Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

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Written by Alistair Crooke; Originally appeared at

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is pushing the panic button over the collapse of the Saudi-Israeli jihadist proxies in Syria and now threatening to launch a major air war, as ex-British diplomat Alastair Crooke describes.

A very senior Israeli intelligence delegation, a week ago, visited Washington. Then, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke into President Putin’s summer holiday to meet him in Sochi, where, according to a senior Israeli government official (as cited in the Jerusalem Post), Netanyahu threatened to bomb the Presidential Palace in Damascus, and to disrupt and nullify the Astana cease-fire process, should Iran continue to “extend its reach in Syria.”

Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015, in opposition to President Barack Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. (Screen shot from CNN broadcast)

Russia’s Pravda wrote, “according to eyewitnesses of the open part of the talks, the Israeli prime minister was too emotional and at times even close to panic. He described a picture of the apocalypse to the Russian president that the world may see, if no efforts are taken to contain Iran, which, as Netanyahu believes, is determined to destroy Israel.”

So, what is going on here? Whether or not Pravda’s quote is fully accurate (though the description was confirmed by senior Israeli commentators), what is absolutely clear (from Israeli sources) is that both in Washington and at Sochi, the Israeli officials were heard out, but got nothing. Israel stands alone. Indeed, it is reported that Netanyahu was seeking “guarantees” about the future Iranian role in Syria, rather than “asking for the moon” of an Iranian exit. But how could Washington or Moscow realistically give Israel such guarantees?

Belatedly, Israel has understood that it backed the wrong side in Syria – and it has lost. It is not really in a position to demand anything. It will not get an American enforced buffer zone beyond the Golan armistice line, nor will the Iraqi-Syrian border be closed, or somehow “supervised” on Israel’s behalf.

Of course, the Syrian aspect is important, but to focus only on that, would be to “miss the forest for the trees.” The 2006 war by Israel to destroy Hizbullah (egged on by the U.S., Saudi Arabia – and even a few Lebanese) was a failure. Symbolically, for the first time in the Middle East, a technologically sophisticated, and lavishly armed, Western nation-state simply failed. What made the failure all the more striking (and painful) was that a Western state was not just bested militarily, it had lost also the electronic and human intelligence war, too — both spheres in which the West thought their primacy unassailable.

The Fallout from Failure

Israel’s unexpected failure was deeply feared in the West, and in the Gulf too. A small, armed (revolutionary) movement had stood up to Israel – against overwhelming odds – and prevailed: it had stood its ground. This precedent was widely perceived to be a potential regional “game changer.” The feudal Gulf autocracies sensed in Hizbullah’s achievement the latent danger to their own rule from such armed resistance.

Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The reaction was immediate. Hizbullah was quarantined — as best the full sanctioning powers of America could manage. And the war in Syria started to be mooted as the “corrective strategy” to the 2006 failure (as early as 2007) — though it was only with the events following 2011 that the “corrective strategy” came to implemented, à outrance.

Against Hizbullah, Israel had thrown its full military force (though Israelis always say, now, that they could have done more). And against Syria, the U.S., Europe, the Gulf States (and Israel in the background) have thrown the kitchen sink: jihadists, al-Qaeda, ISIS (yes), weapons, bribes, sanctions and the most overwhelming information war yet witnessed. Yet Syria – with indisputable help from its allies – seems about to prevail: it has stood its ground, against almost unbelievable odds.

Just to be clear: if 2006 marked a key point of inflection, Syria’s “standing its ground” represents a historic turning of much greater magnitude. It should be understood that Saudi Arabia’s (and Britain’s and America’s) tool of fired-up, radical Sunnism has been routed. And with it, the Gulf States, but particularly Saudi Arabia are damaged. The latter has relied on the force of Wahabbism since the first foundation of the kingdom: but Wahabbism in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq has been roundly defeated and discredited (even for most Sunni Muslims). It may well be defeated in Yemen too. This defeat will change the face of Sunni Islam.

Already, we see the Gulf Cooperation Council, which originally was founded in 1981 by six Gulf tribal leaders for the sole purpose of preserving their hereditary tribal rule in the Peninsula, now warring with each other, in what is likely to be a protracted and bitter internal fight. The “Arab system,” the prolongation of the old Ottoman structures by the complaisant post-World War I victors, Britain and France, seems to be out of its 2013 “remission” (bolstered by the coup in Egypt), and to have resumed its long-term decline.

The Losing Side

Netayahu’s “near panic” (if that is indeed what occurred) may well be a reflection of this seismic shift taking place in the region. Israel has long backed the losing side – and now finds itself “alone” and fearing for its near proxies (the Jordanians and the Kurds). The “new” corrective strategy from Tel Aviv, it appears, is to focus on winning Iraq away from Iran, and embedding it into the Israel-U.S.-Saudi alliance.

Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

President Donald Trump touches lighted globe with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Saudi King Salman and Donald Trump at the opening of Saudi Arabia’s Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology on May 21, 2017. (Photo from Saudi TV)

If so, Israel and Saudi Arabia are probably too late into the game, and are likely underestimating the visceral hatred engendered among so many Iraqis of all segments of society for the murderous actions of ISIS. Not many believe the improbable (Western) narrative that ISIS suddenly emerged armed, and fully financed, as a result of former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s alleged “sectarianism”: No, as rule-of-thumb, behind each such well-breached movement – stands a state.

Daniel Levy has written a compelling piece to argue that Israelis generally would not subscribe to what I have written above, but rather: “Netanyahu’s lengthy term in office, multiple electoral successes, and ability to hold together a governing coalition … [is based on] him having a message that resonates with a broader public. It is a sales pitch that Netanyahu … [has] ‘brought the state of Israel to the best situation in its history, a rising global force … the state of Israel is diplomatically flourishing.’ Netanyahu had beaten back what he had called the ‘fake-news claim’ that without a deal with the Palestinians ‘Israel will be isolated, weakened and abandoned’ facing a ‘diplomatic tsunami.’

“Difficult though it is for his political detractors to acknowledge, Netanyahu’s claim resonates with the public because it reflects something that is real, and that has shifted the center of gravity of Israeli politics further and further to the right. It is a claim that, if correct and replicable over time, will leave a legacy that lasts well beyond Netanyahu’s premiership and any indictment he might face.

“Netanyahu’s assertion is that he is not merely buying time in Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians to improve the terms of an eventual and inevitable compromise. Netanyahu is laying claim to something different — the possibility of ultimate victory, the permanent and definitive defeat of the Palestinians, their national and collective goals.

“In over a decade as prime minister, Netanyahu has consistently and unequivocally rejected any plans or practical steps that even begin to address Palestinian aspirations. Netanyahu is all about perpetuating and exacerbating the conflict, not about managing it, let alone resolving it…[The] message is clear: there will be no Palestinian state because the West Bank and East Jerusalem are simply Greater Israel.”

No Palestinian State

Levy continues: “The approach overturns assumptions that have guided peace efforts and American policy for over a quarter of a century: that Israel has no alternative to an eventual territorial withdrawal and acceptance of something sufficiently resembling an independent sovereign Palestinian state broadly along the 1967 lines. It challenges the presumption that the permanent denial of such an outcome is incompatible with how Israel and Israelis perceive themselves as being a democracy. Additionally, it challenges the peace-effort supposition that this denial would in any way be unacceptable to the key allies on which Israel depends…

Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

The Palestinian flag is waved as relief ships arrive in Gaza in August 2008.

“In more traditional bastions of support for Israel, Netanyahu took a calculated gamble — would enough American Jewish support continue to stand with an increasingly illiberal and ethno-nationalist Israel, thereby facilitating the perpetuation of the lopsided U.S.-Israel relationship? Netanyahu bet yes, and he was right.”

And here is another interesting point that Levy makes:

“And then events took a further turn in Netanyahu’s favor with the rise to power in the United States and parts of Central Eastern Europe (and to enhanced prominence elsewhere in Europe and the West) of the very ethno-nationalist trend to which Netanyahu is so committed, working to replace liberal with illiberal democracy. One should not underestimate Israel and Netanyahu’s importance as an ideological and practical avant-garde for this trend.”

Former U.S. Ambassador and respected political analyst Chas Freeman wrote recently very bluntly: “the central objective of U.S. policy in the Middle East has long been to achieve regional acceptance for the Jewish-settler state in Palestine.” Or, in other words, for Washington, its Middle East policy – and all its actions – have been determined by “to be, or not to be”: “To be” (that is) – with Israel, or not “to be” (with Israel).

Israel’s Lost Ground

The key point now is that the region has just made a seismic shift into the “not to be” camp. Is there much that America can do about that? Israel very much is alone with only a weakened Saudi Arabia at its side, and there are clear limits to what Saudi Arabia can do.

Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

The U.S. calling on Arab states to engage more with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi seems somehow inadequate. Iran is not looking for war with Israel (as a number of Israeli analysts have acknowledged); but, too, the Syrian President has made clear that his government intends to recover “all Syria” – and all Syria includesthe occupied Golan Heights. And this week, Hassan Nasrallah called on the Lebanese government “to devise a plan and take a sovereign decision to liberate the Shebaa Farms and the Kfarshouba Hills” from Israel.

