Benjamin Netanyahu: ‘Iron Triangle of Peace’
Israel’s ‘Iron Triangle of Peace’
Soft power is effectual only when you can back it up with military and economic strength.
By Benjamin Netanyahu, WSJ
Oct. 18, 2022 12:49 pm ET
The world is in crisis. The war in Ukraine could swirl out of control with ominous global consequences. In Iran, the ayatollahs are rushing to build a nuclear arsenal while suppressing domestic dissent over the regime’s brutality. Terrorism and wanton violence abound from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Yemen and Syria. The arc of history may bend toward peace and justice, but it can easily go off in dangerous directions.
Some policy makers contend that the way to keep it on course is through soft power. The superiority of democratic values and culture, they contend, will overcome the forces of violence and aggression. But such thinking doesn’t withstand historical scrutiny. If evil forces have overwhelming military and economic might, they can and will defeat our best intentions. Even Abraham Lincoln needed a decisive victory in America’s bloodiest war before the better angels of human nature could prevail.
The key to peace and human progress is the combination of soft and hard power. I have devoted most of my life to ensuring that my country, the Jewish state of Israel, has enough power to defend itself, protect its values and secure its future. For this purpose I advanced the concept known as the “Iron Triangle of Peace,” which set out to maximize Israel’s prosperity through a combination of economic, military and diplomatic power.
This necessitated a transformation of Israel’s semi-socialist economy into a free-market one. As finance minister (2003-05) and prime minister (1996-99 and 2009-21), I led a free-market revolution, which unshackled Israel’s economy and turned it into a global powerhouse of innovation and enterprise. Over the past two decades, our nation’s companies made technological advances in such areas as medicine, agriculture and water. Israel’s gross domestic output per capita, which long trailed those of Western democracies, now exceeds that of Britain, France, Japan and Germany.
As Israel’s economic and technological power have developed, so too have its military capabilities. The Israeli military today is equipped not only with fighter jets, tanks, submarines and drones, but also with superb intelligence and cyber capabilities, which have saved the lives of countless Israeli citizens and visitors. The combination has resulted in greater diplomatic strength, as more countries have sought to benefit from our success.
Far from being a pariah state, Israel now has robust diplomatic relations with more than 160 countries. I helped bring about these diplomatic fruits and was the first Israeli prime minister to visit countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia, as well as Australia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and many African nations. During my tenure, we forged ties with the Baltic states and the Visegrad countries of Eastern Europe—in addition to developing a pact with Greece and Cyprus to extract gas from our seabed, which we’ve begun to use to supply Europe.
But the Iron Triangle of Peace produced its most dramatic breakthrough in our own neighborhood: the Middle East. For 25 years we were told that peace with Arab nations would come only if we first resolved our conflict with the Palestinians. To many Israelis, that presented an insurmountable obstacle, given that the Palestinians have long demonstrated they want a state instead of—not next to—Israel. There had to be another way. The path to peace, in my estimation, wouldn’t go through the Palestinians but around them. And that is exactly what has happened.
My government’s approach has been made possible by a profound change in thinking among many Arab leaders, who now view Israel not as an enemy but as an indispensable ally against a belligerent Tehran. Many of these leaders took note of my opposition to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which showered the Iranian regime with international approval and billions of dollars to fund its aggression and terror.
Shortly after I addressed a joint session of Congress on this topic in March 2015, several Arab leaders secretly requested to meet with me. These meetings ultimately foreshadowed the Abraham Accords, the September 2020 agreement orchestrated by the Trump administration that normalized Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.
The results have been remarkable. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis now regularly fly over the skies of Saudi Arabia to the U.A.E. and Bahrain. Sudan is no longer a way station for Iranian arms transported through the Nile Valley. Israeli and Gulf entrepreneurs are busy forming joint ventures with multimillion-dollar investments. A joint railway project among Israel, the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia will connect the region once the kingdom joins the accords, which I believe will happen within a few years. If the policies of peace through strength persist, we may soon be able to envision an end to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict.
I have been privileged to live a life of purpose, one in which I’ve helped bring my vision of peace through strength for Israel into being. For three millennia, the Jewish people have never given up on our dream to live freely and prosperously in our ancient homeland, the land of Zion. Having restored our independence, we won’t let anyone bring an end to this miracle.
Mr. Netanyahu served as Israel’s prime minister, 1996-99 and 2009-21. He is leader of the opposition Likud Party and author of “Bibi: My Story.”