2023 could be a tough diplomatic year for Israel

Dr. Norman Bailey

The war in Ukraine and growing unrest in Iran pose challenges for Israel but the biggest problem will be if Netanyahu is unable to restrain his right-wing coalition partners.

Looking back over 2022 and forward to 2023, three of the events of the past year are sure to feature also in the coming year.

1. The Russia-Ukraine War.

2. The demonstrations in Iran.

3. North Korea's increasing belligerence.

The war will continue until Putin decides to call it off or is deposed. It is as simple as that. Those are the only two possibilities. Military victory for one side or the other is highly unlikely. Of course, if he decides to call it off, he may be deposed anyway because of his failure. In the meantime the Ukrainians will continue to suffer the pains of Hell.

The anti-regime demonstrations in Iran, unlike previous protests, have now gone on for months, and have gained adherents even among the ranks of the Islamic clergy and the Supreme Leader's own family. One interesting possibility would be for the Revolutionary Guard to take power, perhaps keeping President Ali Khamenei on as a sort of symbolic figurehead, like the president of Israel.

North Korea is like a playground bully who constantly gestures angrily but is restrained from actually punching anyone by his larger and stronger friend. War in Southeast Asia is much more likely to involve a Chinese mainland attack on Taiwan. As to that, expect the US to try to shore up Taiwan's defenses without getting directly involved in actual operations.

What does all this mean for Israel? Israel would obviously benefit from the downfall of the Iranian regime, EXCEPT if the speculative scenario mentioned above actually takes place. The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian institution most hostile to Israel. Pressure on the Gulf States, however, might ease.

As to the Ukraine-Russia war, Israel has so far successfully balanced its obvious desire to help Ukraine with its equally obvious desire not to antagonize Russia to the point where it stops permitting Israel to attack Iranian assets in Syria.

Israel has also maintained excellent relations with mainland China and will continue to do so, whether China invades Taiwan or not.

The most hopeful development in the international relations of Israel, the Abraham Accords, may be negatively affected by certain actions of the new right-wing government (or members of it) in Israel.

Prime Minister elect Benjamin Netanyahu has promised that this will not be the case, and he certainly has reason to, since it was the top foreign policy success of his last administration. But whether he can restrain his coalition partners in this regard is questionable.

As to the US, the new government in Israel will undoubtedly be a problem. Relations are very likely to deteriorate in 2023. However, if intelligence and defense cooperation continues unabated, as it did when Obama was president, Israel need not be seriously affected.

An additional note: The non-partisan Foundation for the Defense of Democracy in the US publishes a monthly as well as a yearly assessment of how successful US foreign policy is being implemented. This is how it rates the Biden administration during 2022 on seventeen different operational areas:

Tending Very Positive: 0

Tending Positive: 4

Tending Neutral: 2

Tending Negative: 9

Tending Very Negative: 2

A flunking grade, to be sure.

Dr. Norman Bailey is professor of Economic Statecraft at the Galilee International Management Institute, and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, Washington DC. Dr. Bailey was a senior staff member of the National Security Council during the Reagan administration and of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence during the George W. Bush administration.  

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 25, 2022.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2022.

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