Analysis: Netanyahu's gamble

“Governments are changing their attitudes towards Israel because they know that Israel can help them protect their peoples, can help them feed them, can help them better their lives.”

December 26, 2016 03:14
4 minute read.
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The UN Security Council anti-settlement resolution means that the moment of truth has arrived... for the Israeli cow.

That’s right, the Israeli cow.

The same cow that has starred in dozens – if not hundreds – of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speeches over the last number of months. The cow that he talks about with the leaders of China. The most productive cow in the world, even more productive than the Swiss cow.

“And do you want to know why this cow is so productive?” he often asks in his presentations.

“Because every moo is computerized.”

For Netanyahu, this super-productive cow represents the new Israel.

It’s not the beggar Israel of the 1950s and ’60s – a tiny country geographically, economically and demographically.

But rather, it is now a country, as Netanyahu likes to say, widely courted by the world, with kings, princes, presidents, foreign and agricultural ministers beating a path to its door to partake of its technological, agricultural, water-management, cybersecurity and anti-terrorist prowess.

Just two months ago at the UN General Assembly – the same United Nations that sent Israel a nasty rebuke on Friday – Netanyahu predicted that in a matter of a few years, the anti-Israel bias in that most anti-Israel biased organization will change.

“More and more nations in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America – more and more nations see Israel as a potent partner – a partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of tomorrow,” he told the representatives. “Governments are changing their attitudes towards Israel because they know that Israel can help them protect their peoples, can help them feed them, can help them better their lives.”

Netanyahu developed his own shorthand for this. He called it Israel’s T-n-T – standing for Technology and anti-Terror expertise.

Countries, he said, now want Israel’s T-n-T in a big way.

Netanyahu now seems intent on testing his own thesis. For the message he has broadcast since the UN resolution was passed on Friday is that, from now on, there will be a price to pay for countries that beat up on Israel in international forums, and that price will be extracted not only from others – such as the US under president Donald Trump – but by Israel as well.

“Those who work with us will benefit, because Israel has much to give to the countries of the world. But those who work against us will lose – because there will be a diplomatic and economic price for their actions against Israel,” he said Saturday night in his first public comments on the UN resolution, signaling this new policy.

He then announced that Israel would recall its ambassadors from Senegal and New Zealand, which along with Venezuela and Malaysia sponsored the relations (Israel has no diplomatic ties with the latter two countries). He also announced that all Israeli assistance to Senegal will be halted, and warned that “there is more to come.”

On Sunday, he went even further and canceled the visit of Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman scheduled here later this week because Ukraine supported the resolution, and instructed his ministers to travel less in the coming weeks to the 14 countries on the council that voted for the resolution.

And there are some pretty significant countries among them, such as Russia, China, Britain and France.

Netanyahu has been speaking publicly for more than a year about expecting the good relations Israel has with many countries to begin being reflected in how those countries vote. He has indicated that Israel will no longer allow itself to be a punching bag in international forums and then provide technological, security and intelligence assistance to those same countries doing the punching.

But there has been a disconnect between Netanyahu’s declarations and what is happening on the ground. Vietnam, for instance, is one country with which Israel has very significant ties that Netanyahu regularly boasts about in his speeches. Yet Vietnam always – but always – votes against Israel in international forums.

Netanyahu’s statements over the last two days – as well as the canceled meetings, the recall of ambassadors and the summons to the envoys of countries that voted for the measure in order to rebuke them – are all meant to send a signal to those countries and others, such as Vietnam. And the message is clear: Israel is a power; many countries benefit from that, and if they act against Israel’s interests there will be a price to pay.

Netanyahu has thrown down the gauntlet.

Now we will all see how much – really – the countries of the world value Israel’s technological, security and intelligence prowess.

Now we will see how important – really – is that super-productive Israeli cow with the computerized moo.

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