Show that there is principled continuity in Israeli foreign and defense policy, impose more obligations on and invest in this country’s minority populations, and retake the Temple Mount.
Published in The Jerusalem Post, June 11, 2021. Print-friendly copy
Pundits already are saying that Israel’s new government (hopefully to be sworn into office on Sunday) is a self-neutered, immobilized entity; powerless to make substantive policy changes. That Israelis will be lucky if all it does is pass a responsible budget and bring some stability and sanity to Israeli politics for a medium-term period.
Nevertheless, in my opinion there is ample room for the Bennett-Lapid government to set a few things in order, and to make it clear to Israeli friends and adversaries abroad that there is principled continuity in Israeli foreign and defense policy.
Here are ten tips or commandments for Israel’s newbie prime minister, and his foreign affairs, defense, and finance deputies.
Thou shalt squeeze Iran harder.
Since the Biden administration is reengaging Iran based on the weak nuclear accord that was crafted by President Obama (and later jettisoned by Trump), Israel has no choice but to continuously scuttle Iran’s military and terrorist plans – on its own. More Fahrizadeh-style strikes on Iranian terrorist leaders and hits on key nuclear sites are necessary. Israel must show that blocking Iran’s hegemonic ambitions was not just a pet project of Prime Minister Netanyahu but is an ongoing Israeli national security and diplomatic priority.
Thou shalt expand the Abrahamic circle of peace.
Nothing will better solidify the fantastic new regional peace dynamic (which strengthens Israeli and Western interests, while weakening Iran, Turkey, Russia, and the radicals among Palestinians) than a few more normalization accords between Israel and Arab/Islamic states. Niger, Oman, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia should be steered next towards reconciliation with Israel. Bennett and Lapid must devote serious time and attention to this effort and seek to win the trust of regional leaders.
Of course, this would be easier if accompanied by offers on the table of US military and diplomatic backing; stiff American resolve in opposing Iran’s hegemonic designs; and an understanding that over-prioritizing the Palestinian issue is a mistake. Alas, the Biden administration may not be in synch with Israel on these three matters.
Thou shalt prepare for war, the right way.
Despite the Abrahamic peace dynamic, Israel must prepare for a broad range of war scenarios. This includes development of a credible Israeli capacity to strike Iranian nuclear targets; preparation for real war on three fronts against an Iranian-led coalition; and the ability to withstand intense missile wars.
But no defensive systems will suffice. Israel must have ground forces capable of swift and crushing maneuver to attain decisive outcomes by taking the fight deep into enemy territory and breaking its will to fight. In other words, Israel must bring back the doctrine known as hachra’ah (decisive outcome). This will be expensive. Nevertheless, and despite the large budget deficit (stemming from the corona crisis and more), the IDF budget must be hiked.
Thou shalt brook no terror.
Make it clear to the Palestinians that even one bus bomb, G-d forbid, or one round of Kassam rockets, will cost them in tangible real estate and in concrete Israeli assistance of all types. Both Palestinian entities, nasty and corrupt as they are, are 100% capable of halting violence against Israel, when they want to.
Whether on the southern border versus Hamas in Gaza or across the northern borders versus Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, prime minister Naftali Bennett and his defense minister Benny Gantz should act to boost Israeli deterrence. This means zero tolerance for border rushes, booby traps on the fence, missile fire, incendiary kites, and the like.
It means targeting Hamas leaders if they fail to maintain the current lull; striking deep inside Syria the minute IRGC bases are identified; and knocking out more Iranian nuclear sites through subterfuge – hopefully with continued clear US backing for this “war between the wars.”
This also means settling for nothing less than overwhelming, sweeping, almost cosmic reform of the corrupt Palestinian Authority before even approaching a discussion of political “road maps” for the future.
Thou shalt rule emphatically in Area C.
Preserving what is left of Israel’s de facto sovereign control in Area C of Judea and Samaria means approving road and other infrastructure projects that will benefit both Jewish and Arab residents of this area, and dismantling illegal Bedouin and Palestinian settlements that (purposefully) impinge on strategic routes. This includes the encampment called Khan al-Ahmar that was erected in E-1 to deliberately challenge Israeli control of the Jerusalem envelope.
Thou shalt retake control of the Temple Mount.
Davka (specifically and defiantly) because Hamas has made control of the Temple Mount the centerpiece of its latest assault on Israel, and because Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority long has spread the venal lie that Israel is threatening the mosques on the mount – now is the time to re-assert Israeli administration of the site.
Despite the sensitivity and explosiveness of the situation, Israel must demonstrate sovereignty. The best way to do this is not by marching through the Arab Quarter of the Old City, but by expanding Jewish visiting privileges and even basic prayer rights at this most holy of places to the Jewish People.
Thou shalt build in and around Jerusalem.
Building in E-1, and expanding Maaleh Adumim eastwards too, are best ways to solidify Israel’s long-term hold across the strategic arc from Jaffa to Jericho, which anchors Israel’s hold on the Jordan Valley. Before the two recent elections, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he would move ahead with building 3,500 homes in E-1. Tenders were issued for 1,000 homes in Givat Hamatos, and projects in Atarot and Gilo were announced too. These must advance to keep Jerusalem Zionist and thriving.
Thou shalt no longer neglect Israel’s Arab and haredi minorities.
All Israelis are paying the price for minority community autonomy, anarchy, lawlessness – and Israeli government fecklessness in the face of these challenges. Arab and haredi behavior during the corona crisis, Arab behavior during the recent riots, the continuing high crime rate among Israeli Arabs, the continuing aggressive sprawl of Bedouin across the Negev, and the tragedies that recently hit haredim in Meron and Givat Zeev – all make it clear that Israel that can no longer afford the purposeful and self-destructive sectarianism of its minority communities.
Therefore, it is high time to impose more obligations and responsibilities on this country’s minority populations, while investing in their advancement too. Not to punish them, but to encourage their good citizenship and better integration. This will be a painful but long overdue, process. Get started now. (Note: To be fair, the Netanyahu governments of the past decade did a lot to try to advance Arab and Bedouin communities).
Thou shalt invest in long-term projects.
The way to re-spark the Israeli economy and create jobs is by investing in major infrastructure projects and by releasing the housing market from stifling bureaucratic policies. This means resisting the socialist and monopolistic tendencies of several new ministers from the left. In fact, keep an eye on the many neophyte ministers from all parties who all-of-a-sudden will be running big ministry budgets for the first time in their political careers.
Thou shalt be inclusive, not divisive.
Settlers are not “propellers,” haredi Jews are not “parasites,” Israeli Arabs are not “terrorists,” the Right is not “fascist,” and the Left is not “traitorous.” Keep Avigdor Lieberman and Nitzan Horowitz’s demagoguery in check.