‘Vote Netanyahu, the global statesman’
ISRAELI DIPLOMATS found it difficult this week to articulate exactly what it was that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to achieve in his whirlwind trip to Berlin, Paris and London.
One official said that the trip was aimed at “increasing pressure on the Iranian regime”, but it was unclear how much more pressure could be applied from Europe. The leaders of Britain, France and Germany continue jointly to support the Iran deal, at least in words, but none are under any illusion that they can keep it alive in the face of new American sanctions.
The stampede of European companies out of Iran is testament to the weakness of the political leadership. If Iran decides to stick to the terms of the deal for now, it will be for its own reasons.
Another member of Mr Netanyahu’s entourage confidently estimated that “80 per cent of the work on Iran has already been done”. Whether the remaining 20 can be achieved through Europe was less clear.
In public, none of the three European leaders Mr Netanyahu met would give him what he wanted.
In their remarks they all expressed their continued support for the deal, but the mood music was much more to his liking — tough condemnations for Iran’s actions in Syria, with the issue of Gaza brought up only in passing alongside firm commitments to Israel’s right to secure its borders.
Mr Netanyahu had not expected more.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron was asked about a difficult phone conversation he had last week with President Trump on his latest decisions to impose tariffs on European exports.
“As Bismarck used to say, if we explained to people how sausages were made, it’s unlikely they’d keep eating them,” he answered. It seems the European leaders realise they are up against a Netanyahu-Trump joint force and they have more chance of reaching some kind of accommodation with Mr Netanyahu, who at least speaks their language of statesmanship.
Back in Jerusalem, one cabinet minister was dismissive. “Bibi is producing the footage for his election broadcasts,” he said.
“This is what you will be seeing next year during the election campaign: Vote for Netanyahu, the global statesman.”