By Rachel Avraham
In a recent webinar, Ken Abramowitz, founder of Save the West and author of The Multifront War, talked about the new government in Israel: “I am not happy with this government. It is a left-wing government run by a right-wing opportunist. In Israel, they have the Basic Laws, which serve as Israel’s Constitution. The government is dedicated to having Jerusalem as the undivided capital, and Hatikvah is the national anthem. Both are opposed by the Ra’am Party (Joint Arab List)”, which forms a part of the new government and on which Israel’s new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett relies to maintain power.
According to Abramowitz, Bennett wanted to be Prime Minister so badly that neither the Basic Laws nor the will of his own voters mattered: “He used to be a good guy, but the desire for power flipped him. This is not a legitimate government. They will be susceptible to pressure from the Biden administration. We have two democracies in the wrong hands.” Already, the change in power on Balfour Street has adversely influenced the State of Israel.
As of this writing, a law that is designed to prevent the unification of Israeli Arabs with their relatives in the Palestinian Authority, which is necessary to prevent the infiltration of Palestinian terrorists into Israel, is slated not to pass because Ra’am and one Meretz MK don’t support it. As Abramowitz noted, “Naftali Bennett used to be normal. Ayelet Shaked used to be normal, as did Sa’ar. The power corrupted them. They sought to get rid of Bibi by advocating “anyone but Bibi,” but the power corrupted their brains and made them temporarily insane. You cannot have a government with an intellectual cancer that does not believe in the Basic Laws.” Yet by relying upon Ra’am, this is precisely what happened.
According to Abramowitz, this situation does not only affect Israel domestically, but it also has international implications: “One of the Biden Administration’s false narratives is related to the Abraham Accords. It was a crowning achievement of the Trump administration and Israel and its neighbors. But because our administration is supporting our enemies, suddenly, normal relations became bad. Everything you think is good is bad and vice versa. Biden told his people not to even use the term Abraham Accords.” And most recently, he has frozen the funding for the Abraham Fund, which was already functioning and had approved ten projects to further Middle East normalization. Considering this, the US is not even taking the Arab Gulf countries under consideration as it seeks to rejoin the Iranian nuclear deal, nor is Israel under Bennett doing enough to force the US to change course.
While former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has always stood strong in opposition to the US rejoining the Iranian nuclear deal, this new government led by Naftali Bennett has instead let it be known that it would prefer that Israeli interests be taken under consideration at the negotiating table. As one source close to Bennett stated, “We won’t be on board with any agreement with Iran. But we can influence it and influence what happens if Iran violates the agreement, if we are part of the conversation.” One of the ways that this government plans on influencing it is by developing a policy where there will be “no daylight between Washington and Jerusalem,” so that Israel will not face any surprises related to the Iranian nuclear deal.
However, how exactly will an update from the Biden administration influence how much Iran threatens the Persian Gulf countries and the State of Israel? How exactly will an update from the Biden administration reduce the damage caused to Israel’s national security that will inevitably occur the second that the Mullah’s obtain sanctions relief? How will an update from Washington help Israel, as Iran is given the freedom to have all financial obstacles removed for the development of their missile program or gets cash freed up to take aggressive actions in other Middle Eastern countries?
Such a position is folly, especially when Iran just selected the hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, who is known as the hangman from Tehran, to be President. Israeli Opposition Leader Benjamin Netanyahu declared that such a policy harms our national security: “If we were not allowed to have surprises, then we would never have eradicated the nuclear reactor in Iraq. When I was prime minister, I never updated the Americans on all our activities. If you say ahead of time, then you can face pressure not to do an action or risk having the action released to the media, which would harm our freedom of operation related to Iran.”
The question remains, how will the change in power in Jerusalem affect US-Israeli relations in the long term? In a recent webinar, former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger proclaimed that it will not really change much: “When it comes to US-Israel relations, it is difficult to exaggerate the beneficial two-way street of these relations. When one examines the reality of US-Israel relations, one concludes that the US makes an annual investment in Israel and the question is, what is the rate of return on that investment?
“One of those investments became evident in May. Israel asked to replenish the Iron Dome, which is part of the joint venture between the US and Israel. The Iron Dome is a game changer in missile defense,” he added. “It was developed in five years, not 10 like the US expected and for less money than expected. As soon as soon as the development was concluded, the technology was shared with the US. It was initiated by Rafael in Israel. The manufacturing is mostly in the US, which has potential for the US defense industry.
“Due to the impressive performance of the Iron Dome, there is a growing interest to acquire the Iron Dome by India, South Korea, Japan, some South American countries, etc. This will benefit the US defense industry and expand employment in the US. The US now wants this technology to defend American troops in Iraq and around the globe.”
“The CIA, State Department, New York Times and Washington Post in 1948 thought a Jewish state would be a burden on the US,” the respected Ambassador noted. “But in 1967, Israel won a dramatic victory and the American outcome played a key role in the outcome of that war. It decimated the pro-Soviet anti-American Egyptian Army, which sought to topple every single pro-American regime. They were in Yemen seeking to topple the House of Saud and to continue onwards to the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, etc. All of that came to an end in 1967, which spared the US a major economic and national security setback. This victory resonated with many in US national security circles that Israel is a strategic asset, not a liability.”
According to Ettinger, “That proper position was upgraded in 1979, when the Shah was toppled. He was the number one American strategic asset in the Persian Gulf. Sadly, Carter thought the Ayatollah was merely seeking human rights and freedom and would be controlled by the pro-US Persian military. This led to Iran becoming the epicenter of terrorism, from a major asset to a major threat. This further highlighted the relative strategic position of the State of Israel.
“The world changed dramatically from a bipolar world to a multi-polar world. Israel was at the epicenter of the US versus the USSR struggle. The importance of Israel was upgraded for we are dealing with a multiple of rogue regimes and the US is limited in how to confront a bunch of rogue regimes at once. Israel has thus become more effective, and a reliable democratic ally, irrespective of which government is in power. There is a consensus in Israel when it comes to their alliance with the US.”
Thus, regardless of who is in power in Jerusalem and Washington, US military aid to Jerusalem and cooperation related to the Iron Dome and other defense-related technology will likely continue. It is also highly unlikely that Biden will abandon Israel at the UN, as Obama did. It is, however, highly likely that the Biden administration will nevertheless sign another Iranian nuclear deal that will threaten the national security of Israel and that the US would also in the future put pressure on Israel related regarding the issue of Palestinian sovereignty.
With Ra’am and Meretz in the governing coalition, how much Bennett can withstand such pressures is a huge question mark. If Bennett honors his rotation agreement and Lapid takes over later as Prime Minister, then Israel’s national security will become compromised even further.
Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working for the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, which is run by Mendi Safadi, a former Likud Candidate for the Knesset and a former chief of staff of former Israeli Communication Minister Ayoob Kara. Since 2012, she has been working as an Israel-based journalist and writer, covering Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other developments in the greater Islamic world.
Her articles have appeared in the Washington Times, the Hill, Front Page Magazine, the Daily Wire, the Christian Post, the Baltimore Jewish Times, the Jerusalem Post, Israel Hayom, Ahval and many other publications across the globe. She received her MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She got her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.