Punishing Israel

In light of recent events an adage needs updating:

Benjamin Netanyahu never seems to miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

I am not the only one annoyed at Netanyahu’s maladroitness.

Two astute Middle East analysts, Meir Javedanfar and Hussein Ibish have noticed the issue, how Netanyahu has succeeded in isolating Israel and himself from potential allies by his own clumsy actions.

Ibish remarked on the UN vote:

Israelis must ask themselves how they lost their “quality minority” and why so many European and Western states that have been historically supportive of them or neutral moved rather dramatically today in the Palestinian direction. The war between Israel and Hamas shows that the situation on the ground is fundamentally unstable and untenable. The dramatic shift in the diplomatic landscape at the U.N. today demonstrates that the international community understands that and is losing patience.

Javedanfar puts his finger on it:

“The Iranian regime was hoping that the recent Gaza conflict between Israel and Gaza based militants would create a diplomatic crisis for Israel.

Unfortunately for the regime, this did not happen.

Ayatollah Khamenei must have been very disappointed to see that his regime’s military support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist groups did not lead to an Israeli military response which created a diplomatic crisis in Israel – EU and Israel – US relations.

What Iran could not achieve in Gaza, Netanyahu achieved for the Iranian regime with his latest plans for new settlement homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank: diplomatic crisis in relations between top EU countries and Israel. As Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz: “Europe threatens to withdraw support for Israel over settlement building plans”. According to the article the top 3 EU economic powerhouses Germany, UK, and France are protesting, so are the Dutch. More countries could follow.”


Haaretz’s editorial echoes those sentiments:

“The government decided this weekend to build another 3,000 housing units in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and also to move ahead with planning and building procedures for the E1 area, located between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim. That is how the government responded to the UN General Assembly’s decision to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state; that is how the government decided to punish the Palestinians and the world.

The latter said its piece loud and clear: Yes to a two-state solution. But Israel’s government responded with a step that, first and foremost, punishes Israel. The only positive aspect of this decision is the fact that Israel has recognized that the settlements are indeed a punishment.

This is a particularly grave and dangerous decision. Instead of internalizing the fact that a sweeping majority of nations are sick of the Israeli occupation and want a Palestinian state, Israel is entrenching itself even further in its own rejectionism, and deepening its isolation and the disconnect between itself and the international reality. Instead of drawing the necessary conclusions from its resounding failure, the government is dragging Israel into additional diplomatic disasters. And instead of embarking on sincere, genuine negotiations with the new observer state, Israel is turning its back on it, and on the world. “

Update 1: Emily L. Hauser covered these issues in 2011.

Also, see her Why Blast When You Can—And Do—Build?

Update 2: Even Jake Wallis Simons at the Torygraph is worried:

“Recent events, however, demonstrate why Israel is such a frustrating country to support. In the run-up to the vote at the UN, which resulted in the enhancement of the status of Palestine, I argued that in order to retain the support it had garnered Israel needed to freeze settlement building and respect the Palestinian right to self-determination. This, it seemed to me, was as obvious as Israel’s right to self defence. The rights and wrongs of the issue were no longer of primary relevance; without compromising security, Israel needed to make a gesture that would put the ball firmly in the Palestinian court. We’re serious about peace, it should have said. Are you?

Israel’s latest move is enough to make its friends around the world tear their hair out. At times like these Israel is a very difficult country to support. “

Update 3: It gets worse, the JTA reports:

“WASHINGTON (JTA) — Rahm Emanuel said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu betrayed the Obama administration by announcing a new settlement expansion and the cutoff of tax transfers to the Palestinian Authority.

Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and President Obama’s chief of staff in his first term, delivered the assessment over the weekend at the Saban Forum, an off-the-record Washington event.

Emanuel’s comments were made public by another participant, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, during an open forum and were confirmed by other participants.

According to an account by New Yorker journalist David Remnick, Emanuel had said that Netanyahu had “repeatedly betrayed” Obama, and that the latest Israeli moves — apparent retaliations for the successful Palestinian bid to achieve non-observer state status last week at the United Nations — were especially galling given U.S. support for Israel during its recent mini-war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. “

Update 4: William Saletan explains the issues at Slate.

2 comments

  1. Although the action in Gaza attracted outrage from many, this response from BN actually seems, to me, far less easy to justify.

  2. Twas always on the cards.

    There’s even a suggestion that it was part of a 2009 deal with Lieberman, but who knows? In purely political terms Bibi seems to go out of his way to annoy Obama and the US, etc which is silly from an Israeli point of view

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