Our prime minister undoubtedly seeks a better future for the country and to improve our overall strategic circumstances. He may even wish, as he claims, all evidence to the contrary, to affect a breakthrough with the Palestinians. The problem is not one of intent, but that most of what he touches comes out the opposite of what he sought. The devastation wreaked on our standing by this Midas-in-reverse record is simply mind-boggling. Prime Minister Ibib, not Bibi.
Bibi sought to strengthen our relations with the US, or at a minimum, to preserve them, in the admittedly less friendly Barack Obama era. Ibib led to a crisis partly of his own making. Moreover, the crisis comes at a time when a tectonic shift for the worse is already under way in the bilateral relationship, due to long term changes.
It is one thing for Bibi to take a stand on select, truly vital interests, but virtually nothing is more important than the US. Instead of doing everything possible to align Israel with the changes in US policies, Ibib gratuitously exacerbated tensions over secondary issues. For a growing portion of the US public – the politically ascendant one today – Israel has become, as the head of the Mossad recently said, more of a strategic burden than asset.
Bibi’s criticisms of the Palestinians’ and international community’s hypocritical approach to the “peace process” are often correct. Ibib, however, foolhardily sought to back away from the long-stated commitment to a two-state solution. Misguided as such a change in policy would have been, it would have been legitimate if Bibi had truly meant it and been willing to bear the consequences. Instead, his obstinacy only succeeded in convincing the world that it is Israel, not the Palestinians, which opposes a two-state solution and in the end he was forced to back down. Ibib lost on all fronts.
Bibi sought to strengthen our positions regarding Jerusalem and the settlements; Ibib ended up doing the opposite and put Jerusalem on the international agenda as never before. Obama walked away from a previous presidential commitment, the Bush letter of April 2004, a grave error on his part, leaving Israel even without US support.
Bibi rightly takes an uncompromising position regarding security. Ibib
grossly mishandled the Gaza flotilla fiasco, enraged international
opinion, led to an end to the Egyptian embargo of Gaza and now to a
partial termination of Israel’s. Justified as the embargo may have
been, it failed to achieve its objectives and should have been lifted
long ago simply for reasons of cost effectiveness. Now we are being
forced to do so under international pressure. Bibi wanted to isolate
Hamas; Ibib succeeded in isolating Israel. Hamas, Iran and Recep Tayyip
Edogan’s Turkey came out the victors.
BIBI RECENTLY celebrated the country’s acceptance into the OECD and
seeks to improve our international standing generally. Ibib careened
headlong into the trap sprung by Erdogan, who was clearly seeking to
(mis)use Israel for his own domestic political purposes and as a means
of forging his new alliance with Syria and Iran.
Bibi wishes to enhance our strategic posture and repeatedly tantalizes
the public with hints of new strategic understandings with the US. Ibib
suffered a dramatic departure from previous US policy, when it refused
to block the anti-Israeli declaration of the NPT Review Conference.
Israel – not Iran – was singled out for misbehavior in the nuclear
realm, and the US also acquiesced to the call for a nuclear free
Mideast. Although not entirely to blame for this change in American
policy, there is no doubt that the crisis in relations Ibib caused
contributed to it, as it added to the increasing and extremely
dangerous international propensity to link the peace process and
Bibi, to his credit, first established the National Security Council in
1999 and is now the first premier to grant it a position of importance.
He further established the “forum of seven” as an expeditious forum for
effective policymaking. Ibib established a grossly oversized right-wing
coalition, which has wrought nothing but failure, and would be well
advised to consider whether his policy-making machinery serves his
If this is what policy-making reform looks like, spare us. We can’t take much more.
The writer was a deputy national security adviser in Israel.
He is now a senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School and an adjunct
professor at NYU.
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