On 22nd March 1978, in a speech at the Washington, the founding father of the Likud and former Prime Minister of Israel late Menachem Begin had said:”it is my duty to remind public opinion of the fact that Israel is still the only country in the world against which there is a written document to the effect that it must disappear.” Security challenges of Israel are unique. In the present century, no other country faces attack from the arson kites & balloons and nowhere in the world are people not forced to live with this constant threat that a rocket attack can get launched at any day from their surrounding neighbors who holds an enduring desire to wipe them off from the world map.
But even in these situations, Israel’s continuous fight to not accept the imposed narrative of a conflict zone which others want to attach with her identity is exemplary for many nations. Israel, with around 9 million people and a land of 20,770 sq km is a case study before many aspiring nations that how effectively a tiny democratic nation in the most complicated part of the world can reinvent its brand and represent itself strongly among the global powers. There are new headlines every day which covers every single statement of Netanyahu’s political opponents and some section of the media regularly try to find out what’s not working in Israel but something which Israeli mainstream media is ignoring is the fact that how with continuous gradual efforts Netanyahu has developed diplomatic leverage over his Middle Eastern neighbors.
Branding of Israeli conceptual abilities is an aspect on which no previous Israeli leader has worked as aggressively as Netanyahu did or we can say that Netanyahu visualized the future transitions much earlier than others and identified the gaps in Israel’s image which were limiting the possibilities of this tiny nation. He started working on establishing a startup and innovation nation identity of Israel, at a time when these buzzwords were not even introduced in the parlance in many other countries.
Prior to Netanyahu, only conflict, crisis and courageous revenge kind of tags were a part of Israel’s identity but in the last 10 years of Netanyahu era some new tags i.e. cybersecurity, agriculture technologies, water management, digital health, medical devices kind of things have been added which naturally made previous ones less relevant. Today any thought about innovative nations cannot skip the name of Israel.
A careful observation of Independent Israel’s political history reflects that although some of the previous Israeli heads were equally talented, they managed the challenges of their times diligently and represented their country’s interests effectively too but in their conversations with the world they always tend to highlight only the unique challenges which their country had, perhaps that was the demand of that time, but Netanyahu moved one step further. From 2009 to 2019, in his each and every speech on global forums, he highlighted not just challenges but also presented the unique abilities that Israel possess, something which distinguishes Israel from its surrounding and has the potential to solve some of the serious problems of many parts of the world too. This is a huge difference and this difference in Netanyahu’s approach has helped in developing a fresh perspective about Israel in the minds of the global audience.
If till 2009, Israel was an example of surviving then in 2019 it is a model of thriving particularly on economic and diplomatic matters. Once the founder of the Likud party late Menachem Begin had said: “in the Jewish teachings, there is a tradition that the greatest achievement of a human being is to turn his enemy into a friend, and this we do in reciprocity.” When it comes to security and diplomatic initiatives, Netanyahu is successful in sustaining Begin’s legacy. Interestingly, in the current tide of Israel’s growing exchanges with the African and Gulf States the key talking points are Israeli innovations, technologies and ways to combat mutual challenges.
It is important to note that Israel is surrounded by radical Islam. The medieval approach and fight for the cause about which Netanyahu regularly alerts the world community reflects quite often in the Iranian leader’s statements and acts. On 14th October, 2018, Ayatollah Khamenei released a draft of the “Islamic-Iranian Blueprint for progress” a document that outlines his vision for Iran in 2065, which talks about things like creation of a new Islamic civilization, Islamic revolution, Jihadi spirit, reaching the divine vicegerency, global justice, Muslim Brotherhood, powerful confrontation with enemies etc. which reflects that a primitive mindset still exists in the 21st century and at a time when the rest of the world is discussing things like shared future, shared prosperity and inclusiveness.
In the global image of a country, the role of its leadership and the values it represents are crucial. We are living in a fast changing dynamic times when almost every country has the same level of access to technology, innovations and global platforms but still each country holds some unique abilities of its own to offer to the world. How effectively a leader can communicate his country’s potential and priorities to the world depend on his unique abilities and charisma. India is an example too wherein a span of just five years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has changed India’s image from an onlooker on global matters to an active participant and in fact on some global issues such as Climate change and clean energy India is leading and shaping the direction of the global efforts.
After the ten successful years of Netanyahu administration now Israel is entering into a shining era. Its diplomatic influence is gradually increasing. Today Israel is reaching out to the world to not seek support for its strategic needs but to offer its conceptual assets and the world is turning toward Israel in a way which was not imagined before. In an interview former head of Israel’s National Security Council and MK from Likud party Maj Gen (res.) Uzi Dayan had said “we can continue to build a vibrant Jewish and democratic state while offering our expertise to those around us. If we do this, many of our former enemies will eventually say, we want to do for our people what you do for yours.” The transition in Israel-Arab relations is one of the biggest diplomatic successes of the Netanyahu era.
Now the question comes if Netanyahu has such a glorious report card then why he could not succeed in forming a government? There can be many angles to see this but we cannot ignore the fact that the way in which Netanyahu has sustained a strong political position even in his fourth consecutive term (and overall a fifth term) is itself a big achievement in the democratic world. It also demonstrates that irrespective of his bold and nonconventional approach in economic and foreign policy matters, the trust and hopes of a majority of Israeli people are still with Netanyahu.
According to some analysis, 56% of the Israelis describe themselves as right-wing and the outcome of this election reflects that people have either voted for Netanyahu or for those who sound like Netanyahu. Israel needs a strong communicator and experienced leadership to continue the trajectory of growth. But this time the only challenge for Netanyahu is to giving a common purpose to his highly motivated and patriotic citizens. A country of 9 million cannot agree on all or even on a single question, that’s not the case with any nation but there exist a common desire of the people. If Netanyahu would be able to make this a base of his aim and would be able to make the common Israelis feel that their aspirations have space in the efforts of the nation then this will generate a national unity which will help Israel to achieve its vision of 2048 and as MK Uzi Dayan often says: “We are working for the year when Israel will be celebrating its 100th Independence Day.”
The outcomes of the snap elections in September seem uncertain but one thing is certain that Israel will continue to need a strong, experienced and non-conventional approach to defend its interests globally.