Israel's Crash Into the Diplomatic Iceberg

A combination of arrogance, complacency and moral stupor caused Israelis to continue to dance on the deck even as their ship was cruising straight into an iceberg. The skipper didn’t swerve in time. Nor did the passengers demand that he swerve in time.

Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit
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Ari Shavit
Ari Shavit

I confess: Two and a half years ago, I was one of the first to warn about a diplomatic tsunami hitting our shores if we didn’t come up with a bold plan that would lead to a division of the land.

But the tsunami did not occur. In the fall of 2011, the Netanyahu government was able to convince the Obama administration to pressure the international community not to cooperate with the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to gain UN recognition as a state, a move aimed a generating condemnation of Israel. Consequently, the tsunami didn’t hit, generating a warm and fuzzy feeling in Israel, as if everything were fine − including controlling and oppressing another people and settling every hill of our ancestral homeland.

We could forget about a diplomatic agenda, ignore Israel’s existential challenge and allow the settlers to continue to rule over us. The diplomatic crisis that never happened has since served as eternal proof that we can continue to provoke the world and do with the Palestinians as we see fit. We’re the best. There are no guns like our guns. We’ll occupy and settle the entire land.

Today it’s clear that the 20 months since the tsunami that wasn’t are remarkably similar to the five months between the war that didn’t break out in May 1973 and the war that took us by surprise in October of that year. In both instances, there was more than enough information available, and it was clear that the situation was not sustainable. But in both instances, an early false alarm led to the subsequent real alarm not being heard.

A combination of arrogance, complacency and moral stupor caused Israelis to continue to dance on the deck even as their ship was cruising straight into an iceberg. The skipper didn’t swerve in time. Nor did the passengers demand that he swerve in time. Both the captain and the passengers believed that there was no iceberg that could sink their ship or interfere with the delightful feast of fools taking place on board.

Even now, the storm has yet to reach tsunami strength. The European Union’s decision to distinguish between sovereign Israel and Israel the occupier won’t destroy the Israeli economy in a day. The clumsy effort by Brussels to save Israel from itself won’t turn Jerusalem into a pariah capital this year.

But the process has begun. We’ve been delivered a registered letter saying there’s a contradiction between our being an OECD country and our being a country of settlements. The contrast between our belonging to the 21st-century West and our stubborn adherence to 19th-century colonial values has been put on the table. Europe has informed us that the illusion of Habayit Hayehudi chairman Naftali Bennett is indeed an illusion: Our start-up nation and high-tech economy won’t last much longer if we don’t divide the land.

The ongoing Israeli refusal to recognize the occupation for what it is, is liable to cause us eventually to turn ourselves into South Africa. The Zionist insistence on destroying Zionism in the West Bank will cause us to eventually redefine ourselves as Rhodesia. With our own hands, we are bringing ourselves closer to losing the justice of the Zionist cause, to losing the Zionist path and sinking the Jewish national home.

The mistake was not just mine: For 46 years, there have been farsighted Israelis warning about a disaster that has yet to come. But from warning to warning the state has grown, the economy has flourished and the right has grown stronger. With unparalleled skill, the Israeli ship has managed to navigate around the iceberg without hitting it.

But one morning, we may find that the reason we haven’t crashed into the iceberg is that the iceberg is already within us. The iceberg is already inside the ship. Listen, and you’ll hear the water rushing through the lower decks. Look, the water is getting closer to the upper decks. If the captains and passengers keep frolicking at their feast of fools, the rising waters will do to the ship what no tsunami could have done.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman addresses a news conference at the European Union Council in Brussels, February 22, 2011.Credit: Reuters

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