November 18, 2019

Give Bibi an Honorable Discharge

“Had Benjamin Netanyahu retired before the April elections, he would be enshrined as one of the greatest, high-achievement prime ministers in Israel’s history.

Starting from the depths of disruption in the second Intifada, Israel’s daily life became normal with minimal terror eruptions. Islamist rejectionist hostility has been contained, with limited wars as necessary to keep Hamas under control. With the Arab Spring and its aftermath bringing greater instability to the Middle East, Netanyahu has maneuvered well to protect Israel’s position. He identified the existential threat from Iran early and kept it at the center of attention and policy. On this issue he was sold out by Obama but helped by Trump – due, in no small measure, to his extraordinary relationship with the current US president.

His other foreign policy achievements include linking up sub rosa with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States; opening up new alliances with India as well as countries in Africa and South America; and special relationships with conservative/populist governments in the EU (however unsavory or antisemitic they may be.) He also made the commitment to a two-state solution with the Palestinians and carried out strategic withdrawals – when both were essential to Israel’s international standing and allies. The downside is that he did not seriously explore chances to move toward peace – although, in truth, there may be no such chance at this time.

Perhaps Netanyahu’s greatest contribution was opening up the economy as Israel made the transformation from a socialist, restricted business way of life to a free market and start-up nation. The economy has continued to grow exponentially – which is generally a credit to the incumbent prime minister.

Netanyahu even made cuts in social welfare for haredim (ultra-Orthodox) – a check to the catastrophic, long-term policy of accommodating haredi resistance to entering modern society. He also took initial steps to get them to accept a fair share in a democracy – such as serving in the army and compromising at the Kotel with Diaspora Jewry. Unfortunately, he immediately reversed these steps for fear of losing haredi support for his continued service as prime minister.”

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