi Cohen.
According to those familiar with its workings, the cabinet meets “very regularly” and is now the main forum where “the serious discussions are held.”
The Israeli White House
Many of these changes in the structure of national security decision-making at the highest levels of the Israeli government will likely outlive Netanyahu’s premiership. Indeed, the impulse to concentrate policy around the prime minister extends beyond security questions.
Netanyahu more or less openly acts as the nation’s top economic planner, taking a decisive role in appointing the new Bank of Israel governor and setting macroeconomic targets. Under him, key questions of domestic policy, including extending free public schooling down to the age of three, Bedouin resettlement plans and Arab sector economic development, have been brought under the umbrella of the PMO’s Planning Directorate headed by Udi Prawer.
Netanyahu, who speaks native English and was an early adopter of American political campaign methods into Israeli elections, has often been called Israel’s most “American” prime minister.
Whatever truth there may be in these claims of cultural affinity, there is little doubt the PMO under Netanyahu, with its advisers and policy planners and growing control over ever-expanding policy arenas, is looking more and more like Israel’s White House.
Read more: Inside Israel’s White House: How Netanyahu runs the country | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/inside-israels-white-house-how-netanyahu-runs-the-country/#ixzz2phh6IjLc
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Making peace with a population
Op-ed: Meticulous analysis of lexicon chosen by Netanyahu during Bar-Ilan speech is indicative of gap between his recognition of Palestinian state, his recognition of Palestinian people
Since 2009, the most prevalent political message advanced by Prime Minister Netanyahu with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be summarized as follows: Israel accepts a de-militarized Palestinian state; however, the Palestinians do not accept Israel as a Jewish state, and thus, reject the legitimacy of the existence of Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East.
Netanyahu, thus, posits Israel as open to compromise, while the Palestinians are positioned as the rejectionists. While Netanyahu, since the 2009 Bar-Ilan Speech, has repeatedly acknowledged acceptance of a Palestinians state, it worthwhile to examine the extent to which he views the Palestinians as a legitimate people with historic links to the land.
A meticulous analysis of the lexicon chosen by Netanyahu during the same Bar-Ilan speech is indicative of a gap between the prime minister’s recognition of a Palestinian state and his recognition of a Palestinian people, as follows:
“But our right to build our sovereign state here, in the land of Israel, arises from one simple fact: this is the homeland of the Jewish people, this is where our identity was forged… But we must also tell the truth in its entirety: Within this homeland lives a large Palestinian community… These two realities – our connection to the Land of Israel and the Palestinian population living within it – have created deep divisions in Israeli society.”
Netanyahu’s discursive strategy presents “we” as a people whose identity was forged in this homeland. Conversely, the Palestinians are not a people nor a nation, but a “community” or “population” “living within it” (our homeland) – an unfortunate turn of events which has caused serious internal divisions within Israel between the left and the right.
Another reality exists
The prime minister explicitly contrasts Jewish national rights and “connection to the land” with a population, at best, a community, that lives within our land. Thus, although this speech marked the first time that Netanyahu showed a readiness to accept a Palestinian state, he concurrently adopted a strategy which rejects Palestinian peoplehood.
Indeed, Netanyahu’s acceptance of a Palestinian state is comparable to his assessment of the problematic nature of Palestinian recognition of Israel – the acceptance of an unfortunate set of circumstances due to a balance of power which cannot be denied, rather than Palestinian recognition of authentic Jewish national sovereignty.
Netanyahu is able to accept a Palestinian state as a solution to the unfortunate fact that another population lives in “our” land. However, if we analyze the same quotation, it becomes clear why he cannot take the additional step of recognizing the authenticity of Palestinian nationalism – his unequivocal belief that “this is the homeland of the Jewish people”, without any room for another narrative that makes legitimate “homeland” claims.
Thus, while according to this exclusivist perception of the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, a Palestinian state can be acknowledged as an unavoidable circumstance, accepting the authenticity of a Palestinian people would require a far more difficult revision of the Zionist narrative and the recognition of the legitimacy of a competing narrative.
