Netanyahu’s impact on Israeli diplomacy

It is often said that nothing is more powerful than truth, and “changing Israel” is a truth.

July 24, 2019 21:47
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – the elections were all about him

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU – the elections were all about him. (photo credit: REUTERS)

In one of his interviews during the previous round of Israeli election, Netanyahu had said: “I’m changing Israel. I’m making it a world force, not through concession, but the exact opposite. Not through the path of the Left, but by communicating and by radiating power, pride and commitment.” 
There is a general view that the previous 10 years of Netanyahu’s tenure in power have made a profound impact on every aspect of Israel’s economic and diplomatic stature. Even among the Israeli public, there can be a difference of opinion on Netanyahu’s approach, his personal affairs and dealings, but those who are born in Independent Israel cannot deny the transition that they are witnessing in the global image of their country.
It is often said that nothing is more powerful than truth, and “changing Israel” is a truth. Israel’s growing diplomatic leverage in the region and emerging exchanges with many parts of the world are real. Today, Israel is expanding its relations even with Africa and the Gulf States, a crucial breakthrough no one imagined before. The change in Israel’s global image from a “conflict zone” to “innovation nation” is quite visible and felt equally everywhere. Earlier, there was an impression that Israel reaches out to the world for its strategic concerns, which were mainly related to gathering support for important positions on their security concerns. But today, Israel is reaching out to the world to offer its conceptual and technological assets, and the world has started to develop an understanding of Israel’s unique security needs and positions. That’s a big change that the last decade of Netanyahu has brought.
Pursuing national ambitions and maintaining a balance with the commitment to international norms is a challenge for all responsible democracies. After careful observation of the last 10 years of Netanyahu, one can say that he has turned this challenge into his key skill. In his famous 2009 speech at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University, Netanyahu had said: “Peace has always been our people’s most ardent desire. Our prophets gave the world the vision of peace, we greet one another with wishes of peace, and our prayers conclude with the word peace.” Further in the speech, he drew a bigger line by welcoming the Arab and Palestinian leaders to join hands with Israel to beat the scarcities of the Middle East and to contribute for economic peace in the region, which he put forward as an important element to achieve political peace. Netanyahu ended his speech with an emphasis on Israel’s technological leverage, i.e. microchips, medicines, drip irrigation and other innovations. It was a fresh perspective on Middle East conflict, which Netanyahu had presented as the prime minister of Israel, and this made a significant impact on Israel’s image.
In May 2010, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) invited Israel to become a member. While addressing a ceremony of Israel’s official entry in the OECD club, Netanyahu said: “Our greatest assets are the brains, drive, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of our people.”

AFTER INDEPENDENCE, Israel established itself as an anchor of peace and stability in the Middle East, and almost all prime ministers managed this image of Israel very cautiously. However, Israel suffered a cost of sustaining this image, which sometimes resulted in land concessions offers, withdrawal of security forces and even compromising some crucial strategic positions. But Netanyahu did something that sets him apart, he discontinued the culture of sustaining a peace-seeking image of Israel as the only goal of the government. Rather, he established Israel’s broad economic and diplomatic goals and dedicated his energy to pursue the aspirations of the Israeli people. The present global position of Israel reflects that he was successful in these efforts, too.
Through his diplomatic moves, Netanyahu challenged this popular political assumption that only by surrendering to the pressure of unreasonable international demands can Israel earn the applause of the world. Israel started receiving more appreciation and space for its voice on international forums when it demonstrated what Netanyahu called “Power, Pride and Commitment” in its approach.
Current Israeli diplomacy has attained a mature status where on one hand, Israel’s position as an anchor of peace and security in the region has strengthened significantly, and on the other hand, it now has a separate identity of its own beyond regional conflicts and challenges. Now the world sees Israel as technological power, an innovation hub and a key player among nations on security and counter-terrorism aspects.
One can argue that the sole credit of Israel’s current position should not be given to Netanyahu alone, as it is by and large the impact of the change in global economic and political scenarios and emerging technological trends. Some people make the same argument about Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, too, and they say that if there would be anyone else in the leadership position, the situation would almost be the same. 
While the changing world is a reality, how a country’s leader leverages the changing world and the opportunities it offers, and customizes its policies and approach to navigate effectively, is something should be appreciated. There are not many leaders in the world, even in the immediate neighborhood of India and Israel, who have leveraged the changing world as successfully as Modi and Netanyahu. The last five years of transforming India and last decade of Netanyahu are now registered as a shining period in the most transformative phase of their respective economies. At the same time, the commonalities in both leaders’ approaches have yielded good dividend in India and Israel’s partnership, too.
From mid-2009 to the end of 2014, Netanyahu administration fought an imposed image of Israel as a rejecter of peace and a warmongering nation, while simultaneously establishing a parallel narrative to present Israel as a shining light in the Middle East and an important player in the world of technology. Netanyahu left no global platform where he does not represent Israel’s technological and conceptual abilities, jokingly but tellingly saying that “The only continent left is Antarctica.”
From 2014 onwards, Israel is on an upward trajectory. Now it is dedicating its full energy to achieving its national ambitions. It generally takes a decade to make a nation stand its ground, and then a ride for pursuing aspirations and ambitions starts. From 2019, Israel will march on that path, and its success story should continue.

The writer promotes advanced technologies, start-up ecosystem and the Indian government’s business and technology related initiatives like Digital India, Make in India, Smart Cities, Startup India, etc.

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