Israel's flirtation with Castro smacks of desperation
Enthusiastic reactions from the president and prime minister to Fidel Castro's remarks about Israel show, more than anything, the extent of Israel's diplomatic troubles.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres discovered a new, and surprising, friend of Israel over the weekend: Fidel Castro. Netanyahu and Peres responded enthusiastically to an interview the former Cuban president granted to Atlantic magazine correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg in which Castro criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust and said he doesn't think "anyone has been slandered more than the Jews."
Peres said in a message addressed to Castro that his remarks were "rife with unique intellectual depth," and Netanyahu said the comments demonstrate the dictator's "deep understanding of the history of the Jewish people and the State of Israel."
With all due respect to the solidarity expressed by Castro, who cut off ties with Israel before the Yom Kippur War, the enthusiastic reactions of the president and prime minister show, more than anything, the extent of Israel's diplomatic troubles.
While Peres was working on his letter to Castro, he was being publicly humiliated by Turkish President Abdullah Gul, who refused to meet with him. A UN committee is accusing Israel of killing civilians and violating international law in its May raid on the Turkish Gaza-bound flotilla. At the International Atomic Energy Agency, a proposal to censure Israel was just barely defeated. And, above all, U.S. President Barack Obama and the entire international community are demanding that Netanyahu continue the moratorium on settlement construction.
It's no wonder that in such a situation, Netanyahu chose not to travel to the UN General Assembly session where Obama spoke last week, leaving the spotlight to Ahmadinejad, who appeared prominently in the American media, and to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who gave a strikingly anti-Israel speech. Netanyahu realizes that no one is interested in his messages, that the world is tired of the endless conflict, that it wants to see an end to the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories. Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people is seen as an exercise aimed at laying the blame for failed negotiations at Abbas' feet.
But instead of understanding the message of the international community and changing his policy, Netanyahu prefers to hunker down and stick to his political stance. It's a good thing he can take comfort in Castro's comments, during which the Cuban leader expressed a desire to talk to Netanyahu's father, historian Benzion Netanyahu, saying he was "impressed by his character, his knowledge and his history."