Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid have handcuffed Israel to a policy of “no surprises” with the Biden administration and have abandoned the fight for global public opinion. Writes Benjamin Netanyahu
At the recent commemoration of the anniversary of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s death, representatives of Israel’s current government claimed they were following in his footsteps. There is no greater absurdity.
Jabotinsky’s diplomatic doctrine focused on two points: The “iron wall” and the “doctrine of pressure.” The governments under my leadership adhered to these two principles for years, while the current government has abandoned them in just four weeks.
First, the “iron wall.” Jabotinsky believed that aggressive and independent projection of Hebrew strength was the only way to stunt our enemies’ desire to destroy us until they one day come to terms with our existence.
There’s no need to detail everything that the Likud governments have done to build Israel as a military, intelligence and cyber power. There’s also not enough space here to detail the vast scope of actions we took against the Iranian nuclear program, designed to annihilate us.
Sometimes the United States knew about these actions and other times we carried them out without its knowledge and approval. Various American administrations, including the Biden administration most recently, repeatedly asked me “not to surprise them” with actions against Iran. I always refused to make this promise. I always maintained our freedom of action.
I also publicly stated that we would continue doing anything necessary to ensure Israel’s security—with or without a nuclear deal between the United States and Iran.
Yet, within a week of this government’s formation, prime minister-in-actuality Yair Lapid discarded this policy wholesale. He dealt a mortal blow to Israel’s freedom of action when he stunningly promised the Americans “no surprises.”
I ask: What will happen if and when the United States returns to the nuclear deal—does anyone think the United States will agree to Israeli military actions that could endanger this deal?
And when Lapid and Bennett inform the United States in advance of a planned military operation and Washington objects, does anyone really believe that Lapid, Bennett, or their friends will greenlight such an operation regardless?
Thus, on one of the more fateful matters of our existence, Bennett and Lapid turned Israel’s iron wall into drywall full of holes.
In terms of the “doctrine of pressure,” meanwhile, Jabotinsky espoused a determined and consistent effort across the globe to influence public opinion about Israel, as a means of pressuring Western leaders to support Zionism.
In accordance with this principle, we endeavored for years to sway American public opinion and persuade important leaders in the United States to oppose the Iranian nuclear program and to impose paralyzing sanctions on Iran.
We did this through countless American media interviews, speeches at the United Nations and of course, the U.S. Congress.
Our efforts played a role in the previous American administration’s withdrawal from the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran and the even harsher sanctions it imposed.
In recent days, my friends in the United States have asked me: Why aren’t we hearing the voice of the Israeli government, here in the United States, against the race back to the nuclear deal with Iran?
The answer is simple. The government of concession says it plainly: “We will resolve the problems with the United States behind closed doors.”
Instead of speaking out publicly and clearly to sway American public opinion in Israel’s favor and against returning to the nuclear deal, the current government is doing nothing.
Does the government really think it will be able to convince anyone behind closed doors, or with an occasional tweet? Based on 40 years of experience, I can testify that such things are completely ineffective if unaccompanied by a public, aggressive and prolonged campaign targeting American public opinion.
Only by speaking powerfully publicly will they listen to you seriously privately.
This is what we did when private meetings with world leaders didn’t suffice; we supplemented them with global media campaigns and exhausting every important international stage.
Across the world—in Washington, Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and Tokyo, along with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi— Jerusalem’s position was heard loud and clear.
And yes, it was heard in Iran as well. Particularly in Iran.
This is the core of Jabotinsky’s doctrine of pressure, and it’s only taken this government a few days to throw this in the garbage, too. It stems from a lack of understanding or a lack of ability or a lethal combination of the two. No one can hear this government’s voice. It has nothing to say, and no one is listening anyway. Like a tree falling in the forest that no one sees, or hears, or cares about.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the head of the Likud Party and the leader of Israel’s opposition.
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