The flotilla affair would not have developed into such an unprecedented crisis were it not the last link in a long chain of failures and acts of folly. These cast a heavy shadow - one that's getting longer - on Israel's status as a responsible and level-headed power. The fact that hatred for the sake of hatred is mixed up with legitimate criticism does not allow Israel to claim innocence.
Indeed, since its foundation, Israel has enjoyed almost unlimited moral credit. It has also enjoyed the status of a responsible country whose leaders are careful about embarking on adventures and whose judgment can therefore be counted on. During the Yom Kippur War, Golda Meir and the veterans of the Mapai party refused to employ a special kind of ammunition to hold back an invasion. Yitzhak Shamir prevented an unnecessary imbroglio during the Gulf War, while Yitzhak Rabin determined that Israel must not become enslaved to its conquests.
Thanks to this worldwide recognition, Israel was able to develop without hindrance that ultimate defense umbrella that foreign reports claim it has. This "ambiguity" was also acceptable to the Soviet Union - the Arabs' ally and weapons supplier. It was possible to allow the Israel of David Ben-Gurion, Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir to develop the Dimona nuclear plant quietly. It was possible to allow the Israel of Menachem Begin to bomb Iraq's plant knowing that it would not cross any red lines.
On the other hand, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, Moshe Ya'alon and Avigdor Lieberman belong to a different species of politician, one that cannot be relied on blindly. This is one of the key motives behind the U.S. administration's support for international supervision at Dimona; it's also the reason our allies in Washington, Paris and Brussels want to see the Mavi Marmara incident investigated by international bodies. They have concluded that it is no longer possible to let Israel function without supervision and pressure, because only pressure brings results.
Indeed, it turns out that to avoid an international investigation, Israel is prepared to significantly ease the blockade on the Gaza Strip. But the root of the problem goes much deeper - the realization that every Israeli action since the Beirut campaign and the attack on the Syrian army in the summer of 1982 until Operation Cast Lead has the sole aim of defending the conquests of the Six-Day War. Since we ultimately carried out all our wars with the purpose of defeating the Palestinians by perpetuating the situation in the territories, we created the feeling that Israel sees itself as existing for the sake of its conquests.
As long as the foot-dragging regarding the Palestinians continues in the United Nations, as long as media outlets report on construction in the territories under a heavy cloak of lies and fraud, and as long as we hear about shameful decisions on the lists of goods allowed into Gaza, the stockpiles of goodwill that were accumulated in past years will be depleted. Public opinion is no longer prepared to tolerate not only the occupation, including the attempts to gain control of Jerusalem's Arab neighborhoods, but also Israel's self-righteousness and complete assurance that it has the right to maintain an apartheid regime in the territories.
The bill is now gradually being submitted for payment. That's why Israel finds itself against the wall over existential matters. If we had a genuine and burning desire to end the colonialist situation in the West Bank, for our own sake and not merely as a wink to Washington, it's very possible that we would receive the West's support on the nuclear issue. If we had acted in a trustworthy manner and not tried at every opportunity to lie to and cheat everyone, maybe we wouldn't now be facing an all-out attack on our life-insurance policy.
Reliability is a weapon, but the Israel of today, blind to developments in the world, is relinquishing this weapon with incomprehensible lightness. After Operation Cast Lead, no one believes any longer in our ability to investigate ourselves, and justifiably so. But to the same extent, it can be said that official Israel does not investigate because its citizens do not want to know.
The problem is structural and cultural - most people do not want to look in the mirror. They prefer to believe that in every case, Israel is the victim the world is abusing, so it is allowed to do anything, and any demand to investigate its acts is some form of anti-Semitism. In this way maybe it's possible to calm one's conscience, but this is not the way to build the country's future.
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