A number Israeli commentators already are saying that the “writing is on the wall” – and that it would be better for Israel to cede territory unilaterally, rather than risk the loss of hundreds of lives of Israeli servicemen in a futile attempt to retain it. That, though, seems hardly congruent with the Israeli Prime Minister’s “not an inch, will we yield” character and recent statements.

Will ethno-nationalism provide Israel with a new support base? Well, firstly, I do not see Israel’s doctrine as “illiberal democracy,” but rather an apartheid system intended to subordinate Palestinian political rights. And as the political schism in the West widens, with one “wing” seeking to delegitimize the other by tarnishing them as racists, bigots and Nazis, it is clear that the real America First-ers will try, at any price, to distance themselves from the extremists.

Daniel Levy points out that the Alt-Right leader, Richard Spencer, depicts his movement as White Zionism. Is this really likely to build support for Israel? How long before the “globalists” use precisely Netanyahu’s “illiberal democracy” meme to taunt the U.S. Right that this is precisely the kind of society for which they too aim: with Mexicans and black Americans treated like Palestinians?

‘Ethnic Nationalism’

The increasingly “not to be” constituency of the Middle East has a simpler word for Netanyahu’s “ethnic nationalism.” They call it simply Western colonialism. Round one of Chas Freeman’s making the Middle East “be with Israel” consisted of the shock-and-awe assault on Iraq. Iraq is now allied with Iran, and the Hashad militia (PMU) are becoming a widely mobilized fighting force. The second stage was 2006. Today, Hizbullah is a regional force, and not a just Lebanese one.

Is Benjamin Netanyahu Just Panicing?

Far-right militia members demonstrating outside Ukrainian parliament in Kiev. (Screen shot from RT video via YouTube video)

The third strike was at Syria. Today, Syria is allied with Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and Iraq. What will comprise the next round in the “to be, or not to be” war?

For all Netanyahu’s bluster about Israel standing stronger, and having beaten back “what he had called the ‘fake-news claim’ that without a deal with the Palestinians ‘Israel will be isolated, weakened and abandoned’ facing a ‘diplomatic tsunami,’” Netanyahu may have just discovered, in these last two weeks, that he confused facing down the weakened Palestinians with “victory” — only at the very moment of his apparent triumph, to find himself alone in a new, “New Middle East.”

Perhaps Pravda was right, and Netanyahu did appear close to panic, during his hurriedly arranged, and urgently called, Sochi summit.


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Idiot Israelly.
Israel, should try to approach Assad for “economic reconstruction” instead of playing violent victim.
Only after that Israel may play other cards “against” Assad.
Acting like they do will mecanically increase the Russian and Iranian influence in the region while Assad searches for emancipation.

chris chuba

You are speaking rationally, it doesn’t look like Netanyahu and his cadre has accepted reality yet.

He is pretending that Israel can keep their neighbors disarmed rather than accept that they have a situation called MAD. If he accepted reality than he could approach his neighbors so that no one makes a mistake that all of them would regret.


But once you accept that MAD now applies, the usual Israeli dictums of ‘might makes right’, and ‘international law applies only to others, not to us’, no longer apply. Because with MAD follows that for every action can follow an equal reaction. With MAD the conventional advantage that the IDF has over other Arab countries becomes nullified. And with that so does Israeli power. Because what good is Israel as an ally to Saudi Arabia when it can no longer do the dirty work for them?

Israel sits in that hard place that every past empire faced, when it comes face to face with the reality that its military advantage over its neighbors is evaporating and that past behavior and expectations no longer apply, and new behaviors and expectations have to be adopted instead. Many an empire faced that choice and chose poorly, instead clinging to the past for way too long. History is full of such poor choices.

Brother Ma

Yep.just like Uk is second rate power and US nato is on verge.China and Russia are now on up with India and Iran.all four great powers in the past with last three not since ancient times.

Brother Ma

Sorry i mean china india iran not since ancient times!


Netanyahu is a corrupt warmongering pr*ick who should be removed from office


Israeli policy is a clear result of the US-imposed “right of self-determination”. It means that if a majority in a certain territory (even if it’s a minority in the state as a whole) votes to seccede, it will be a legal move to gain independence. Of course, this would make territorial expension impossible… if you were a naive idiot. In reality, it just means that unlike the empires of old, territorial expansion now not only encourages, but absolutely necessiates a genocide, so that there are no more voices that would call for independence. Or a large scale settling/immigration program aimed at gaining a territorial majority (several muslim dictators have already been heard in the past that they view muslim immigration into Europe as part of conquest and a peaceful extension of jihad).

