Prime Minister Ibib

The problem with Binyamin Netanyahu is not one of intent, but that most of what he touches comes out the opposite of what he sought.

June 15, 2010 06:34
3 minute read.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (Ariel Jerozolim

Netanyahu spreads arms 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

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 Iranian issues.

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 purposes.

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.

Related Content

A BOY looks out through a window of a sukkah in Ashdod
October 19, 2019
Three Sukkot snapshots


Cookie Settings