Netanhayu is steering Israel to disaster

The Israeli leader’s blinkered attitude to international opinion will turn friends into foes

By Yariv Oppenheimer, November 19, 2009

Richard Goldstone is an antisemitic Jew, Turkey has long since become an Islamic state, the Russians are a disappointment, the Chinese are confused, the Indians are wrong, the Swedes and Norwegians are always against us, and the Americans — we can do without them.

Like a car going against the traffic on a motorway, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sees all drivers coming at him as going the wrong way. From his point of view, we Israelis are the only ones going in the right direction. The Prime Minister has not yet absorbed the fact that, if he wants to travel on the international highway, he has to get in the right lane and accept the uncompromising demand for action to end the conflict with the Palestinians. As long as his government decides not to make a U-turn and embark on the road towards peace and compromise, cars will continue crashing into each other head-on every day with increasing force.

Netanyahu thought at first that mumbling the words “two states” at his Bar Ilan speech in June would lower the pressure on Israel and present his government as peace-seeking. Buoyed by the wave of qualified sympathy he managed to attract after his speech, Netanyahu tried to bury the political process and make do with mere statements. Like Ariel Sharon in his first term as Prime Minister, Netanyahu believes that international pressure is a passing headache and that, soon, the world will find other issues to deal with and leave Israel alone.

But continued construction in the settlements, dozens of new construction sites popping up like mushrooms after the “freeze,” the absence of initiative and the foot-dragging even on the matter of evacuating outposts, all combine to damage Israel daily.

Not only in Tehran and Damascus is “Israel” a dirty word. In Turkey, in most European countries, Canada and even to some extent in the United States, Israel is becoming a leprous and hated country. The world in general is sick of the daily provocations issued by its ministers in the form of new neighbourhoods or isolated outposts, not to speak of their running the diplomatic process into the ground.

The importance of this matter should not be underestimated. This is not about a popularity contest between countries or the inability of IDF officers to holiday abroad. In the global world of the 21st century, it is a real existential danger to the state of Israel, which could find itself alone against the real threats it faces in the region. Israel’s international isolation strengthens its enemies, who, in the face of Israeli arrogance, can declare, “we told you so,” and gain support from others who would normally be expected to sympathise with Israel.

Forget external apologists and advocates, publicists and statesmen — the only means of removing Israel from such isolation is meaningful, diplomatic movement by its government. When the pressure was too much for Sharon to bear and he believed Israel’s status to be in danger, he initiated the disengagement plan to demonstrate to the world Israel’s intention to leave the territories. And now, Netanyahu too must make a dramatic decision and initiate a significant and genuine process before the political and military damage becomes irreversible.

If the settlement policy, the provocations and the unwillingness to co-operate with the Obama administration are not abandoned, Israel faces ruin in the international arena. The Goldstone report was just the beginning.

Yariv Oppenheimer is the general director of Peace Now in Israel

Last updated: 4:42pm, December 10 2009


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