PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu chats with Israeli soldiers at a military outpost during a visit to Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights overlooking the Israel-Syria border in 2015..
(photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
Although media reports and first impressions might indicate that the Foreign Ministry should work harder to improve its diplomatic standing in the international community, reality indicates otherwise.
From South America to Russia, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (who is also Israel’s foreign minister) has expanded Israel’s political and economic ties throughout the globe. Despite the unexpected embassy announcements by countries such as Guatemala and the Czech Republic, the real indicator of Israel’s diplomatic triumph is in the Middle East.
The Syrian civil war has changed the entire political dynamic of the region. As Iran’s intentions to extend its reach from Tehran to the Mediterranean became clear, alliances began to shift in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has already confessed its shared security concerns with Israel, and the Israeli response was full commitment to share intelligence with the kingdom.
Jordan and Egypt are highly aware of the instability threats posed by Iranian bases in southern Syria and are looking to crack down on radicalism within their borders. Most importantly for Israel’s current right-wing government, the Palestinian issue has been bumped down the priority list for the Arab community.
Despite the work of organizations such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and Jewish Voice for Peace to demonize Israel by falsely posturing as social justice warriors on behalf of the Palestinians, concern regarding a return of Syrian President Bashar Assad to power in a united Syria, the militarization of Hezbollah and growing Iranian influence in the Levant are the main concerns for world leaders and strategic advisers.
The response, on behalf of the Palestinian leadership, has been nothing less than political tantrums. This was most clearly demonstrated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s desperate and insulting statements on the Jewish state: “Colonialism created Israel to perform a certain function. It is a colonial project that has nothing to do with Judaism, but rather used the Jews as a tool under the slogan of the Promised Land.”
Yet, his people continue to cling on to the prospect of a life with hope, dignity and chance to prosper. Polls indicate most Palestinians in the West Bank would like Abbas to step down. These political tantrums, carried out by Abbas and his team, are only contributing to the further isolation of the PA from the international community. Refuting the US as a mediator, harassing the Trump administration and stoking the flames for international demonization of Israel have all contributed to the diplomatic segregation being experienced by the PA.
From cutting UNRWA funding to slowly and rightfully discrediting the PA’s intent on moving toward a peace agreement, the US is taking a strong stand against Abbas’s lack of commitment to a two-state solution. Understanding that Abbas is not ready to pledge his people to a reconciliatory peace, the US has reduced pressures historically imposed on Netanyahu’s coalition (or any previous right-wing government) to acknowledge the need to make concessions.
What seems to be Trump’s unconditional support for Israeli sovereignty over western Jerusalem and commitment to Israeli deterrence capabilities has resulted in a consolidation of power for Netanyahu and his Likud party. There are investigations, committees and accusations, but there is a general understanding that the incumbent coalition is best fit to continue governing.
Most recognize that despite the economic growth and the winning diplomatic strategy there is armed conflict around the corner. It is not Gaza that worries, but rather the newly transformed Hezbollah.
Despite the high number of casualties and resources invested by the Shi’ite terrorist group throughout the Syrian civil war, the benefits far outweigh the losses.
With a monthly blank check signed by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, Hezbollah has become a highly effective offensive military threat. This, combined with the thousands of Hezbollah missiles aimed at Israel, have given more legitimacy to Netanyahu’s massive investment in the defense budget.
The demonization of Israel will continue, and the United Nations does not seem to be able to turn away from its institutional bias. This, however, does not represent Israel’s strategic standing with the international community.
The Syrian civil war has caused a re-distribution of power in the region, and the forming of unexpected alliances.
Most importantly, it has served to consolidate the Likud’s political grip in Israel.
Only time will tell if these alliances will prevail and eventually take a leap from shared security interests to a peace based on actual interdependence.
For the time being, there seems to be no other political party in Israel that can challenge Netanyahu’s coalition.
The author is a former IDF Paratrooper and holds a BA in political science and MA in diplomacy and international security from IDC Herzliya. He is an Israel advocate and Middle East analyst.