Netanyahu’s repeated and unanswered call for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is, in essence, a desire to hear the Palestinian other accept his notion that “this is the homeland of the Jewish people,” rather than merely an acquiescence to an unfavorable balance of power. However, the only possibility for hearing such words from President Abbas would be for Netanyahu to himself state that he is not merely ready to make peace with a “population” that lives in our land, but that another narrative, another reality exists – that this is also the homeland of the Palestinian people.
- The politics of subversion (warsclerotic.wordpress.com)
- American aid for Netanyahu (haaretz.com)
- Netanyahu: ‘We need peace’ (sotu.blogs.cnn.com)
- Making peace with a population (ynetnews.com)
- Netanyahu rejects Palestinian right of return to Israel (jpost.com)
- At Halfway Mark, Kerry’s Mideast Effort Stumbles (nytimes.com)
- Amman said to back Israeli demands on Jordan Valley (timesofisrael.com)
- At halfway mark, Kerry’s Mideast effort stumbles (hosted.ap.org)
- Mandela’s Memo to Thomas Friedman About Israel & Palestine (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Trying to smooth over Iran feud, Kerry moves from sticks to carrots (warsclerotic.wordpress.com)
Bibi’s fiscal planning serves his own agenda
Israel has no fiscal policy, other than implementing measures that serve the political needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once said: “Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic policy.” He was referring to the fact that Israeli foreign policy is dictated entirely by internal political concerns. The new “Budget Surplus Affair” and the question of what to do with the excess funds goes to show that Israel has no fiscal policy either, other than implementing measures that serve the political needs of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Higher than anticipated tax collection lies behind the “surprising” surplus that was suddenly discovered. It is safe to assume that low government expenditure in the first half of 2013, during the period in which the budget was not approved, also played a role. This discovery comes at a time when the Prime Minister is in a political crisis, at home and abroad. When this happens, Netanyahu says to himself: “What could be better than appearing to be someone who ‘eases the public burden’ by reducing taxes?”
There is no shortage of parties making strenuous attempts to rain on Netanyahu’s little political parade. For instance, the National Insurance Institute, which is making unwelcome long-term plans to reduce poverty rates and bring them down to OECD average rates.
Everything Netanyahu dislikes is contained within the National Insurance Institute’s plan – strengthening the social safety net, setting long-term goals for reducing the number of poor, and, most of all, a rational debate about priorities. From his perspective, it is much easier, more marketable, and more election-friendly to appear to be a fiscal White Knight. In other words, as the knight in shining armor who strikes the evil bureaucrats in the Treasury Department and distributes money to the middle class.
This in the hope that the next time a fiscal crisis strikes, those same middle-class voters will forget the previous round and will somehow accept the “unavoidable” need to raise taxes again.
This all serves to emphasize the rotten manner in which this government, and previous governments, managed fiscal planning. Instead of real planning, in Netanyahu’s previous term, we were given the foolish “two-year budget,” which served as a Band-Aid, and prevented real discussions about fiscal policy. Meanwhile, the two-year budget was cancelled, but the political desire to prevent any real debate is still with us.
The whole discussion about the “surplus” is just a waste of time. Our society and economy are in need of a long-term master plan, with social goals alongside economic goals, with clearly defined priorities – a transparent framework within which the public will receive accurate information regarding what and whom money is being spent on, how much is being invested over the Green Line, the scope of tax incentives and exemptions, and to whom they are being awarded, what the per-child education budget is in each of the various population sectors, etc.
Israeli society is not the IDF’s ATM machine
If such a debate were to take place, one that would examine the needs of Israeli society and not just the Prime Minister’s needs, we would be able to design a real fiscal policy. The implementation could be based on annual budgets, which the Knesset would debate annually, in keeping with the long-term goals. Our society and economy need to have their budgets rebalanced between income and expenditure, with increased government expenditure and rebuilding of safety nets.
Israel needs an effective retraining system for the unemployed, and an effective day-care system. Israel needs an immediate reduction in class-size in the public schools. Israel needs to reexamine its tax system and to decide who should be bearing the burden. The Israeli economy needs to define boundaries of fiscal significance for the defense industry and to make the General Staff of the IDF aware that Israeli society is not their personal ATM machine.
Unfortunately, none of this will happen. We will read about and hear about these surpluses and about fights between ministers in the media. There will be presentations and press conferences. But the heart of the matter, the most essential, critical issues, will be left outside this time too.
