Breaking out of the siege
If Israel is to break out of the international siege and strategic catastrophe it now faces, it urgently needs a different policy.
The intelligence failure and faulty planning in last week's operation to board the Mavi Marmara led to a crisis in Israel's foreign relations in the blink of an eye and a low in its standing in world public opinion. The international community is demanding an investigation into the incident and is roundly criticizing the siege Israel continues to impose on the Gaza Strip's 1.5 million residents. Friendly countries such as the United States and France are demanding that the Israeli government lift restrictions on the passage into Gaza of goods and raw materials for civilian use.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his usual manner, rushed to raise the specter of the Iranian threat along with the adage that "the whole world is against us." Instead of locating the source of the fire scorching the diplomatic relations we built up with such effort, Netanyahu is following in the footsteps of his ostracized foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, accusing the world of hypocritical treatment of Israel.
In an effort to evade responsibility for the crisis and escape his obligation to fundamentally change his policy, the prime minister is distorting the nature of the criticism against his government and has plied it as hatred of the Jews.
Netanyahu and Lieberman are imposing a siege on a Jewish and democratic state that has professed to be a light unto the nations, but is becoming anathema among nations. The disagreement over halting construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem sorely eroded the goodwill Israel had garnered in the wake of Netanyahu's declared support for a two-state solution. Last month's nuclear nonproliferation conference diverted attention from the Iranian nuclear program to Israel's nuclear capabilities. The summit of countries bordering the Mediterranean, which had been due to open today in Barcelona, was scrapped following Arab leaders' refusal to be in the company of the Israeli foreign minister. And finally, the proximity talks with the Palestinians are being portrayed as a recipe for perpetuating the deadlock in the peace process.
Reasonable governments of democratic countries act in accordance with the interests of their citizens. Even if the world is "hypocritical," as Netanyahu claims, he must fundamentally change his government's aggressive and inward-looking approach; it is not within his power to change the nature of the rest of the world.
A thorough investigation of the Mavi Marmara incident and the lifting of the siege against civilians in Gaza are essential steps, but they are certainly not sufficient. If Israel is to break out of the international siege and strategic catastrophe it now faces, it urgently needs a different policy.