After Gaza Report, Israel Is Losing Its Clout on Iran

Israel isn’t free to deal with the Iranian threat right now, because a far more dangerous threat is hovering over it – the UN Human Rights Council’s report on last summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el
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A Palestinian boy playing on June 22, 2015 outside the remains of his Gaza City house that was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge.
A Palestinian boy playing on June 22, 2015 outside the remains of his Gaza City house that was destroyed during Operation Protective Edge. Credit: AFP
A photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.
Zvi Bar'el

Next Tuesday, the dialogue Iran has been conducting with the Western powers for about 18 months now is slated to end in the signing of a permanent nuclear agreement. The assessment is that even if the signing has to be postponed by a few days, a deal is certain.

And at this very moment, when the most important strategic move in the Middle East of the last four decades is on the verge of completion, Israel is keeping mum. Has anyone heard about the Iranian threat recently? Has anyone spoken about the nuclear agreement or its implications?

Israel isn’t free to deal with the Iranian threat right now, because a far more dangerous threat is hovering over it – the UN Human Rights Council’s report on last summer’s war with Hamas in Gaza. We can scream that this is anti-Israel or anti-Semitic propaganda, declare that we won’t even bother to read it or point to benighted regimes like those of North Korea, Syria and Iran in order to bewail the UN’s hypocrisy, but the fact is that it’s not the report, but the operation that revealed the darkest urges a country can possibly reveal in its behavior toward civilians.

Incidentally, the report actually showed great mercy to Israel in that it didn’t compare it to those other countries, but treated it as a respectable country, one expected to comply with international law and the laws of war.

The UN report not only rips to shreds the false marketing slogan that depicts the Israel Defense Forces as the most moral army in the world, but also scrutinizes Israel and Hamas as if they were equivalent: fighters versus fighters, civilians versus civilians. But the biggest problem for Israel isn’t the question of whether the report is balanced or tilted; Israel’s handicap lies in the fact that both its leadership and its public see the report, and not the reasons for its writing – that is, Operation Protective Edge – as the root of the evil.

Two reports, that of the UN and the one produced by Israel, are now fighting a duel. The first represents the way the world sees Israel, and the second represents the way it sees itself. And this is the source of Israelis’ enormous anger over the UN report. Ostensibly, this is a battle over images, over preserving the broken mirror that always told Israel it was “the fairest of them all,” that its policies are just and that it is governed by “Jewish morality.”

But beyond this important battle over Israel’s image, which is being waged under the threat of the recommendation to indict Israel in the International Criminal Court, the report must be read as if it were a report by the state comptroller. Admittedly, it deals only with the terrifying symptoms that were revealed by Operation Protective Edge, but it necessitates a root canal that will provide answers to the hard questions – starting from the decision-making process that led to launching the operation, continuing through the way it was carried out and ending with Israel’s security doctrine.

This doctrine is based on the assumption that Israel is always in existential danger, and that its only source of strength is the IDF. In Israel’s view, there’s no difference between Hamas and Hezbollah, or between the Palestinian Authority and Iran. All are existential threats, and the IDF can and should be used against all of them.

The problem is that Israel sought to obtain legitimacy to conduct these wars not only from its own citizens, but also from the rest of the world. And then suddenly, along comes this report and threatens to remove it from the family of nations. According to the report, the same Israel that managed to mobilize the world against Iran and that persuaded it of the need to see Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations has itself become a gangster that the international community must rein in.

Such a country can no longer charm the world with its beautiful blue eyes. It will have trouble persuading anyone that Iran is a threat, or that the emerging nuclear deal with it endangers our existence. Even Israel’s friends are starting to smell the stench it gives off.

On second thought, Gaza really has become an existential threat to Israel. Not, however, because of Hamas, but because of those 1,462 civilians, one third of them children, memorialized in the UN report.

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