Survival Skills for Israel – 101
As one would expect, the Israeli media took great interest in Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations Security Council.
In the Arabic media, the situation is more complex: the morning afterNetanyahu‘s speech, lines from the speech were cited, even in banner headlines, but Netanyahu‘s words – despite their importance to the listeners in Israel, Teheran and the White House – were seen in a wider context in the Arab media, because of the complexity of the way the global picture appears to the Arab world, which is naturally centered around itself.
The newspaper “al-Quds al-Arabi”, which is published in London, devoted its main headline of the morning following the speech to Israel’s options: “Netanyahu: We are ready to act to prevent Iran from having nuclear arms”. The newspaper also added later in the article: “The Iranian-American rapprochement worries the Gulf countries”. The connection that the newspaper makes betweenNetanyahu‘s pronouncements about Israel’s willingness to act and the fears of the Gulf countries creates the impression that the last hope of the Gulf countries – since they have given up on the Americans – is that Netanyahu will deal with the Iranian nuclear program.
But Netanyahu’s words are put into the wider context of Israeli relations with the United states: indeed, the White House is leading a policy of appeasement and negotiations with Iran, but on the other hand, Obama’s statement that “all options are on the table and the United States will demand actions, not only words” is also emphasized. This statement is intended to calm the Israelis and tone down Netanyahu’s explicit threats toward Iran. Therefore, it is not at all clear if the United States will indeed support Israeli military action if such action is carried out without the prior agreement of the White House.
In the background, it is also possible that the American Congress with a Republican majority will take a stand against the White House’s position. “Al-Quds al-Arabi” tells its readers that the day before Netanyahu‘s speech in the UN, he visited the American Congress and met with a “small group” of members of Congress. From this, the newspaper assumes that Israel will try to influence White House and State Department policy by using American pressure groups, in Congress and in pro-Israeli organizations, to change the conversation with Iran from an approach of appeasement to that of making specific requirements, from an easing of sanctions to stricter supervision of the nuclear program through crippling sanctions.
“Al-Quds al-Arabi”, a newspaper that usually takes clear and radical anti-Israeli positions, lists the four Israeli requirements that Netanyahu raised regarding the Iranian nuclear project – to stop uranium enrichment; to remove all of the enriched uranium from Iran; to close the Fordo enrichment plant and to dismantle the advanced centrifuges in Natanz; and to stop the plutonium reactor in Arak that uses heavy water. The newspaper emphasizes that although there are explicit and well defined Israeli requirements, it is still not clear what Obama and Kerry will demand from Iran.
The newspaper notes that Obama promised the Gulf countries that the United States will consult “with its friends in the Middle East” concerning the negotiations with Iran. The writer of these lines believes that this American statement is meant to calm Israel and the Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, so that the United States will be able to progress in their contacts with Iran undisturbed, and without the United States having to make difficult demands.
The newspaper “al-Hayat”, also published in London, assigned an important place to Netanyahu’s speech, and quotes the Israeli prime minister’s statement that “Rouhani is nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing and we are ready to stand by ourselves against Iran”. The newspaper quotes verbatim a significant parts of Netanyahu‘s speech. The fact that Netanyahu‘s speech was given generous and honorable coverage is significant. In Wednesday morning’s issue there were still no articles of commentary on Netanyahu’s speech, but the fact that many citations from the speech were included may mean that the newspaper’s editors – who are guided by the Saudi agenda – understand that Netanyahu‘s words are important and meaningful, especially because of Obama’s and Kerry’s intention to come to an agreement with the Iranians at any price, from a position of weakness.
The al-Jazeera channel gave Netanyahu’s speech limited coverage, and in its Internet site – which is full of reports about the military revolution in Egypt against the legitimate regime of the Muslim Brotherhood – it is difficult to find any reference to the speech. This is apparently because the channel’s content editors do not trust Netanyahu, since they do not believe that there is actually anything credible in the Israeli threat against Iran. For years, the channel has been saying that Israel will not carry out an attack Iran by itself, for a number of reasons: 1) The distance between Israel and Iran, which prevents Israel from transporting bombs and soldiers secretly, so that Israel could mount a surprise attack; 2) To carry out an attack, Israel would have to pass over the territory of enemy countries; 3) The danger that Iran may begin a missile war against Israel; 4) The Israeli fear that Hizb’Allah will launch thousands of rockets over the entire territory of Israel; 5) The fear in Israel that the United States and Europe would object to the Israeli military action and cut it off prematurely, by means of harsh anti-Israeli resolutions of the Security Council before Israel will have succeeded to achieve any of its goals. Therefore it seems that the al-Jazeera channel does not regard Netanyahu’s speech and his threats seriously, which explains the limited coverage of his speech.
