It was sad to see Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, trying to convince television viewers Friday that Israel did not suffer a harsh diplomatic blow with the United Nations Human Rights Council's endorsement of the Goldstone Commission report.
Shalev, who apparently recited a list of talking points delivered straight from Jerusalem, struggled to demonstrate the improvement in Israel's diplomatic standing - six countries opposed the report's adoption, as compared to none opposing an investigation into "Israeli crimes" in Gaza when a similar vote was held back in January.
After all, it was clear that should the Goldstone report be put up for a vote, Israel would be torn apart by the "automatic majority" - which supports the Palestinians.
The result of the vote underscored Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's failure in his policy of "looking toward Russia and the Third World." The foreign minister's new friends in Russia, Argentina and Brazil voted, as usual, against Israel, just as they had in the days of his predecessor, whom Lieberman accused of neglecting relations with those same countries.
It is difficult, however, to imagine that in one trip to Latin America, Lieberman could change these countries' voting patterns, which have been formulated over the course of several years.
Still, the narrative that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has adopted in response to the Goldstone report places responsibility for Israel's international crisis on his predecessor in office, the Kadima government, and in particular, on opposition leader Tzipi Livni.
According to Netanyahu's view, the previous foreign minister pushed for a forcible response in Gaza, and must now take responsibility for it. He even quoted the Goldstone report, which itself quoted Livni as saying, "Israel is not a country which, if rockets are fired at it, does not respond. This is a country which, if rockets are fired at it, responds wildly - and that's a good thing."
Netanyahu is correct in stating that the government of his predecessor, Ehud Olmert, embroiled Israel in the Gaza offensive while Netanyahu was leading the opposition. But the price Israel is now paying stems in large part from Netanyahu's own policy, not just those of his predecessor.
After not taking part in the vote, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote to Netanyahu stating that Israel had a right to defend itself, before offering advice on how to extract Israel from its current diplomatic quagmire.
First, the said, it must investigate allegations of war crimes, and at the very least, open the border crossings into Gaza. Second, Netanyahu must freeze building in West Bank settlements, and return to negotiations with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, on the basis U.S. President Barack Obama has set for creating a Palestinian state and ending the occupation. The first "must" relates to Operation Cast Lead and the deeds of Olmert and Livni, while the second relates solely to Netanyahu and what he needs to do going forward.
Essentially, the European leaders told their Israeli counterpart: If you freeze the settlements and agree to withdraw from the West Bank, we'll set Goldstone aside. Behind them sits Obama, who wields a UN Security Council veto and who could stop the report dead in its tracks - but at the price of compromising his credibility in the eyes of the Arab and Muslim worlds, as well as undermining his promise to support the UN and cooperate with the international community.
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