A Coalition With Its Head in the Sand

The Netanyahu government is burrowed up on the beach, refusing to see the menacing waves of discontent heading toward Israel.

"After September will come October."

How better to sum up the current governing coalition's attitude on foreign policy?

 With arrogance and some cynicism, this is how some cabinet ministers and the settler leadership reacted last year when the Palestinians announced they would seek United Nations' recognition of an independent Palestinian state.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, among others, issued stern warnings, but the coalition wasn't moved. There will be no tsunami, they said. There will be no earthquake.

Their stance reflects the underlying crisis-control attitude guiding the Netanyahu government's thoughts and actions. When buildings are burning, they are great at charging in with a fire extinguisher, but they do nothing to prevent the fires from erupting in the first place.

This is a government that called in the Supertanker airplane to extinguish the Carmel Forest Fire in 2010, but continues to neglect the country's regular firefighting battalions.

Thus, in September 2011, the entire Prime Minister's Office and the Foreign Ministry were mobilized to undermine the Palestinian bid for statehood and push it into the deep freeze it finds itself in now.  Yet, all the while, the foreign political reality and the domestic social reality menace on the sidelines, threatening Israel as we know it.

In the 21stcentury, the international community, comprised of governments, giant corporations and proactive non-governmental organizations, looks at broader trends and issues. It does not fixate on specific events.

September came and went with hardly a rumble. No game-changing winds rippled across the Israeli-Palestinian swamp. Not even a year has since passed, and still, the same looming waves threaten to crash down upon us.

Perhaps we can be justified in overlooking Turkey's latest absurd decisions, spurred by the IDF's interception of the Mavi Marmara in 2010. What we cannot do, however, is sit on the beach with our heads in the sand as the cultural and academic boycott against us, in Great Britain and other countries, grows ever more wide.

Nor can we pretend that we, our ears plugged with sand, didn't hear the Indian government's announcement that it would be best if Ehud Barak did not come to their security expo because of the "sensitive political situation."

Even Israel's fourth place slot on the world's most-hated countries list (alongside North Korea, and just behind Iran, according to citizens of 22 nations) can no longer be chalked up to just anti-Semitism or a Muslim conspiracy.

It appears that the Knesset's anti-boycott law doesn’t scare the South African government, which has announced that it will no longer permit goods made in West Bank settlements to be marketed as "Made in Israel." Nor has that relatively new law frightened the Swiss supermarket chain Migros, who announced this week that it will label products imported from Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as such for the sake of transparency and customer convenience.

Netanyahu and his government need to understand that they are facing an ongoing, intensifying trend, even if we Israelis don't see it just yet. By the same token, the prime minister's government has to realize that over the past few years, Israeli society has been in a stupor. While we were busy watching "Big Brother," an assault on our democratic values and on the rule of law was being waged. Racism has reared its head.

All of this has been expressed recently in a slew of ever-worsening Knesset bills and laws, in the words delivered by Knesset members and in their behavior, both within and outside of the Knesset's hallowed halls.

The fabric of Israeli society has grown threadbare. The holes can be seen in the overarching status of religion and in the inviolability of the Land of Israel over the State of Israel in our social debate. It is evident in the refusal to implement Supreme Court rulings, in the government's attempts to outmaneuver the courts with laws earmarked specifically for narrow political goals. Along with these phenomena, racist violence, witnessed on the soccer pitch and in demonstrations against African migrants, has reached an odious peak.

With Kadima's joining its ranks, the paralyzed Netanyahu government that has neither the will nor the desire to evacuate West Bank settlers from the Migron outpost and Beit El's Ulpana neighborhood. Instead, it has bought itself a few more months, which it will spend with its head buried in the sand.

While it is burrowed up on the beach, however, these trends, both at home and abroad, will only continue to menace Israel's strength and international standing.