Israel spearheads the most radical approach here, seeking to settle as many jews in palestinian areas and to, if it can, chase away or impoverish the palestinian natives, so that there are less of them. It knows that outright murder would destroy its relations with the west, so they take the long approach, knowing that once the voices of Palestine are few and weak, its western allies will gladly accept israel’s annexation of Gaza and West bank, since a free and independent Palestine would be of little use to any of them.


Of course the Palestinians may be weak militarily and politically, they are still breeding like rabbits. If Israel were to annex the Palestinian territories and give them the same rights as Israeli Arabs (an obfuscation to hide that what they really are, Israeli Palestinians) then in a few decades demographically Israel as a jewish state would cease to exist. Unless they actually were to kill or deport the Palestinians from the occupied territories this demographic timebomb keeps on ticking. It’s not for nothing that other countries and saner Israeli politicians favor a separate Palestinian state. Unfortunately the less saner ones that are in power are just unwilling to accept that it means having to give up the occupied territories and the settlements. And its not for nothing that the batshit insane Israeli politicians favor ethnic cleansing. And I’m sure some of them wouldn’t even object to outright genocide.

Brother Ma

Yes sir! However note that it is only Eu in main that has to deal with this onslaught of “refugees”.US ,Israel,Qata,Saudi haven’t.why not? Especially the moslem countries,why are they not welcoming their coreligiinists with open arms?


This criminal must be stop now, and the only country which can stop him is Russia, IF IT WANTS TO.

Huisje tuintje boontje beesje

Not only did they loose is Syria , but also in Irak , on the day Russia provided some su 22 and su 25 to Irak , when Isis was at the gates of Baghdad , the shift happened Russia got a feet between the door and the west lost it’s momentum !
Yes Israel and SA are done with a unpopular war in Yemen a disaster in Syria and last but not least a Turkey who is shifting side as they are very angry about the western politics for Kurdistan
Does the Black adder quote apply here: Mr Netanyahu who is using the family brain today !?
I guess yes , Russia applied for NATO membership under Yeltsin but we refused !
( oh yes don’t forget ! don’t expect the Russians to have any pity with you as the economic collapse after the fall of the wall , and the proxie wars waged on Russia are not forgoten it wasn’t as costly as ww2 but indirectly it costed the live of +/- 6000000 Russians over 20 years , food foe thought I would say ) .


Upvoted just for the appropriate use of Blackadder. :)

Brother Ma

Well done !

Tudor Miron

Many don’t realise that GP is planning another holocost where they will sucrify the “chosen people” once again. Bibi is sensing that their a$$ is soon to be on fire and is panicing – he surely hoped that as loyal slaves GP they are protected and above other humans… It seems that history doesn’t teach them anything. Call me zio lover :) but I feel very sad about coming faith of ordinary Jewish people…Even if I’m just a goyem for them (i.e. slave who’s only purpose is to serve them) they are still humans for me. They think that this is my weakness but in fact this is our strength.


Nice prose Tudor. You seem to have lined up the ‘facts’ and your conclusions seem well founded.

Brother Ma

Bibi: a misanthrope if i ever knew one!


One of the best overall long-term reviews of the American-Israeli strategies (or the lack of any), its effects so far, and where it can lead in the future. Possibly, the notion of distinguishing between US respective Israeli strategies/policies as if it were different in any decisive way (for me an obscure concept) can be criticized. I understand that their respective population may have different goals in life but it is incomprehensible for the state of Israel to exist in its current design without its unwavering support from the government of US – in other words, Israel belongs to the American body.
As said, well written and to do it so straightforwardly without sounding racist is a feat. Well done!

Honda HSV 10 GT

It is panicking, not panicing, change title.

Brad Isherwood

Nosferatu (Netanyahu ),…..wants US and Saudi to get their A game together on what’s left to keep
In Syria and Iraq.
US have the Kurds bought….that however does not close the Iranian corridor to the Lebanon.

Unless Abadi grows a pair. …the US will stay on in Iraq,…and that means Sunni get money and weapons to proxy against Iran and Shia.

SAA will eventually push ISUS out East of the Euphrates. ..
How much hindrance US places is question.?
To salvage the US Thinktank or the Crazed Jew Yinon plan…..means Last Stand East of the
Euphrates is on.

The US recent hostility to Russia via the Sanfransisco Embassy sacking is a Kodak of where the
US is willing to go in the Great Game.
I’d really like to see Russia step up with increased Air power for Syria and make a Statement
To US and Zionist attempt to steal and wreck Syria.


Yes and it’s beautiful to watch.