Well-handled, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Rather
than apologize to the Turkish government for the deaths of nine of its
nationals on the Mavi Marmara, you
dug in and now your ambassador to Ankara has been expelled. At this rate, the
once critical Israeli-Turkish relationship will soon be finished, leaving
Israel with no friends in the region except shaky Jordan.
The peace treaty with Egypt is holding, but just
barely and Egypt can hardly be considered a friend anymore. Its people despise
Israel and identify it with former President Mubarak, the one Egyptian
relationship Israel bothered cultivating. Israel's de facto friendship with
Syria will end when President Bashar al-Assad goes. He is no Zionist, but he
has been a force for stability on Syria's border with Israel, and Lebanon's,
Once he's gone, the north will almost surely heat
up, especially now that Hezbollah plays a dominant role in the Lebanese
government. As for the Palestinians, Netanyahu says that if they dare to take
their case to the United Nations later this month, he may declare the Oslo
agreement null and void. In other words, the Palestinians will be deemed
enemies of Israel. Again.
In short, Binyamin Netanyahu is very close to bringing
Israel back to where it was before the Oslo agreement of 1993. There is even the
strong possibility that he will take it back to where it was before the Camp
David peace treaty with Egypt -- with the added disaster that the relationship
with Turkey (established in 1948) will also be gone.
In a normal country, a record of disastrous failures
like those would lead to Netanyahu's departure from office. But not in Israel. Despite
all the damage he has done to the country's security and to its economy (note the
protests against Netanyahu's Tea Party economics), he
remains in office because the right supports him and Israel is governed by an
entirely right-wing coalition.
The worst part is that nearly all of Israel's
problems with its neighbors could be resolved by ending the occupation. Even
the economy would benefit if the Israeli government was not wasting so much
money on the settlers and their exorbitant demands.
Israel's propaganda machine would have it otherwise.
It insists that the Palestinians, and the Arabs and Muslims throughout the
world who support them, don't really care about the occupation. Their goal, we
are constantly told, is to destroy Israel itself. As proof, they insist that
"the Palestinians have never recognized Israel's right to statehood."
This is the kind of thing that used to be called the
"big lie." The Palestinians have repeatedly recognized Israel's right to
statehood and security within the '67 borders.
For those who have forgotten, that is what President
Clinton, Prime Minister Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat agreed to on the
White House lawn that day in 1993. Israel recognized Palestinian rights and the
Palestinians recognized Israel. In the years since, neither side has threatened
to revoke that recognition until last month when Netanyahu began saying that
Oslo could be revoked if the Palestinians go to the United Nations.
The Palestinian turn to the United Nations offers
the solution to virtually all of Israel's problems. President Mahmoud Abbas
says that once Palestine is recognized by the international body, he will resume
negotiations with Israel over all the issues that
divide the two sides. The only difference will be that negotiations will be
between two states, not one powerful state and one supplicant hoping a few
crumbs fall off the table.
Netanyahu is terrified of a U.N. vote. He and his
emissaries are going around the world demanding that the statehood resolution
be voted down. And the combined forces of Netanyahu and the lobby here have
cajoled the Obama administration to join Netanyahu in demanding a "no" vote.
It is clear that Netanyahu wants to preserve the
status quo, even if it means that Israel reverts to a position where every one
of its neighbors is an actual or potential enemy, even if it means that its
strategic relationship with Turkey is over, even if it means that it has no one
in the region to help prevent war with Iran.
It sounds crazy, but only because it is. Netanyahu's
highest priority is to maintain the occupation. The settlers and the religious
fanatics are his people; the Israelis of Tel Aviv and Haifa are not. It's not
that Israel's security does not matter to Netanyahu. It does. But for him,
Ariel and the crazed settlers of Hebron matter every bit as much as the state
itself. To him, there is no difference. (On that score, Netanyahu is much like
Palestinian extremists who view all of Israel as occupied territory. Netanyahu
makes no distinctions either.)
Netanyahu is bringing Israel to the brink and no one
is doing anything about it. Both the president and Congress go along with Netanyahu
because the lobby tells them that the only way to support Israel (and, in turn,
be supported by its "friends") is to
approve of everything done by the Israeli prime minister. That is why the
Palestinians have to go to the U.N. They cannot expect anything from the United
States or even the Europeans (who are being pressured heavily on Netanyahu's
behalf by the U.S.).
The U.N. vote is expected to occur on September 20. It
is too much to hope that America will do what it knows is the right thing and
vote "yes" or be an honest broker and abstain. The best we can hope for is that
the United States and Israel are part of a very small minority voting "no." That
kind of vote will strengthen the Palestinians and perhaps frighten Netanyahu
into negotiating in good faith.
But even if not, the U.N. will have stated that the
Palestinians are people, too; people with rights, including the right to full
sovereignty in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. At that point, the
writing will be on the wall. The occupation is ending, hopefully before Netanyahu
does too much more damage ... to Israel.