Analysis: It’s all in the timing – something Netanyahu lacks

Against the advice of his advisers and the military establishment, Netanyahu refused to talk to the US about a 'compensation package', fearing he would be labeled a sellout.

November 12, 2015 12:02
2 minute read.
US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office

US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO)

It is said that timing is everything in life. Lacking a sense of timing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu constantly misses it.

For two years he battled to stop US President Barack Obama from reaching the nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu had a few exit stations during his campaign, but he missed them and drove Israel until he crashed against a wall. His messianic obsession against the deal, any deal, without offering any alternative only pushed Obama to be more determined to have a deal at all costs. Thus Netanyahu contributed to the flawed deal.

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Once the nuclear deal was a fait accompli in July, the US administration suggested to Israel to open immediately talks about a “compensation package” to help it maintain its qualitative military edge.

Against the advice of his advisers and the military establishment, Netanyahu refused to talk, fearing he would be labeled a sellout – a leader who is ready to trade his strong beliefs for money.

But now he has agreed at this week’s meeting with President Barack Obama to open talks between the two countries about additional military aid for Israel.

However, a precious four months were wasted.

US military assistance to Israel, which began in a systematic manner after the peace treaty with Egypt was signed in 1979, today amounts to $3.1 billion annually. In addition, over the last three years the US allocated additional funds of up to $1 billion to support the Iron Dome and David’s Sling anti-rocket systems.

Israel had hoped that, after this week’s meeting in the White House, the administration would announce its readiness to increase the annual assistance. It didn’t happen. In a joint statement it was announced that teams of the two countries would soon start negotiations about it.

One can only imagine what would have happened had Netanyahu not addressed a joint session of Congress last March in defiance of the administration and instead would have begun talks then about the compensation package, or even had accepted last July the US offer to open talks about it. Most probably, Israel would have already pocketed a few additional billions. But Netanyahu once again erred in his judgment and is now legging behind.

Israel still hopes that the new negotiations will enrich the defense budget from $3.1b. to $4b. annually, but it won’t be easy. Money is not growing on American trees.

Reviewing Israel’s request will take long months. The US administration will be watching what measures Israel takes on its own to more efficiently bear the defense burden.

In that sense, the decision by Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to reform the IDF by making painful cuts of 6% in its professional manpower is a signal to the US, as well as to the Israeli public, that the military is ready to make sacrifices and is ready to be attentive to the other needs of society.

The aim of the new reform is to turn the IDF into a smaller, leaner, but more muscular organization that is ready to face new Middle Eastern challenges. The US administration will most likely appreciate this effort, but to what extent is another question.

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