Editorial

Netanyahu’s Iran Policy Has Collapsed

Netanyahu stands in front of an F-35 plane during a discussion on regional threats, July 9, 2019.
Amos Ben Gershom

Two strategic surprises have toppled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s foreign affairs and defense policy, showing it to be hollow and disastrous.

The first surprise was the successful attack, attributed to Iran, on the Saudi oil fields. The response was an American shrug. The second surprise was U.S. President Donald Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds, thus enabling Turkey to set out to occupy a “security zone” in the Kurdish region in northern Syria.

Israel was surprised by the Iranians’ operative capability against Saudi Arabia and Netanyahu hastily asked for additional state funds to strengthen air defenses. Israel was no less surprised by the American retreat from northern Syria. According to Amos Harel and Amir Tibon’s report (Haaretz October 7), the last time Trump decided to take his forces out of Syria Israel had been notified 24 hours in advance. This time the White House made no effort to do even that.

Netanyahu built his foreign affairs and defense policy on two foundations: complete identification with Trump and escalating the conflict with Iran and its allies, with a series of attacks that have intensified in recent months, striking at a distance as far as Iraq. He believed, and marketed to the public, that Trump was attentive to his counsel and would take steps to bring down the Iranian regime. But to his great disappointment Trump broke off contact with him after the election and is brazenly acting to thaw relations with Iran. Netanyahu has no other allies in America, after effectively severing his ties with the Democratic Party.

Trump’s putting up with the attack on Saudi Arabia and leaving the Kurds high and dry are warning signs to Israel, that it cannot count on Netanyahu’s friend in the White House. Trump is striving to end his country’s military involvement in the Middle East and his policy is supported by the American public and political system. Netanyahu’s efforts to impede the change in the American approach and thwart the thaw with Iran are asking for trouble.

Netanyahu serves as defense minister as well. He is responsible for the strategic surprises, for Israel’s deficient preparation for the American turnabout and for dealing with Iran’s military capability. Here’s another vital reason to end his term of office.