If Netanyahu and Putin get any closer, they’ll have to get married. Or so it seems. They’re enjoying much public foreplay, complete with hugs, glad-handing, back-slapping and all sorts of things one simply doesn’t do on first date.
It’s not that Bibi and Vlad have much in common, far from it. Bibi is every bit Western conservative, which Vlad every bit isn’t. The two men must detest each other’s politics, which, however, doesn’t prevent them from recognising each other’s interests. And these largely overlap, much to the chagrin of those who understand Russia.
Bibi has to put on a show of love for Vlad, because Barack doesn’t love Bibi anymore. To be frank, Barack never actually liked Bibi, correctly seeing him as his political antipode. Bibi could live with such coolness, provided it didn’t come packaged with Barack’s distinct frigidity towards Bibi’s country.
Like most lefties, Barack hates to see Bibi trying to defend his country from being raped by wild-eyed Muslims. Third-generation Palestinian ‘refugees’ are shooting up Tel Aviv markets. Hezbollah and Hamaz murderers fire thousands of rockets at Israeli settlements. Others strap explosive to their bodies and blow themselves up together with dozens of Israelis – yet any reaction from Israel, no matter how mild, is portrayed as gross overreaction.
Israel has already relinquished most of the territory she claimed as a result of what Al Jazeera recently called “an unprovoked attack on her neighbours”. That, in case you don’t speak leftie, is the correct way of referring to Israel’s successful 1967 attempt to preempt, at the last moment, her extinction at the hands of Muslim fanatics publicly committed to “driving Israel into the sea” and murdering every Israeli.
That situation hasn’t changed since then, at least not for the better. Then as now Israel is surrounded by mortal enemies daydreaming of realising Nasser’s 1967 dream. And Israel is probably the only civilised country in the world that can’t afford to lose a war: Israelis know that any defeat wouldn’t just mean they’d be occupied. They’d be destroyed – it would be the Holocaust all over again.
Outnumbered by several orders of magnitude, Israel desperately needs powerful friends, and traditionally it’s the US that has acted in that capacity. Hence Israel’s politicians are acutely sensitive to any coolness on the part of the Americans, and Barack’s has been borderline icy.
Under normal circumstances Bibi wouldn’t mind that, knowing that Barack is but a few months removed from a lucrative lecture circuit. However, the upcoming changing of the guard doesn’t look promising either. Hillary is no friend of Israel and, when she no longer needs the Jewish vote, may turn out to be even more frigid than Barack. And Trump is making distinct isolationist noises, which to Israeli ears sound like death knells.
Since Israel can’t afford to be politically celibate, Bibi indicated he wouldn’t mind submitting to Vlad, who’s desperately trying to fill the Middle Eastern space being vacated by Barack. Hence the heavy petting for the camera.
The war Barack’s predecessors unleashed so irresponsibly is moving closer to Israel’s borders, with Hezbollah, in cahoots with Assad and, most worryingly, Iran, is looking at Israel with distinct longing. That makes Bibi even more affectionate towards Vlad – someone has to protect the airspace Israel needs to hit the arms supply routes leading to Hezbollah and Hamaz.
Yet the old saw about being careful what to wish for shouldn’t be far from Bibi’s mind. For Russia, especially when led by Putin-like regimes, doesn’t see any marriage as a partnership of equals. She’s out to dictate her will and bend everyone to it.
Nor does Vlad believe in exclusive relationships. Both before and after his tryst with Bibi, he allowed himself to be courted by Palestinian chieftains. Vlad finds them sexier than Bibi, but marriage with him has a stronger convenience aspect: Bibi carries more international weight and he may use it to push Vlad to international respectability.
Netanyahu would do well to recall what happened to Rome when it started using foreign, Germanic, contingents for protection. The Visigoths sacked Rome in 410, teaching a valuable lesson to subsequent generations. When you sup with the devil, no spoon is long enough.
Russia lording it over the Middle East would represent a geopolitical catastrophe for the West and a strategic triumph for Putin’s kleptofascist junta. In a Middle East run by Russia, Israel would at best act in the capacity similar to that of the Pale of Settlement of yesteryear. At worst, she could suffer a fate not dissimilar to that awaiting her in case of an Islamic triumph.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, Bibi no doubt thinks in his Philadelphia English. Yet he sees an immediate benefit in courting Vlad, and Israel’s situation is so finely balanced on a knife’s edge that it’s hard to look beyond an immediate benefit.
Yet some cures are worse than the disease, and Bibi would be ill-advised to develop the relationship beyond the foreplay stage. Otherwise Israel might find herself on the receiving end of Russia’s ardour.