Netanyahu Shouldn’t Plant Land Mines to Assuage the Extreme Right

When European countries, Israel’s allies, warn about Jerusalem’s policy in the territories, it’s a threat that can’t be dismissed.

Haaretz Editorial
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Haaretz Editorial

Israel and European countries are censuring each other over Israel’s policy in the territories. The Europeans are unhappy with the continued construction in the settlements, while Israel is unhappy with “the one-sided position they consistently assume against Israel, and with the Palestinians,” as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has put it.

This state of affairs may give us the impression that the disagreement is based on a reciprocal apportioning of guilt, which the Israeli side has the power to solve using statements and the summoning of ambassadors.

This is an erroneous impression. When a group of European countries, Israel’s allies, coordinate diplomatic pressure on Jerusalem and warn about the implications of Israel’s policy in the territories, the significance isn’t just diplomatic. It becomes a threat that Israel cannot dismiss with censure.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has called the American mediation efforts “messianic.” The Ministerial Committee for Legislation has approved the annexation of the Jordan Valley. The prime minister has published tenders for the construction of 1,400 housing units in the territories and has proposed that Beit El become part of the settlement blocs that will remain in Israel’s hands. And he objects to a withdrawal from Hebron in the name of the “rights of the Jewish people.”

When all this happens, European countries and the United States are entitled to conclude that Israel is doing everything it can to stop the peace process and torpedo the framework agreement that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is toiling over.

“When did the EU call in the Palestinian ambassadors to complain about incitement that calls for Israel’s destruction?” the prime minister has asked foreign reporters, rhetorically. But Benjamin Netanyahu got it wrong. No senior official in the Palestinian Authority is calling for Israel’s destruction.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ objection to the construction of thousands of housing units in the territories isn’t incitement, it’s a legitimate position of leaders who fear for the future of their territory. These leaders are standing helpless in the face of a construction drive in the settlements.

Netanyahu isn’t allowed to confound the public with futile slogans, censure of European countries and mockery of the United States. Western countries’ intolerance toward Israel isn’t just a worry, it’s the opening of a diplomatic opportunity whose value even Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman recognizes – based on his own declaration.

Netanyahu must understand that his position requires him to stick to a policy that looks out for Israel’s interests. He shouldn’t plant permanent land mines in the negotiation process in an attempt to find favor with the extreme right.

Catherine Ashton and Benjamin Netanyahu.Credit: AP

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