The Iranian attitude toward Netanyahu’s speech was as expected. The foreign minister of Iran called Netanyahu a “liar”, although he gave no reason for calling the prime minister of Israel this name. How could he counter the citations that Netanyahu brought from Rouhani’s book, in which he boasts that he had fooled the world? Besides, the Iranians do not need to try hard, because the West is in their pocket anyway, owing to a few smiles, interviews and moderate speeches that Rouhani has given lately. The Iranians are laughing all the way to the bomb because they know that the world will not allow Netanyahu to spoil the party when Obama, Merkel, Cameron and Hollande all sit around the campfire together with Rouhani and sing “Kumbaya”.
The Israeli Diplomatic Failure
Despite all the well-deserved respect that the Israeli people have for the prime minister on account of the brilliant speech that he gave at the UN this year, and also for the speech that he gave last year, we can not ignore the fact that all of Netanyahu’s speeches, all of the messages that prime ministers of Israel have sent to world leaders, all of the delegations that Israel has dispatched throughout the world and all of the briefings that leaders and politicians hosted by Israel have received about the danger that Iran poses to Israel and the peace of the region and the world, all of this could not stand up against a few smiles and pronouncements from Rouhani, including the talk about the phantom fatwa that supposedly cites a religious prohibition against the creation of nuclear weapons. How can it be that after all of these diplomatic efforts and explanatory information, that Iran, in the space of only one month and with a series of smiles and soft talk, manages to change from a Pariah country to the darling of the international community, from a nuclear threat to a partner for negotiations, without giving up one iota of its diabolical plan?
Of course, one could cast blame on the world, saying that just as the world stood by when millions of Jews were led to slaughter in the years of the forties, the same world is not too upset about the possibility that Iran will try to carry out another holocaust on the people that dwells in Zion. Because what is the difference between then and now? Doesn’t the same anti-Semitism that existed then still exist today?
We could blame Russia and China as well, who used their veto power in the Security Council to overturn the decisions against Iran, frustrating the efforts of the international community to carry out any resolution against Iran and its nuclear project. We could blame the world’s addiction to oil and gas from Iran and say that it’s all money, and economic interests take precedence over ethical considerations.
We could also point to the West’s eagerness to straighten things out with Iran as an excuse, due to the fear of what Iran might do to the oil installations in Saudi Arabia and the oil Emirates, if and when, as a result of the hardships resulting from the sanctions, the internal situation in Iran gets to the point where the Ayatollahs break down and act irrationally.
It is also possible to view the world’s leniency toward Iran as a lack of will and the downright weariness of the West in general and especially the United States, to cope with dictators in the only way that they understand – the use of force, and to conclude that as the situation with Iran shows, the West has become a paper tiger, whom no one in the Middle East takes any account of.
This is all correct, but it is not the whole picture. We must search for the source of the Israeli failure in ourselves as well, not only in others. And when I say failure, I am referring to the fact that Israel apparently has not really convinced the world that Iran is a danger, for several reasons:
One reason is that Israeli spokesmen tend to speak mainly about the existential threat that Iran poses to Israel, not the world, despite the fact that the world does not really care about the fate of Israel, whose residents are about the same number as the residents of a small town in China. Is the world interested in the fate of tens of millions of Chinese who are forced every year to leave their cities and villages because of dams whose water floods fields, cities and villages? Did the world go mad when millions of people were killed in Biafra, in Rwanda, and the Iran -Iraq War, in Algeria and in Syria? So why would the world be moved when a few Jews in Israel yell “Help”?
