Netanyahu's on the Way to Kosovo

No, Netanyahu is not a war criminal. But the great similarity between his worldview and that of Milosevic with regard to everything involving the conflict in the territories invites us to draw conclusions from the Kosovo conflict.

The reprimand delivered last week to Europe, and the Foreign Ministry's suggestion that Germany, France, Britain and Portugal not stick their noses into Israel's "internal affairs" and allow it to manage the occupation as it pleases, sound frighteningly familiar. The progression of these "internal affairs" also dredged up a hair-raising memory: During the 1990s, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic rejected European demands to stop oppressing the Albanian majority in Kosovo. After that, he rebuffed NATO's demand to remove his forces from Kosovo and to stop expelling tens of thousands of Albanians, mostly Muslims, from their homes. NATO forces responded with an aerial attack on military and civilian targets in Serbia. Serbia continued to resist granting independence to Kosovo and even threatened to impose sanctions on it and on states that supported it. Europe wasn't impressed.

In February 2008, Britain, France, Italy and Germany recognized Kosovo. The United States then joined the main nations of the European Union in doing so, and some 70 countries followed suit. Only a Russian veto in the Security Council lies between Kosovo and full membership of the United Nations (Israel doesn't recognize Kosovo either ), but the International Court of Justice in the Hague established that its declaration of independence did not contravene international law. The EU Rule of Law Mission is helping maintain law and order in Kosovo.

In Israel, as in Serbia, the regime tries to sway public opinion using a nationalist worldview and a victim and ghetto mentality. A study conducted by a student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (whose mentor asked her to remain anonymous for fear he may be castigated ) as part of a course in conflict resolution showed some surprising parallels between the speech Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave at the UN General Assembly in September and the famous speech Milosevic gave in 1989 for the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Kosovo, between the Serbian King Lazar and the Ottoman Empire. Even though the Serbs were defeated in that battle, they see it as seminal event in Serbian national history. The two leaders used familiar myths to present a historical continuity between the "historic homeland" and the geopolitical realities in the areas in dispute. Both stressed the past suffering of their peoples and sowed fear of the threats the future poses; both based their stances on the "historic rights" of their people and ignored the national and territorial aspirations of the neighboring people. Netanyahu pointed to extreme fundamentalist Islam as the enemy of the Jews, Americans and the West; Milosevic recalled European Christian values that confronted the Ottoman Turks as the background to the Kosovo confrontations between the Serbs and Albanians, who are mostly Muslim.

No, Netanyahu is not a war criminal. But the great similarity between his worldview and that of Milosevic with regard to everything involving the conflict in the territories invites us to draw conclusions from the Kosovo conflict. To do this, you don't have to be an Israel defeatist. Twelve years ago, National Security Council chairman Yaakov Amidror (then commander of the National Security College ), wrote in the army periodical, Maarakhot, that small countries like Israel have to learn the lessons of that war.

"This war marks a clear path in which new approaches are being established, relating to the relations between 'the world' and those countries perceived as offending international morals," Amidror wrote. Added the general, a member of the national-religious camp: "The significance of the events in Kosovo is clear: Whoever violates the international consensus, even within his own sovereign territories, has to take into account international intervention, especially if one steps on the U.S. administration's sensitive toes."

One could add how much more so this holds true outside one's sovereign territory. So even though he prefaced this comparison with "despite all the difference," the man who Netanyahu appointed to head his national security staff suggested that Israel take into account international public opinion: "Although what Israel does is important, one cannot ignore what the nations of the world say and do," he wrote.

Before the debate on approving outposts and before the next verbal attack on Europe, it might be worthwhile for this senior adviser to put copies of his article on the cabinet table.

Read this article in Hebrew.