The Lapid-Bennett Government’s Foreign Policy 'Doctrine'
Turning to the EU for "optimism" -- and universalizing Jew-hatred.
From Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s stunning assault against his predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, through Foreign Minister Yair Lapid’s trip to Brussels and his speech before the Global Forum on Anti-Semitism, this week the Lapid-Bennett government’s foreign policy doctrine was fully exposed.
One of the novel aspects of Bennett and Lapid’s governing arrangements is that there doesn’t appear to be any tension between them on foreign policy. In all previous unity governments there were great tensions as the prime minister, who hailed from one side of the ideological spectrum and his foreign minister, who hailed from the other. Each pulled Israel’s foreign policy in opposite directions, with the prime minister ultimately gaining the upper hand.
There is none of that in the Lapid-Bennett government and this week we discovered why that is the case. There is no tension because there is no competition. Lapid controls everything. Bennett is an afterthought, at best.
Consider Bennett’s behavior on Iran.
Wednesday, Iran’s outgoing president Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran has the capacity to enrich uranium to 90 percent purity – the level of purity required to develop nuclear weapons. The day before Rouhani’s announcement, the Biden administration made clear that it will do nothing to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear armed state when on the one hand it announced that Iranian intelligence had attempted to abduct Iranian-American journalist and human rights activist Masih Alinejad from her Brooklyn home; and on the other hand, the administration announced that it is providing Iran with billions of dollars in sanctions relief by unfreezing Iranian government accounts in Japan and South Korea.
In his speech Monday at the Knesset, Bennett didn’t lay out a policy for preventing Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal in the face of U.S. support for the regime and its military nuclear program. Instead, he through an adolescent fit against Netanyahu replete with weird mimicry and obvious slanders. Bennett alleged ridiculously that Netanyahu did nothing to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons during his long tenure in office.
Usually, shortly after a new prime minister enters office he flies to Washington to meet the U.S. President. Bennett is in no hurry. His meeting with Biden is scheduled for the second half of August.
The delay is telling. By the time he arrives at the White House, by Rouhani’s telling Iran will have reached nuclear breakout capacity. The Butcher of Tehran Ebraihim Raisi will have been sworn in as Iran’s new president. As Tuesday’s sanctions removal made clear, with or without a nuclear deal by mid-August, the Biden administration will have massively enriched Iran by lifting certain limitations on trade and unfreezing accounts.
In other words, by the time Bennett is scheduled to shake Biden’s hand, it will likely be too late to change the course of events on Iran.
It was Lapid, not Bennett who rushed to meet with his U.S. counterpart Secretary of State Anthony Blinken almost immediately after taking office. In their meeting in Rome in late June, Lapid set out the government’s policy on Iran. He gave Blinken his pledge of “zero surprises.” That is, Lapid promised that Israel would not take action against Iran that wasn’t first coordinated with – or approved by – the pro-Iran Biden administration.
Having divested Israel from its power to independently act against Iran, this week, Lapid turned his attention to Europe. Tuesday, he participated in the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. In his address to his European counterparts, Lapid laid out his credo for strengthening EU-Israel ties.
In addition to sharing common values, (like “human rights and LGBT rights”), Lapid said, “I want to base our relations on something more, that usually isn’t discussed in international diplomacy: Optimism.
“Optimism is a political force,” Lapid exalted.
“I want for us to work together on this: On the chance of a better future.”
Every year, the EU spends millions of dollars financing the operations of non-governmental organizations that wage political warfare against Israel, often in cooperation with terrorist organizations. These EU-financed and directed NGOs wage boycott campaigns targeting Israeli companies, nationals, Jewish supporters abroad and companies that do business with Israel. They demonize the IDF and its soldiers. They sabotage government and military operations through lawfare in Israeli courts and international bodies. They seek to undermine Israel’s social cohesion by radicalizing Israeli Arabs and other minority groups. Some of the EU-financed groups are controlled by the PFLP terror group.
In his remarks, Lapid ignored all of this and tried to reduce this open hostility and aggression to a difference of opinion based on ignorance.
“I accept the idea that part of our dialogue involves moral judgement. I want to hear your views with an open heart. But it isn’t too much to expect that this dialogue will take into account that my house is under fire.”
Lapid arrived in Brussels as Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is preparing to wage another round of political war against Israel. This time, with the support not only of the EU, but of the Biden administration. As part of his preparations, Abbas submitted a list of 14 preconditions for the reinstatement of peace talks with Israel to Hady Amr, U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of State for Israel and the Palestinians and Biden’s candidate to serve as U.S. consul general in Jerusalem.
