(January 23, 2020 / JNS) “Our international position has never, ever, in the history of the state since 1948 until today, ever been so terrible.” So declared Knesset member Yair Lapid in February 2016. Today Lapid is the leading contender to serve as foreign minister in a future Blue and White government.
At the time, there were indications that Lapid was merely exaggerating rather than being flat-out wrong. A year earlier, then-U.S. President Barack Obama concluded his nuclear deal with Iran, which gave Tehran an open road to a nuclear arsenal within a decade.
Obama’s hostility towards Israel was unprecedented. Aside from the direct damage he caused Jerusalem, Obama’s animosity gave the Europeans a tailwind in their bigoted efforts to promote economic boycotts by, among other things, mandating discriminatory labeling guidelines for Jewish Israeli products from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights.
But while Israel’s relations with the United States and the European Union were at a low point, when Lapid made his dramatic pronouncement signs abounded that all was not lost. Indeed, Israel was growing stronger economically and its diplomatic standing was improving across a wide expanse of the globe. Subscribe to The JNS Daily Syndicate by email and never miss our top stories
In spite of Obama, Israel reached a modus operandi with Russian President Vladimir Putin that enabled the Israel Defense Forces to prevent Iran from transferring guided missiles and other advanced weapons systems to Hezbollah through Syria. The understandings Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached with Putin afforded Israel the operational freedom to secure its national security interests at the expense of Iran and its proxies despite their alliance with Russia.
In the face of Obama’s overtures towards Iran, Israel created a working alliance against Iran with the Sunni states. This informal alliance, bred of common interests and concerns, spurred unprecedented operational and diplomatic cooperation between Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
In the months before Lapid announced that all was lost, Israel forged close ties with India. It vastly improved its relations with China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hungary, Poland, Greece, Cyprus, multiple states in Africa and Latin America.
And Obama was far from the only game in town in America.
By February 2016, every Republican presidential hopeful had pledged to withdraw the United States from Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran and had disavowed his hostile positions and posture towards Israel.
Lapid wasn’t doing anything original when he proclaimed Israel’s diplomatic doom. He was presenting himself as an heir to such failed Israeli statesmen as Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. Peres presented his peace process with the Palestine Liberation Organization as the beginning of a utopian era. When instead it brought suicide bombers to Israel’s buses and cafes, Peres blamed the Israeli public for rejecting his false god of peace.
Barak promised he would end the conflict with the PLO once and for all. When his offer of Jerusalem served only to empower Yasser Arafat to launch a terror war against Israel, Barak doubled down.
And after the damage he caused, in 2011, Barack had the gall to accuse Netanyahu of causing a “diplomatic tsunami” against Israel due to his refusal to make even more expansive concessions to the PLO.
The Lapid/Barak/Peres model of statesmanship is the Beggar in Jerusalem paradigm. The beggar paradigm begins with an assertion that Israel’s default status is that of a pariah state. That its very existence depends on the goodwill—and pity—of America and Europe.
Lapid’s Beggar in Jerusalem paradigm requires Israel to dance to the U.S.-E.U. fiddle. To this end, the paradigm requires that Israel surrender Judea and Samaria and half of Jerusalem to the PLO while sucking up to Arafat’s PLO heirs. It is only by pleasing them, the beggars claim, that Israel will make Europe—and the American left— happy.
The beggar paradigm was the basis for Israel’s foreign policy from 1992 until 2009, when it was exchanged for another one. That alternative paradigm should rightly be called the Sovereignty paradigm.
The Sovereignty paradigm is the model championed by Netanyahu. At its core is the assumption that Israel’s strength is the key to its success. The Sovereignty paradigm asserts that Israeli strength is what attracts foreign partners to work with it in ways that advance its economic, diplomatic and military interests. The advancement of those interests makes Israel even stronger, which in turn, attracts still more foreign partners.
The motorcades of the dozens of foreign leaders who ascended the Judean Hills to Mt. Herzl in Jerusalem this week are like a thousand bells proclaiming the victory of the Netanyahu’s Sovereignty model of foreign policy over the Beggar in Jerusalem paradigm of his predecessors and would-be successors.
The fact that these leaders have come to Jerusalem at the same time that Israel’s elected leaders are openly working to extend Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea only underscores the wisdom and success of the sovereignty model.
It is both ironic and disconcerting that the week of the Sovereignty’s triumph, Lapid’s boss, Blue and White leader Benny Gantz, effectively announced that if he forms the next government, he will revert to the Beggar in Jerusalem model.
During a tour of the Jordan Valley Tuesday, Gantz said that if elected, he will “apply Israeli law on the Jordan Valley as part of an agreed and coordinated move with the international community.” In other words, like Peres and Barak before him and in partnership with Lapid, Gantz pledged to reinstate Europe’s veto over Israel’s right to advance its national interests.
Rarely, if ever have Israelis faced a starker choice in national elections. We can either maintain the model that has brought us unprecedented triumphs, or we can revert to the model that brought us to the depths of despair and weakness.