This is beginning to look like one of the worst periods in Israel's history. (Read this great piece from the Israeli blog 972).
The Turkish government has essentially broken relations with Israel over the Netanyahu government's refusal to apologize for storming the Mavi Marmara relief ship and killing nine Turkish nationals in the process. Ordinary Egyptians (not the government) attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo, forcing all its personnel to return home to Israel. And the Palestinians, having despaired of achieving anything in negotiations with Israel under current conditions, are taking their case to the United Nations where an overwhelming majority of the General Assembly will endorse Palestinian statehood, even though Israel will still control the territory of the new state.
Each of these events, standing alone, would be catastrophic for Israel. In combination, however, they create a perfect storm, one whose force can only be kept at bay by the U.S. government which is, however, unwilling to help Israel in an election year.
That sounds counter-intuitive. Politicians always want to give Israel whatever it wants in an election year. After all, both the Israeli government and its lobby here make it clear to them that refusal to "stand with Israel" will cost them mightily in terms of campaign contributions. (Democrats, who get most of the "pro-Israel" money worry more about this threat than Republicans who tend not to support Israeli policies because they are forced to but because they, like the Israeli right, are instinctively anti-Muslim).
But standing with Netanyahu does not mean supporting Israel simply because it is Netanyahu who, more than anyone else, is responsible for the tsunami heading Israel's way.
He is the one who ended negotiations with the Palestinians by refusing to accede to President Obama's request for a settlement freeze. (Palestinians rightly refuse to negotiate while the land they are negotiating over is being gobbled up by settlers). He is the one who refused to apologize to Turkey for killing its nationals, even after the United States devised a formula that both sides seemed happy with. (Netanyahu backed down out of fear of his thuggish foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman). As for the Egyptians, they identify Netanyahu with the Mubarak regime which barely raised a word of protest against the occupation of the West Bank or the strangulation of Gaza. Egypt's peace treaty with Egypt gave it the leverage it needed to assist the Palestinians but it was bamboozled into submission by Israel prime ministers and US Presidents. Now the peace treaty itself, the most critical component in Israel's security, is about to be tossed out the window.
None of this happened overnight and all of it can be traced to the continuation of the 44-year-old occupation. President Obama understands that but when he tried to push the Israelis to start negotiations to end it once and for all, Israel's monied supporters in America went crazy. These are not sophisticated people although they are rich. So, when Netanyahu told them to get Obama to back down "to save Israel," they did. AIPAC made sure that every member of Congress knew that they were being "scored" on the level of their support for Netanyahu. A low score meant closed checkbooks. Obama, no less immune to financial threats than a Congressman from Queens, surrendered. Over and over again.
In that spirit we are opposing Palestinian statehood and pressuring both Turkey and Egypt on Netanyahu's behalf.
But not Israel's. Israel is in big trouble and it needs allies who will help it prevail over this sea of misfortunes. It doesn't have those allies. The lobby cares not about Israel but about intimidating Congress to do its will and paying the mortgage on its eight-story building overlooking the Capitol. Members of Congress just want the money to keep rolling in. And Obama shrinks at the very thought of offending some key donors.
Accordingly, there is no one who is telling Israel, from a position of strength, that it needs to end the occupation. Think of Israel as a smoker with a terrible cough and a precancerous condition whose wealthy friends warn his doctors: don't you dare tell him to stop smoking. He doesn't want to hear it and neither do we. Eventually, of course, the smoker dies. And his "friends" weep over what a great guy he was.
And no one says: we could have saved him. That is what happens when your "best friends" are, in fact, your worst enemies.
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