Among other things, Abbas demands that Israel remove its police forces from the Temple Mount and severely curtail the freedom of Jews to visit Judaism’s holiest site. He called for Jewish property rights in Judea, Samaria and unified Jerusalem to be abrogated, Jewish building outlawed and the destruction of around a hundred Israeli communities that have been built in Judea and Samaria since 2000. He demanded the reopening of PLO offices in Jerusalem. He demanded that Israel agree to the opening of a U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians. He demanded an end to Israeli military operations in Area A of Judea and Samaria and a curtailing of those operations in Area B. He demanded the release of Palestinian and Israeli Arab terrorists from Israeli prisons. He demanded that all legal proceedings to evict Arab squatters from Jewish-owned buildings in Shimon HaTzaddik/Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood be withdrawn.
Abbas’s list is an expanded version of the preconditions he presented to the Obama administration in 2013. It shows that Abbas sees the Biden administration as beginning where Barack Obama left off. Obama’s last move was getting UN Security Council resolution 2334 passed in December 2016. Resolution 2334 defined Israel’s presence beyond the 1949 armistice lines, (in unified Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights) as a “flagrant violation of international law.”
Next week, Amr is scheduled to travel to the region to begin discussions towards restarting the long-lifeless “peace process.” Amr who has a public record of legitimizing terrorism Hamas is expected to agree with most of Abbas’s demands and adopt them as official U.S. positions.
Despite the fact that the Biden administration is closely coordinating its Palestinian policies with the EU, during his trip to Brussels Tuesday, Lapid chose to ignore the gathering storm, by adopting an apologetic tone. Although he embraced the establishment of a Palestinian state, Lapid suggested that conditions aren’t ripe for it right now because the Palestinians haven’t built a democratic society and are still fighting Israel.
All the same, he indicated he will accept constraining the rights of Jews in disputed territories. “We need now to ensure that no steps are taken that will prevent the possibility of peace in the future.”
He added, “We need to improve the lives of the Palestinians. Everything that is humanitarian, I will support. Everything that will build the Palestinian economy, I support.”
The Europeans were unimpressed. The EU statement summarizing the meeting with Lapid read, “In relation to the Middle East Peace Process, ministers once more stressed that the EU stands firmly for Israel’s security and condemns terrorism. At the same time, the EU expects Israel to offer a political perspective to end the conflict.”
Wednesday, Lapid turned his attention to the fight against anti-Semitism. Wednesday morning Israel Hayom reported that Bennett does not intend to appoint an advisor for Diaspora Jewry. For more than a generation, the Diaspora affairs advisor to the Prime Minister has played a central role in coordinating Israel’s fight against Jew hatred internationally. By opting not to fill the role, Bennett signaled that here too, he has no authority or power. Like foreign policy, this too, is Lapid’s issue.
Later Wednesday, Lapid set out how he plans to “fight” anti-Semitism: By redefining it.
In remarks before the Global Forum on Anti-Semitism Wednesday morning, Lapid said, “It’s time to tell the right story about the anti-Semites.”
“The anti-Semites weren’t only in the Budapest Ghetto [in the Holocaust]. The anti-Semites were also slave traders who threw people bound together with chains into the sea. The anti-Semites were the extremist Hutu in Rwanda who massacred Tutsis. The anti-Semites are Muslim fanatics who have murdered millions of other Muslims in the past century. The anti-Semites are ISIS and Boko Haram. The anti-Semites are people who beat LGBT people to death…Anti-Semitism isn’t the first name of hate. It’s the family name.”
With his universalization of Jew hatred, Lapid completed his presentation of the full panoply of his policies. Since taking over Israel’s foreign policy, Lapid has abrogated Israel’s independence of action against Iran. He has embraced appeasement of the Palestinians, truckling to the EU, and kowtowing to the Biden administration as national policies. To “strengthen” Israel’s ties to Jordan, as King Abdullah cozies up to Tehran, he has capitulated to all of Jordan’s demands. On the other hand, he has treated Israel’s allies in the EU’s Visegrad bloc with hostility and Israel’s Abraham Accords partners with indifference.
All of this makes clear that under Lapid’s stewardship, Israel’s foreign policy isn’t based on a strategy for advancing Israel’s national interests. It is based on sucking up to the cool guys – the progressives in America, the jetsetters in Brussels and the Palestinians whom both the progressives and the Europeans view as their cause celebre. And it is based on joining them in bullying the unpopular guys – the Central Europeans, the anti-jihadists Arabs, and the Israelis, (or in Lapid’s case, the right-religious bloc).
This is where Bennett’s temper tantrum against Netanyahu at the Knesset meets Lapid’s upholding of “optimism,” as the key to world peace. Both men see the world through the eyes of children – Bennett stars in the role of the rebellious teenager who despises his dad. Lapid is the social climber who builds his position by brownnosing the football team.
Unfortunately, as they play out their teenage fantasies together, neither Bennett nor Lapid is noticing that their interlocutors are not children. They are paying no attention to the interests and goals that motivate foreign powers. And they are unprepared to deal with the actual dangers rising against Israel from all quarters.