Middle East

Netanyahu Schools Obama on How to Truly Lead a Nation

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Obama tried it. Clinton tried it. Both Bush presidents tried it.

Didn’t work.

For decades it has been assumed that Israel must bend over backwards in order to convince the Arab world to make peace with it. Israeli concessions and “goodwill gestures” were always the order of the day when it came to negotiations, be they with the Palestinians, or other Arab neighbors.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has in recent years demonstrated that the above formula is not the only way forward. Indeed, what many see as the path of “weakness” has largely failed to alter Israel’s standing among its neighbors. For those who know the Middle East, this probably sounds like a no-brainer. The Arab world respects strength, and views pandering with disdain.

Netanyahu says that it is projecting strength that has led to incredible steps toward normalization over the past several months, including Culture Minister Miri Regev being welcomed in her official capacity by the United Arab Emirates and Netanyahu making a heavily-photographed state visit to Oman. On Monday it was reported that Netanyahu’s visit to Muscat in October had resulted in Oman giving Israel permission to use its airspace for commercial purposes.

The biggest breakthrough has been warming ties with Saudi Arabia. Senior Israeli officials have held a number of meetings with counterparts from the oil-rich kingdom of late, and Netanyahu is reportedly working hard to have full normalization of ties with Saudi Arabia before the next general election in Israel, currently scheduled to take place in November 2019.

During last month’s historic visit to Israel by Idriss Déby, president of the Muslim-majority African nation of Chad, Netanyahu said that past prime ministers had tried to cozy up to the Arab and Muslim worlds by making “dangerous concessions.” Netanyahu vowed to continue following a different path. “We are getting the world’s support, including by many in the Arab world, through our strong and steadfast standing,” he insisted.

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