By Eli Sperling
Upon returning from the United States in late September, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reported to his Cabinet, “Israel is in better diplomatic shape than ever.”
In light of his tenuous relationship with President Barack Obama, a growing international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and the extensive list of U.N. resolutions against the Jewish state, what led Netanyahu to make such a claim?
To start, on Sept. 14 the Obama administration promised Israel 10 more years of military assistance worth some $38 billion, an $8 billion increase in U.S. military aid from the current agreement, signed in 2007. This commitment bolsters Israel’s position as the leading recipient of U.S. foreign military assistance.
During his Sept. 22 address to the U.N. General Assembly, Netanyahu said, “More and more nations in Asia, in Africa, in Latin America, more and more nations see Israel as a potent partner — a partner in fighting the terrorism of today, a partner in developing the technology of tomorrow.”
It is a laundry list of excellence for 2016: Over $500 million of Chinese capital investments were made in Israeli tech companies; a $4.5 billion defense agreement was inked with India; a reconciliation agreement with Turkey was implemented; a trilateral energy agreement with Greece and Cyprus was signed; energy agreements were penned between African nations and Israeli companies while diplomatic relations between Israel and African states were renewed; more regular communication between Moscow and Jerusalem was spawned; and previously improbable alignments between Israel and many of its moderate Sunni neighbors in the Middle East were quietly acknowledged.
Netanyahu’s claim that he has “total confidence that in the years ahead the revolution in Israel’s standing among the nations will finally penetrate this hall of nations” might appear to be wishful dreaming.
But while loud BDS noises are heard and anti-Semitic incidents continue, Israel is diplomatically tolerated in what used to be staunchly hostile capitals, and Israel’s strategic-value presence and business acumen grow.
It was a good year. Shana tova.
Eli Sperling is an Israel specialist and assistant program coordinator at the Center for Israel Education (www.israeled.org).