Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been under heavy fire from left-wing
opponents, often rightfully so, for his settlement building in the West Bank and
east Jerusalem and for making combative remarks regarding Palestinian leaders.
Nevertheless, many of Netanyahu’s critics both in Israel and abroad fail to
recognize that he has been one of the most restrained Israeli prime ministers
with regard to the use of force and has judiciously utilized the IDF even after
repeated Arab provocations. In this regard Netanyahu deserves credit – without
his restraint the situation between Israel and its neighbors could be far
European leaders have been critical of Netanyahu, with the foreign
minister of Luxembourg Jean Asselborn exclaiming, “Netanyahu’s refusal of peace
based on the 1967 lines is arrogant.... If Israel continues its obstinacy” then
Europe will consider sanctions.
While quick to condemn Netanyahu, these
same leaders tend to ignore Netanyahu’s restrained security policy. On three
separate occasions in 2013, rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula at
Eilat, prompting the closure of Eilat’s airport and disrupting the tourist
This fire was a clear violation of Israel’s sovereignty and
targeted innocent civilians.
Nonetheless, Netanyahu was sensitive to the
complex security situation in Sinai with the Egyptian government.
militants in Sinai attacked Israel with rocket fire on August 12, Netanyahu did
not respond against the Egyptian military or strike terrorist cells within the
Egyptian territory. It is doubtful that America or other Western countries would
have acted with such restraint following an attack on their sovereign
Militants in southern Lebanon further tested Israel’s patience last
week by launching four rockets into northern Israel. It is important to
recognize that the area where the rockets landed is not occupied territory and
is recognized by virtually the entire international community as a part of
Israel. This unprovoked attack would naturally invite a harsh response from
Netanyahu. However, instead of launching what could have been a more vicious
attack, the Israeli military carried out a judicious air strike targeting
militant cells in Lebanon and not even causing a single
Although the Lebanese government is technically in control of
the entire country and Hezbollah is also a dominant force in southern Lebanon,
Israel refrained from targeting these two forces.
Instead of intensifying
the conflict after its citizens were attacked, Israel focused on minimizing
In addition to the chaos originating from Lebanon
and Egypt, Israel also has been facing threats on a third front:
The Syrian civil war has been raging for the past two years and
repeated mortar fire has landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights. Since
Netanyahu has vowed that Israel wishes to remain outside of this ongoing
conflict, he has only authorized pinpoint strikes against Syrian targets
following multiple mortar fire from Syria. Netanyahu has not received enough
credit for preventing Israel from getting dragged into this bloody
Netanyahu has shown similar restraint in the Palestinian territories
responding to security threats with more caution than his left-wing predecessor,
Ehud Olmert. Since the beginning of Netanyahu’s term in 2009 slightly over 500
Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces. In contrast, during
Olmert’s reign of only three years, Israeli forces killed three times as many
Furthermore, one must not forget that Olmert launched two
lethal wars, in Lebanon and Gaza, while Netanyahu has restrained the Israeli
military and only began one relatively contained military operation in Gaza
after repeated rocket fire into Israel.
Those who criticize Netanyahu’s
settlement policies and other actions that inhibit the peace process are
correct. Yet, they often ignore his laudable record on security issues and his
determination to reduce reducing conflicts in the region. If tensions do rise in
the coming weeks, we should remember which countries are inflaming hostilities
in the region and which country is doing its best to reduce them.
author is an MA candidate at Harvard University in Middle Eastern Studies. He is
a staff writer for
The Jerusalem Review of Near Eastern Affairs. His work has
previously appeared in the Daily Beast, The Jerusalem Post, and The Forward. He
can be reached via Twitter @AaronMagid
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