Strategic genius

The JC Leader, 20 August 2020

August 20, 2020 10:34

The story from Israel in recent years has been a variation on a set of interwoven themes: inconclusive elections, unstable coalitions and a prime minister facing a corruption trial.

And the pattern set by those themes has repeated: political chaos appears imminent, with Benjamin Netanyahu about to be outdone by his opponents — followed by a manoeuvre that blindsides those who have written him off.

Whatever one’s view of his politics, purely as a political strategist Mr Netanyahu is in a different league to his peers. He sees twenty moves ahead when even his most able rivals can plan for just two or three.

But the necessarily heavy focus on his domestic struggles has obscured his genius for geopolitical strategy. For almost any other Israeli leader, the security threat posed by the Iran nuclear deal would have marked a disastrous failure.

Mr Netanyahu was able to turn it into a vehicle for regenerating Israeli relations with its Middle East neighbours. They shared Israel’s view of Iran and the deal and, with Israel willing to lead global opposition to the agreement, Mr Netanyahu leveraged that role to open all sorts of hitherto closed channels.

Last week’s entente with the United Arab Emirates is a more public product of this — credit for which belongs to Mr Netanyahu. (And, while this newspaper remains deeply critical of President Trump’s bigotry and conduct in office, he too deserves credit for the agreement.)

This week Israel is on the verge of yet another election. The story repeats itself. Who is to say that the conclusion will not also repeat: a manoeuvre that propels Mr Netanyahu once again to the fore.

August 20, 2020 10:34

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