FOR ALL ITS TAC­TI­CAL BRIL­LIANCE, ISRAEL HAS AL­WAYS STRUG­GLED WITH STRATE­GIC THINK­ING.

Newsweek International - - PAGE ONE/POLITICS -

And Israel has no re­place­ment for its “un­break­able al­liance” with the United States. Though its new al­lies in Africa and Asia are use­ful trade part­ners, they can­not o er a re­li­able Se­cu­rity Council veto, nor the bil­lions in an­nual mil­i­tary aid that have pre­served Israel’s mil­i­tary edge over its neigh­bors.

For all its tac­ti­cal bril­liance, Israel has al­ways strug­gled with strate­gic think­ing. It helped nur­ture Ha­mas in the late 1980s, for ex­am­ple, be­cause it saw the Is­lamist group as a use­ful coun­ter­weight to its sec­u­lar en­e­mies. In do­ing so, it helped cre­ate an in­tractable foe. Ne­tanyahu likes to boast that his ad­min­is­tra­tion “man­ages the con ict.” Though his long ten­ure may be com­ing to an end, as graft in­ves­ti­ga­tions swirl, his prob­a­ble suc­ces­sors will likely take a sim­i­lar ap­proach—one that could be sim­i­larly short­sighted and, in the long run, pose enor­mous risk for Israel.

WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG, BAD BOY­COTT?

ON A RAINY morn­ing in 2016, hun­dreds of Is­raelis packed into a Jerusalem con­fer­ence hall for a ma­jor sum­mit on the Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tions move­ment, a global cam­paign to pun­ish Israel for its half-cen­tury oc­cu­pa­tion. The Ne­tanyahu gov­ern­ment had spent the pre­vi­ous few years cast­ing it as a sort of ex­is­ten­tial threat. In 2015, when Gi­lad Er­dan ac­cepted a job as the min­is­ter in charge of ght­ing BDS, he told re­porters he did so with “a sense of holy dread.”

One by one, lead­ing Is­raeli politi­cians took the stage in Jerusalem to warn of the dire threat posed by boy­cotts. The pres­i­dent spoke. So did the op­po­si­tion leader and at least four Cabi­net mem­bers. (The keynote speaker was Roseanne Barr.) Af­ter a few hours of this, it was Moshe Kahlon’s turn, and the cen­ter-right econ­omy min­is­ter o ered a dis­cor­dant note. He ex­plained that his min­istry had set up a hot­line to help Is­raeli busi­nesses harmed by BDS. But it hadn’t re­ceived many calls. “I don’t think there’s some­thing that you can speci cally call a detri­men­tal e ect or some kind of dam­age” to the econ­omy, he said.

Even if Israel’s strat­egy is ul­ti­mately coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, the day of reck­on­ing seems far o . By one 2014 es­ti­mate, BDS shaved just $30 mil­lion o Israel’s an­nual gross do­mes­tic prod­uct, less than one-hun­dredth of a per­cent—52 min­utes’ worth of eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity. For­eign in­vest­ments in Israel have more than tripled in the decade since the BDS move­ment be­gan. Ex­ports to the Euro­pean Union, its largest trad­ing part­ner, have grown by more than 30 per­cent. Israel can o er cutting-edge agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy to African states and high-tech op­por­tu­ni­ties to Asia. Nei­ther of them care much about the oc­cu­pa­tion or the BDS move­ment, which they re­gard as a cu­rios­ity, a fad on Western col­lege cam­puses.

The Pales­tini­ans have lit­tle to o er their al­lies. Af­ter 50 years of oc­cu­pa­tion, their aid­de­pen­dent econ­omy pro­duces al­most noth­ing of value. They would be of lit­tle help against the Is­lamic State mil­i­tant group, or in the re­gional cold war with Iran. Western pol­i­cy­mak­ers once pro­moted the idea that re­solv­ing the Is­raeli­pales­tinian con ict would bring peace to the Mid­dle East. No one be­lieves that any­more, not with the en­tire re­gion in ames. Quite the op­po­site. Even Arab states, from Egypt to the Gulf, are ea­ger to es­tab­lish closer ties with Israel, which they see as a use­ful part­ner in the ght against both ter­ror­ism and Iran. Is­raeli politi­cians like to crit­i­cize Qatar be­cause the Gulf emi­rate hosts the lead­er­ship of Ha­mas. Yet the tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in aid Qatar pro­vides to Gaza have helped to stave o an­other war— and pre­serve the sta­tus quo. To an un­prece­dented de­gree, the Pales­tini­ans are alone.

“We’re no longer the main is­sue,” says Abu Saada, the Gazan po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst. “We’re not in a good po­si­tion. We don’t have good cards to play against Israel…and we can only hope that the next gen­er­a­tion will bring some new ideas.”

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