Parry Rosenberg

Bibi’s Choice – International Pariah or Global Kingmaker

Over the last couple decades, Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently shown his love for the grand global stage, whether it be his upcoming record setting fourth address to the U.S. Joint Congress or his grandstanding animated UN presentations. Contrary to the beliefs held by a couple of million Israelis, he has had very little impact internationally. “Mr Security” as he labels himself certainly took a huge drubbing after October 7th, and “Bibi, King of Israel” is not only facing growing political opposition at home, but faces credible threats from global institutions such as the ICC and ICJ along with a growing list of global leaders and UN institutions.

So how does a megalomaniac leader of a very small nation verging on world pariah status become a global kingmaker?  The answer lies not in the myopic scope as viewed in the narrow confines of Israeli politics, but in the wider scope of the current global eco-geo-political world today. 

The end of the Second World War led to the Cold War, which lasted until the fall of the Soviet Union. It entailed the establishment of military alliances and blocs which re-ordered the global geo-political landscape. What was created to provide security and protection to member nations against potential threats from opposing factions, also resulted in strong economic cooperation, shared technological advancements, and improved cultural understanding among those member states.

The initial period of the post-Cold War era saw the world with only one Superpower, which initially saw itself as the world’s policeman through the leaderships of HW Bush, Clinton and GW Bush. 

President Obama, though by no means an isolationist, tired of American involvement in wars far away spent most of his political capital on domestic issues and nation building, while attempting to solve global issues through dialogue, multilateralism and reconciliation. While America was repositioning itself away from interventionist policies, other nations began to rise on the global scene. China became more aggressive in the battle for economic and political supremacy, Russia through Putin yearned for a return to superpower status, and Iran continued to strive for regional hegemony. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put most of Europe, and especially those of Eastern Europe, on edge, as they see a Russian victory as only the first step of a renewed Russian imperialism and thus an existential threat. The American response to the invasion of Ukraine, besides military aid, is to try and isolate and weaken Russia through heavy economic sanctions. This has pushed Russia even closer than ever to China (which used its financial power to soften any western financial sanctions) and to an alliance with both Iran and North Korea for weapon supplies. China has utilized its immense economic powers to win over allies through critical infrastructure investments globally, while becoming more aggressive in regions it considers under its sphere of influence and especially the South China Sea and regards to Taiwan. Within the next couple years China intends to also double both its missile and nuclear arsenal, adding to its military might along with its powerful financial abilities. Iran has continued to invest in its regional proxies to create havoc throughout the Middle East, proving its ability, along with proxies to successfully threaten world trade through the Persian Gulf and continuing its efforts to full nuclear break out. 

What unites Russia, China and Iran is the mistrust and hatred of America, while viewing the United States as the only global power to threaten their national and international aspirations. This new powerful axis is a dangerous threat not only to American interests but to a large number of nations and the largest threat to global peace since WWII. 

While Biden continues along the Obama doctrine of projecting primarily soft power, dialogue and reconciliation, along with an occasional erratic threat of military intervention, their allies on the front lines become more nervous. In the Middle East, those countries aligned and potentially aligned with America are hedging their bets. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan , United Arab Emirates and even Tunisia have all recently made reconciliation overtures towards Iran, Vietnam and Thailand have made overtures towards China, and Europe is leaning more rightward while building up their own defense budgets in hopes of thwarting Russia’s next moves.

American allies in all three of these arenas are anxiously watching Biden’s threats of “don’t” to see whether there are any teeth behind his bark, or like Obama, his red lines keep receding. 

This brings us full circle to Israel and Netanyahu.

Israel is in a real quagmire. It is bogged down in Gaza with neither a “total victory” nor the release of remaining hostages. Publicly, there is also no appetite in Israel to discuss a two state solution due to the national trauma of October 7th,  and Hamas’ repeated statements that it will commit this massacre over and over again.  These feelings are reinforced by recent Palestinian polls that indicate 67% of the Palestinians support the October 7th massacre and that 57% of Palestinians would vote for Hamas if elections were held today. Meanwhile, Israel’s north is being pummeled by Hezbollah causing in excess of 100,000  Israelis to evacuate their homes, while Israel’s military, based on a people’s army of reserves, is not built for an extended conflict. After eight months in Gaza, it can no longer effectively fight a war on two fronts by itself, especially with an enemy as powerful as Hezbollah coupled with Iranian intervention.

