I love Israel but it is heading for disaster

November 24, 2016 23:22

The winds of change are a-coming. I can feel them already and I think I'm a pretty good weather-vane. I've grown up steeped in Zionism and a love of Israel. I've studied Zionism as part of an M.Phil at Oxford University, I've worked within the community for the betterment of Israel's public image both at BIPAC and then at BICOM. I don't think anyone would challenge my pro-Israel credentials. So hear this warning. The current government of Israel is leading it to disaster.

I read Anshel Pfeffer's piece Perfect Storm in the JC a few weeks ago and it was clear to me then that he, too, thinks that the winds of change are blowing.

The daily clashes in Jerusalem already had the makings of another Palestinian uprising (and that was before the appalling murders in Har Nof), the PA's manouverings at the UN have the potential to tie Israel in diplomatic and legal knots, and America can no longer be depended on to save the day.

It's an ugly outlook and what makes it all the more ugly from my perspective is that it's partly the product of bad decisions made by the Israeli government.

For reasons that we know so well, many of us exhibit an understandable knee-jerk reaction whenever Israel is criticised. For sure, as I've spent a long time telling those who will listen, a great deal of that criticism is unfounded, selective and disproportionate - but sadly the actions of the current Israeli government have meant that far too much of the recent criticism levelled at Israel is deserved, well-founded and legitimate.

I urge friends of Israel to raise voices

When you're under fire, you circle the wagons. We know the drill. The problem is that provocations are now coming from within the circle.

The latest in a succession of bad decisions has been Mr Netanyahu's support for the introduction of the so-called Jewish State law in the Knesset - a decision so ill-conceived that it has been roundly criticised by the president and immediate past president of Israel (Rivlin and Peres) as well as by Abe Foxman of the ADL. I hesitate to say this (out of respect to the parents of the boys who rightly wanted no stone unturned) but, for me, the most recent chain of bad decisions started with the reaction to the kidnapping of the three boys from Gush Etzion. The severity of Operation Brother's Keeper, though it succeeded in finding the three boys (tragically dead rather than alive) added fuel to the fire and severely undermined Abbas, whose security forces had been co-operating with Israel's. Once the missiles were raining down on Israel's citizens, like many others, I saw no option for Israel but to tackle Hamas in Gaza and supported the launch of Operation Protective Edge.

Leaving aside the issues surrounding conduct of the war (and my deep concern around Israeli strikes against UN facilities), almost immediately after reaching a durable ceasefire agreement with Hamas, the Israeli Government announced the expropriation of 1,000 acres of land around Gush Etzion on August 31.

For those, like me, who wholeheartedly support Israel's right to self-defence but oppose settlement activity, this was a kick in the teeth. John Kerry, David Cameron and Angela Merkel - who stood by Israel during the war - were quick to register their dismay.

Now Israel is mired in a cycle of violence fed partly by efforts to assert Jewish prayer rights on the Temple Mount (supported by some members of the Government, if only in a personal capacity) and by moves to populate Arab neighbourhoods of Jerusalem with Jews.

As the security situation deteriorated, the Government reacted by preventing West Bank Arabs from travelling on Israeli buses to their jobs in Israel - a decision (like that to introduce the Jewish State bill) that plays into the hands of Israel's enemies who seek to tar Israel with the brush of Apartheid.

I could go on, but suffice to say that these bad decisions are helping to brew a perfect storm.

To avoid the storm, the Israeli Government must change course. However, I don't believe that it will do so unless it is subject to pressure. A true friend is not a sycophantic yes-man.

A true friend will tell you when you've done wrong and will urge you to do right. And, if you don't mend your ways, he will distance himself from you until you do.

I am urging friends of Israel to raise their voices before next year's elections. Warn the Israeli government, by writing to the Israeli ambassador, that it is pursuing policies that run contrary to the long-term interests of the state as well as being manifestly unjust. Tell them that your unwavering support can no longer be taken for granted.

Tell them that you are doing this for them because if they do not mend their ways the storm will be overhead.

Who knows where a Palestinian uprising stoked by settlement activity and a threat to the post-1967 status-quo on the Temple mount will lead? Who knows how quickly the EU might switch from criticism and diplomatic chastisement to sanctions?

Who knows what will be the impact of the declaration of a Palestinian State at the UN? Who knows what might happen if the Palestinians choose to accede to the Rome statute which will give them access to the International Criminal Court?

The winds of change are a-coming – we need to act now if we're to avoid the coming storm.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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