Israeli spokesmen do not like to tell non-Israelis about the explicit words that Iranian leaders say about imposing Islam on all of the people of the Earth , because it is not “politically correct” to expose the truth about Islam as a religion of conquest and domination, as a culture that aspires to subjugate all of the people of the globe to Islam, which sees itself as the only religion that is “din al-Haq” (the “true religion”) while all of the other religions are “din al-Batel” (“false religion”).
In his speech, Netanyahu spoke about the Jewish people’s historical and religious right to the Land of Israel and related it to the Jewish people’s right to defend itself against the Iranians. How many Israeli spokesmen do this on an ongoing basis? Do the professional spokesmen of the State of Israel usually speak about the historical right of the Jewish people on the Land of Israel? About the Bible as the source of this right?
The official spokesmen and the legal consultants of Israel have caved in to the Arab rhetoric and immediately after the end of the Six Day War in 1967, adopted the false catchphrase that the territories of Israel that were liberated in this war are “occupied territory”. And since many, perhaps most, of the world leaders do not differentiate between the “occupation of 1948″ and the “occupation of 1967″ they can accept the Arab idea that the entire State of Israel is actually “occupied land” so it is really not so terrible if the Iranians want to liberate the “occupied territory”.
Israel’s legal consultants, and especially those who were previously judges in the High Court, have never recognized the right of the Jewish people to all parts of the Land of Israel as it was determined by the founding documents of modern international law – documents from the San Remo Conference in the year 1920, documents of the Mandate in 1923 and the Anglo-American Agreement in the year 1942 – documents that are still valid today, and their power is stronger than any UN resolution. And if Israel does not know how to stand up for these rights, then why does it expect that the nations of the world will be more Zionist than Israel is?
And at least equally as grievous: 20 years ago Israel signed the Oslo Accords and with open eyes, established the Palestinian Authority that, according to the prime minister at that time, Yitzhak Rabin, was supposed to fight Hamas without being bothered by the High Court or human rights organizations. He also promised that there would be no rockets from Gaza. Meanwhile, as a result of these accords, an entity has emerged whose Gazan part is an Islamic terror state, and its other part might also become an Islamic terror state with territorial contiguity from the outskirts of Be’er Sheva to the hills overlooking Afula, and Israel still promotes this idea, which everyone knows might put all of Israel in great danger. So can Israel be believed when she claims that her security is important to her?
Some countries of the world support the Arab effort to establish a Palestinian terror state with money and UN resolutions, and the State of Israel does nothing against the billions that flow into its territory for the purpose of establishing a terror entity as a Trojan horse within its territory (according to Arafat’s definition). So if the State of Israel so disregards the security of its citizens and permits its neighbors to establish a terror state on lands within its own territory, then why would the nations of the world take the Israeli cries of existential danger posed by Iran, which is located a thousand kilometers away, seriously?
Israel cannot expect the world to be concerned if Israel does not regard itself, its existence and its rights with urgency and determination. This is the true and profound reason that the Israeli message about Iran did not touch the hearts of the world’s leaders, and the guilty party is we ourselves, the collective Israeli, we, the Right and the Left together, each one because of its acts of commission and its acts of omission as well.
There are too many Israelis who go out into the world and spread the idea that the State of Israel is an occupier, is illegitimate and has no right to exist. In Israel we do nothing to those people, and they continue to receive their salaries from the academies or from the Israeli film industry, meaning, from the citizens of Israel. They with their words – even if not explicitly – justify what Iran wants to do to us, and we continue to pay them their bloated salaries. So who is to blame if the nations of the world do not think it so horrible if Iran will have nuclear weapons to destroy Israel with?
And worst of all, Israel’s chief negotiator stands in a conference in the United States and defends the idea of establishing a Palestinian state on Israeli land, without her having any promise that this country will not become a Hamas state, whether by means of elections, as happened in January of 2006 or by a violent takeover as happened in June 2007. So with such a negotiator, who calls to establish a terror state within the Land of Israel that will threaten the coastal land and Jerusalem from the hills of Judea and Samaria, is anyone surprised that the nations of the world do not take Israel’s security claims seriously?
When Israel relates to its rights and its security more seriously regarding the Arabs, the world might listen more to our security worries concerning the Iranians. Anyway, the world does not think that there is any difference between Arabs and Iranians.