To the Editor:
he overriding problem with Lazar Berman’s assessment of Benjamin Netanyahu is that he ignores Bibi’s responsibility for the difficult international circumstances facing the Jewish state [“Bibi, the Strategist,” September]. In doing so, he fails to engage the prime minister’s most important foreign-policy position: Rather than seeking a proactive solution to the Palestinian issue (as sought by nearly every domestic leader, right and left, as well as many foreign voices), Bibi resolutely chooses to cling to the status quo.
Mr. Berman makes the case that proactive leadership on the Palestinian issue is impossible. If one accepts this position, which is rejected by many Israelis and soundly criticized internationally, then, sure, Netanyahu is blameless. But it is intellectually false to suggest this is a reality forced upon the prime minister rather than a strategic decision he has embraced. Even Netanyahu’s most fervent admirers concede that he is actively kicking Israel’s most vexing problem into the distant future while embracing a present of repeated warfare with Hamas and deteriorating running battles with the PA in international forums.
Mr. Berman is left selectively examining a few accomplishments (military exercises in Alaska with Jordan), while ignoring Netanyahu’s scorecard on Israel’s most important foreign-policy issues, such as ties with the U.S., an emboldened nuclear Iran, and the Palestinians. On all three, Bibi’s record is dismal due in varying degrees to his own ham-fisted statesmanship. His success in expanding Israel’s trade ties, especially in Asia, and taking advantage of shifting power dynamics in the Arab world while keeping Israel at a safe distance from what was once Syria is deserving of a degree of praise. As to Turkey, which Mr. Berman paints as an unquestioned display of Bibi’s strategic acumen, a more reasonable conclusion is that the prime minister managed to salvage a relationship that he initially exploded. And given recent news that Turkey has chosen Russia over Israel for its gas needs, it seems that even Bibi’s great success in Istanbul (which was contingent on the gas deal) is merely one more “accomplishment” that a more objective analyst would deem a failure.