The state’s appropriation of some 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of land in the Gush Etzion area south of Jerusalem has mitigated the relatively mild international attitude toward Israel during Operation Protective Edge. The government’s assumption that its war on terror was consistent with the wishes of the West and the Arab countries, as expressed in their criticism of Hamas, and the prime minister’s hints about a window of opportunity to build a new diplomatic horizon, have collapsed with this stupid move.
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The United States administration was furious, as expected, and the State Department demanded that Israel retract the decision. European governments unanimously condemned the seizure, and a European diplomat described it as poking Israel’s friends in the eyes.
The land appropriation, which is aimed at creating a contiguous swath of territory between Israel and Gush Etzion, puts Israel, not for the first time, in the center of the dartboard of the international community, which is having a hard time accepting the potshots Israel keeps taking at the chances for diplomatic talks.
This community, upon which Israel’s economy depends and on which Israel relies for military and diplomatic support, is already starting to impose sanctions on Israel as part of its efforts to advance the diplomatic process.
Moreover, Operation Protective Edge, which resulted in the tragic killing of innocent people, including hundreds of children, is liable to land Israel before an international tribunal, which will seek not just to investigate the conduct of the Israeli military, but also to punish it. Israel will be forced to enlist all possible support to convince others that the war was justified. It is hard to imagine that even friendly countries will hasten to defend Israel after the latter has spat in their faces.
All this is the result of the government’s confused notion that it can conduct policy in two parallel worlds that have no connection between them – one in which you can seize lands and settle them undisturbed, and the other in which the war on terror obligates the world to support Israel. This is an intolerable display of arrogance and impudence, and its price is liable to be catastrophic.
The Israeli government is not allowed to jeopardize the country’s security and international standing merely to appease its most extreme members. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s argument that under any agreement Gush Etzion will anyway be part of the State of Israel, and therefore Israel can now appropriate lands there, is a false argument. A government that is frustrating any attempt at a diplomatic agreement can’t invoke such an agreement as if it was already signed. Such a policy makes Israel a victim of itself.