Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Time to call Israel’s bluff?

I have been a strong supporter of Israel in the past on this blog, particularly when discussing the international double standards in regard to the behavior of Hamas, essentially a terrorist organization masquerading as a legitimate political entity. However, the recent behavior of re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—who only seems like he has been in power forever because he’s been a controversial figure ever since he first became leader of the right-wing Likud Party in 1993, when he opposed the agreement with the PLO for Israel to pullout of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip—makes one wonder if he believes that the Palestinians have any rights he is bound to respect. 

When he became prime minister, pressure from the Clinton administration forced Netanyahu grudgingly talked peace with Yasser Arafat in 1997, angering many in his party and constitutency, leading to an election defeat; since then he has towed the hard line that has frustrated any efforts toward a resolution of the Palestinian question. While Republicans and right-wing celebrities like actor Jon Voight accuse Barack Obama of being “anti-Israel” for whatever insipid reason, the truth is that there seems to be a disconnect between U.S.’ interests and Israel’s that has long been on the boil.

Yes, let us not forget that the reason why there is a state of Israel is that despite “ethnic” mixing with native populations over the centuries in the European nations—that rendered Jews identifiable only by their religious affiliation—simply being a Jew meant being an “alien” or “foreign” presence. Their success in economic, professional or academic life was seen by many as not a contributor to national wellbeing, but as parasitical. Thus Jews were convenient scapegoats for anyone who saw themselves as less successful. This led to discrimination, segregation, pogroms and eventually the Holocaust. Jews thus needed their own “home” to protect themselves from “civilized” people.

Thus Israel has managed to hold on to its existence by using moral and ethical blackmail on the U.S. and the West. In as much as Americans generally support the existence of the “friendly” state of Israel in the belief that it is a “buffer” against Islamic extremism, the reality is that it has actually been a magnet for anti-West extremists. The interests of the U.S. have not been advanced by its support of Israel in an increasingly intertwined world; quite the contrary. The reality is that U.S. interests have been harmed by its support of Israel. 

Now, it may be that the current leadership in countries like Saudi Arabia that still do not recognize the state of Israel may in fact secretly support its existence as that magnet for extremism in the region, rather than  against their own regimes. It can also be argued that extremists only use Israel as a justification for their own sectarian violence. Yet it can be argued as well that these extremists would be hard pressed to justify terrorist actions against the U.S. without its support of Israel. 

But what of the Israelis? Perhaps they have become weary of trying to deal with the Palestinians, who have repeatedly rejected potential peace deals. But that doesn’t explain Netanyahu’s apparent antipathy toward Barack Obama, a black man who happens to be president of these United States. One should never equate hardliners of the Jewish faith with social “liberalism.” Netanyahu exploited the same paranoid racist code that Republicans (particularly in the South) use in their own election campaigns. On his Facebook page just before and during the past Israeli Knesset elections, he urged his supporters of the need to vote in order to stave off the threat of “Arab voters going to the polls in droves. Left-wing organizations are bringing them in buses.”

Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that Israeli voters—much closer to the “action” than Americans—would be less inclined toward a compromise peace with the current Palestinian leadership, and with Hamas and its continued declarations that they will never recognize a Jewish state. After all, “compromise” had been repeatedly offered and rejected by the Palestinian leadership, showing if nothing else its lack of farsightedness and statesmanship.  

Yet from the American perspective (at least those with common sense), it cannot be understood what is the purpose of continuing to expand Jewish settlements into the West Bank, shrinking the already tiny size of a potential Palestinian “state,” and only causing further antagonism and resource issues down the road. Does Israel eventually want to absorb the whole of the West Bank? Not that this wouldn’t be a “bad” deal for the Palestinians living there, since they would benefit from a more workable political and social support system. But that is not what they want, and the Islamic fanatics and Hamas insurgents would never accept such a “deal,” since opposition to Israel are their sole reason for being.

For Americans (and perhaps the rest of the world), there seems to be no solution in sight, and it is an exhausting spectacle. Netanyahu (notwithstanding hot air proclamations from politicians on both sides of the U.S. aisle) probably senses this ennui, but it isn’t something that hasn’t been building for a long time. Netanyahu is no doubt upset that Obama has ignored him concerning the Iran nuclear deal, since he prefers a military strike against Iran rather than a negotiated solution. One senses that his own distrust of Obama is because of a natural antipathy toward certain groups he has that makes him believe that Obama is naturally anti-Israel, thus he mistakenly makes statements seemingly deliberately meant to antagonize Obama. 

Netanyahu’s mistake is that he thinks that people here, deep down, actually care anymore. All Netanyahu appears to be is a kindergarten bully who is using outdated rationalizations to use “moral” blackmail against the Obama administration and the American public. What would happen if the U.S. called his bluff? He would be a frightened man leading his country to an even more uncertain future. 

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