January 21, 2019

NETANYAHU’S STRATEGIC GENIUS?: After Chad ties restored, Israel set to host Mali’s PM in coming weeks.

I have lots of reservations about the Israeli PM, but credit where credit is due. He has a strategic vision for the country, which he has been pursuing relentlessly:

(1) Preserve and expand market reforms to increase Israel’s wealth, thereby making emgiration less attractive, and immigration more so. Since 2001, Israel has moved from number 40 in the world in per capita nominal income to 20th.

(2) Expand ties with Arab neighbors who have a common fear of Iran and a common impatience with Palestinian extremism and intransigence. Reports of not-so-secret secret meetings of Israeli officials with Arab officials from countries with no diplomatic relations with Israel are frequent (e.g.).

(3) Instead of relying on fair-weather friends in Europe, expand diplomatic ties with India, China, and, as in the headline above, African countries, including Muslim-majority countries.

(4) Very much under the radar (because there is no domestic political gain from doing so), take significant, expensive measures to integrate the Arab population of Israel into the economic mainstream, including aggressive civil service hiring, additional spending on infrastructure in Arab towns, and perhaps most important, significant steps taken to close the education and career prospects gap between Arab and Jewish residents of Israel. If successful, such steps will dampen irredentist and secessionist views within the Arab population.

Admittedly, some of Bibi’s successes have been more luck than skill–Trump beating Clinton, and the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt were two very fortuitous events from his perspective. And he doesn’t seem to have any clue about what, if anything, can be done to alleviate the long-term conflict with the Palestinians, or how to stop the slide in Israel’s support among U.S. Democrats. But his successes shouldn’t be underestimated.

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