A Prime Minister in Denial, Leading Israel to the Brink

Benjamin Netanyahu, whose response to the EU's move shows he is yet to internalize what a blow it is for Israel, has to understand that he is leading the nation into the abyss.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

The European Union has decided to forbid funding, cooperating with, or investing in entities that are located in or have any link to West Bank settlements, Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem or communities on the Golan Heights. The new EU guidelines also say that any future EU-Israeli agreement will have to include a clause stating that the settlements are not part of sovereign Israel and are not included in the agreement.

Nevertheless, it seems that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the government he heads haven’t yet internalized what a blow this is for Israel. We can understand the response of Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who wants to make things worse by “halting all EU funding” for Palestinian projects in the West Bank. Bennett, after all, represents the settler community.

But Netanyahu’s response is far more worrisome: the same tired cliches that are the reason why Israel is now poised at the edge of the abyss. According to the premier, instead of dealing with the settlements, the EU would be better off dealing with “more urgent regional problems” like ending the Syrian civil war or stopping the Iranian nuclear threat.

The prime minister continues to use the same simplistic tactic of trying to obscure one injustice by comparing it to another. When will Netanyahu understand that the suffering Israel has been causing the Palestinians for decades does not need to be compared to any other suffering, and stop making such comparisons?

“I will not allow the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who live in Judea and Samaria, on the Golan Heights and in Jerusalem, our united capital, to be harmed,” he said. “We will not accept any outside diktat about our borders.”

It seems he still hasn’t absorbed the fact that this distorted worldview has led to Israel being punished. Indeed, Netanyahu, who sees the occupied territories as an integral part of Israel, is one of the main reasons why Europe has woken up and is seeking to attack the settlements, and indirectly millions of Israelis within the Green Line.

Netanyahu’s claim that the move undermines the chances of restarting Israeli-Palestinian negotiations might be taken seriously if it weren’t for the years in which he consistently proved that ending the occupation was not one of his top priorities. His diplomatic foot-dragging demonstrates the huge gap between his words and his deeds.

Netanyahu has to understand that he is leading Israel to the brink. Most of the country’s citizens are not prepared to let the settler minority determine their fate. The sooner he realizes this, the less unneeded suffering there will be.

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