PM Netanyahu is now in Singapore, being warmly accepted by one of Israel’s old Asian allies, a country whose success story owes also to years of close cooperation with Israel on many levels. His next stop will be Australia. A very friendly country, and altogether, the Israeli leader is doing these days what he has done for some years, solidifying and diversifying Israel’s foreign relations. It may not look like that, but regardless of the debacle in the UN Security Council, Israel’s international stature is on the rise. Even that fiasco was largely due to the Obama Administration settling scores with Israel, and the signal it gave to some other countries that they can do likewise. While cynics in Israel suggest, that the PM will fly even to the North Pole in order to evade some police questioning and Left-Wing media scrutiny, the fact is, that he can rightly boast, that his growing international reach bears fruits to the country. It helps put in perspective talks about boycott of Israel, BDS and otherwise. The last quarter of 2016 registered a GDP growth of 6.2% in Israel. Not bad at all, to say the very least.
With that in mind, it is the case, that Israel, while building new relationships in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Balkans in Europe, still needs to have its historic alliance with the US being restored after the damage caused by the eight years of Obama-Netanyahu feud. It is America, the no.1 super power of the world, even in the era of renewed isolationist talk, which matters the most, and surely when it comes to Israel’s regional situation. It is here, where Netanyahu faces his biggest challenge. How to tie better relationships with the US, to an overall strategic alliance which will encompass also other regional partners and will serve simultaneously the interests of the US, Israel and some important Arab countries. Under Obama , both focal points of America’s regional policy were against Israel’s interests. First, Obama was obsessed with the ambition to be the peacemaker between Israel and the Palestinians. He seemed to put the onus almost entirely on the former, while absolving the latter from any responsibility and accountability. The question of settlements was chosen to be the sticking point with Israel, and the tone has made the music, and it was bad to Israeli ears, as Israel was constantly targeted for criticism . Alongside the appeasement towards the Palestinians, the Obama Administration was engaged in a strategy of appeasement towards Iran, a policy which not only has greatly soured relations with Israel, but also undermined US relations with Saudi Arabia and other states, all fearing Iran much more than fearing Israel. With regard to Egypt, the Obama Administration engaged in appeasement towards the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood, another bone of contention between the US and many regional actors. Here is the Trump Administration offering Israel a golden opportunity to reconstruct what was so meticulously demolished by Obama. The Palestinians are called to account, they will not have the UN as an automatic vote machine against Israel, and on top of all that, their problem can be discussed with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, because all these states want a solution to the Palestinian issue, but even more so, they want a much weakened Iran. The strategic priority here is Iran, while Mahmoud Abbas is downgraded to a second role. The carrot offered to the Palestinians is, that the Trump Administration still resists Israeli settlements expansion, and the stick is, that they can realistically aspire to get anything ONLY through the active participation of the US , and Arab countries in the negotiations. It will be less than anything they could get through binding UNSC resolutions. At the same time, US, Arab states and Israel should engage in a coherent strategy to curtail Iran’s Shi’ite regional aspirations. Syria-Lebanon is where it should start, and it means, a Syrian arrangement which is based on some form of a decentralized system, but with NO Iranian presence in the country, either direct or through Hizballah. Yes, Comrade Putin is around, he has interests and they should be addressed. He will likely be content with his achievements in Syria-Assad stays the nominal ruler in Damascus, and Russia maintains its bases in Tartus and Latakiyya, thus proving that it is loyal to its ally Assad, and that no arrangement can be done without her. Turkey, another important regional partner, can be happy without Iranian Shi’ite presence in Syria, and with semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Northeast Syria,but not one with virtual, though not formal independence. The Israeli angle of all that, is to create with Jordan and the Druze a security buffer in South Syria, and a free hand to handle Hizballah in Lebanon, if this terror group will be tempted to create an unbearable situation along the border with Israel.
Grand designs in the Middle East are easier planned and described on the drawing board than being implemented, and this is the lesson of decades. Trying is usually better than being passive, and now there is the time when such a try should be in place, and with a reasonable chance of success, as now there exists something which was missing until now- a genuine joint and simultaneous interest for the US, Arab states AND Israel. One which can still benefit the Palestinians and not work against Russia. Israel under Netanyahu seems to be a vital partner in that happening, and that in itself is a great achievement to Israel.