Biden, especially in an election year, needs a major foreign policy win. His Republican rivals continually bash his ineffectiveness toward Iran and his inability to counter China. Biden, not impervious to the global picture and keeping with his doctrine has put huge political capital into reshaping the Middle East as a counter to Iran. His vision is military and economic alliance with “moderate” Sunni states along with Israel to counter Iran. The Sunni countries desperately crave an American defense treaty as a safeguard against Iran, but for the Sunni states to satisfy their population, which has been raised on anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian rhetoric, needs to show at least symbolically a path to a Palestinian State. Biden has threatened Israel that if they do not meet this condition they will be left out of his grand bargain. Biden also knows that this is an empty threat as a defense treaty of this nature requires a two-thirds Senate majority. A not so insignificant number of Democratic Senators will have an issue with a Saudi treaty, while Republicans have stated they will not support a treaty that excludes Israel. Therefore the reality is, no Israel no deal.

Biden needs Bibi as much as Israel needs America. While most of their discussions center on what sacrifices or what Israel can concede to make a deal happen, there has been little discussion of what Israel can ask of the United States. Netanyahu has primarily said “no” when he should be saying “yes, but”.  

The “yes” Netanyahu should agree to is a “day after” plan commencing immediately that would more closely follow the IDF and Gallant (Israel’s Defense Minister) proposed plan of clearing Hamas from smaller areas in Gaza, guarding the external perimeters of these enclaves to prevent Hamas from reentering, flooding these demilitarized enclaves with aid, water and basic services, initially having a Pan Arab group administer the area, while slowly turning governance over to the local population. Reconstruction (Arab nations that partake will be the countries that win the reconstruction contracts) will take place concurrently in these enclaves. Meanwhile, Israel continues rooting out Hamas strongholds and clearing new enclaves. 

Israel will sell this plan both to its population and to Arab countries as the framework under a Gaza First (2nd attempt) policy. Israel should commit that once Hamas is taken out of Gaza, and the area is demilitarized and peaceful, then building upon this success, Israel will negotiate the borders and land swaps required for a peace plan with the West Bank. It is a framework just solid enough for Saudi Arabia to agree to Biden’s Grand Bargain with Israel’s inclusion.

The “but” is that America must commit to a show of force in the Eastern Mediterranean by placing an aircraft carrier off the northern shores of Israel, and militarily assisting Israel in enforcing UN Resolution 1701 (pushing Hezbollah north of the Litani River).  At the same time, America must place two carrier forces in the Persian Gulf as well as put its Middle Eastern bases on alert, with a direct threat of intervention if Iran comes to Hezbollah’s defense. America must also confront Iran and insist it halt its nuclear weapon program.

The effects of such a Netanyahu deal will reverberate globally. The Sunni states will feel more confident that they can depend on American defense when needed, thus becoming solid American partners. Europe will sleep easier knowing America fully supports their allies. China will tread more carefully and behave less aggressively towards Taiwan and other South Sea nations. Lebanon will have to decide which bloc they really want to be allied with, as will the “reformed  PA” and any body governing Gaza. Likewise, Iraq will need to make the same calculations. . 

The nations under the American alliance, like in the Cold War, will naturally strengthen their  economic cooperation, further share technological advancements, and improve cultural understanding. Like the Cold War, there may be continued proxy wars in far away places but the risks of large scale global aggression will be substantially reduced 

By portraying a mighty military force, America can radically change the global power structure. Biden can gain the Grand Bargain he desperately desires as well as a huge pre-election foreign policy victory. The western world, Sunni moderate states, European countries and American allies in Asia can gain more security.  Netanyahu can extract Israel from its current morass in both the south and the north, and in the process,  possibly resurrect himself as “Mr Security”. Bibi Netanyahu holds the only card that can force Biden to take this necessary, bold action and it is his card alone to play.  Bibi, global kingmaker.

About the Author
Parry Rosenberg is a strategic analyst who guides international clients through complex issues and a labyrinth of corporate landscapes. He received an Hons.BA in Political Science from Haifa University, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from York University. In 2021, he and his wife made Aliyah, and have since called Tel Aviv home.
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