Netanyahu: Weak Against Hamas, Strong Against Europe

Netanyahu doesn't have a solution to the deep diplomatic isolation Israel has maneuvered itself into under his leadership; his most recent response to the accumulation of events was disproportionate and conveyed mainly hysteria.

ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, November 2014.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, November 2014.Credit: Alex Kolmonski (Pool)
ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

Multiple diplomatic crises flooded through the news cycle on Wednesday, yet their confluence was just coincidence. No shadowy guiding hand or even a loose connection linked the events – a meeting of Geneva Convention signatories; an EU Court of Justice ruling on Hamas; an EU parliament decision to recognize Palestinian statehood; the Palestinians pressing on with a draft UN Security Council proposal to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank within two years.

All this generated a feeling of a diplomatic tsunami against Israel, the kind former Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of a few years ago. But in fact it was more like the effect of melting glaciers. The process taking place in the European Union has speeded up since July 2013, when it imposed the sanctions against the settlements. Since then Israel’s international status has been eroding daily.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s diplomatic performance during his six years in office has made a major contribution to this process. Continuing the construction in the settlements, preserving the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza, the unwillingness to present a serious peace plan and the failure to enlist the international community’s support have all placed Israel in an inferior strategic position.

Netanyahu doesn’t understand Europe. His approach to the diplomatic crisis with France, Britain, Germany and others is simplistic. He believes the moves in Europe are motivated by European leaders’ eagerness to obtain the votes of the growing Muslim minority by advancing a pro-Palestinian agenda. In addition, he feels Europe’s attitude toward Israel is based on deep-seated anti-Semitic sentiments.

Netanyahu doesn’t have a solution to the serious diplomatic isolation Israel has maneuvered itself into under his leadership. His response to the accumulation of events on Wednesday was disproportionate and conveyed mainly hysteria. But his harsh statements appear to be prompted by the election campaign.

To Netanyahu’s regret, Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip and its far from glowing results rendered the previous terms’ election slogans irrelevant. If he cannot be strong against Hamas, Netanyahu can at least be strong against Europe. All that remains to inflame rightist voters’ feelings is to curse the French, the Belgians or the Irish. When those appear not to be working, he enlists the Holocaust.

The cynical political use Netanyahu made on Wednesday of the Jews who were gassed to death in Treblinka or burned in the Auschwitz-Birkenau crematoria set a new record even for him. If this is the way he acts three months before the election, it’s frightening to think what he will do three weeks before the polls open.

Avigdor Lieberman’s response wasn’t much of an improvement. The foreign minister, who blasts Netanyahu every Monday and Thursday for his lack of a peace initiative, has done almost nothing in the past six years to advance one himself. Lieberman’s answer to Israel’s deteriorating status in Europe was another stunt, to the effect that he was boycotting Sweden’s foreign minister.

Lieberman’s previous ploy, about declaring UN envoy Robert Serry persona non grata for daring to try to solve the wage crisis in the Gaza Strip, was one of the moves that led to a war that took the lives of more than 70 Israelis and 2,100 Gazans.

While rebuking Europe’s states, Netanyahu yesterday praised the United States’ friendship. He believes his Republican allies in Congress, AIPAC and the various Jewish organizations, as well President Obama’s being in his last two years in office, will ensure him quiet and, more than anything, the continued American veto in the UN Security Council.

Obama’s dramatic announcement Wednesday about renewing diplomatic relations with Cuba after more than 50 years should be a warning sign to Netanyahu that his analysis is wrong. Obama has shown that when he is almost completely unfettered by political constraints, he has no problem clashing with the powerful Cuban lobby and throwing America’s failed embargo policy into history’s dustbin.

Obama may do the same when it comes to the Palestinians. He can lock horns with the pro-Israel lobby and repudiate the veto policy and the diplomatic protection the United States has given the Israeli occupation and the West Bank settlements in the last 47 years. If this happens, even talking about the Six Million won’t convince anyone.

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