Isolated, adrift and alone. This is how the media, from Time Magazine to Tom Friedman at The New York Times and The Daily Beast’s Peter Beinart, are describing Israel in the midst of the U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood this week.
They blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu for the situational intransigence. Yet what they and others barely mention is how the so-called Arab Spring has, rather than thawed relations with Israel, rather than opened up a renaissance of new ideas, enlightened thought and peace with its neighbors, it has unleashed a torrent of red hot venom convulsing forth from Egypt and Syria to tirades emanating from Iran and Turkey.
Friedman writes, “Israel is not responsible for the toppling of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt or for the uprising in Syria or for Turkey’s decision to seek regional leadership by cynically trashing Israel or for the fracturing of the Palestinian national movement between the West Bank and Gaza.” Well, thanks a lot Tom! Where he does lay the blame is with Israel not warming to these enraged countries.
In fact, Turkey has become a hostile, Islamic regime that is now threatening to attack Israel at sea. Egypt has been hijacked by The Muslim Brotherhood and allowed terrorists to infiltrate Israel through the Sinai, while Syria has brutally killed its own citizens by the hundreds (maybe thousands, no one really knows as they don''t have a free press like Israel does). But where is the slamming of those nations in Friedman''s column? It’s not there. Instead he points the blame at Bibi along with the nefarious (my word) “powerful pro-Israel lobby” (his words.)
Moreover and as far as Bibi is concerned, and as David Harris of the American Jewish Committee pointed out in the Times as well, Israel''s efforts to reach a two-state solution in 2000 under a left-wing government and in 2008 with centrist leadership were refused, rebuffed and rejected. So is it Bibi? I think not. To lay it all at his feet and not look at the wider radicalization of Israel''s neighbors is myopic and unfair.
Is it really all Israel''s fault? I don''t buy it.
Rather, all of the chaos in the region makes for the perfect storm from which arises Abbas, rejecting all compromises from the United States, and the Quartet on the Middle East, even after Bibi agreed to vaguer wording on West Bank settlement blocs, no mention of a “Jewish state”, as well as security assurances according to Haaretz.
Furthermore, as Ron Proser points out in an LA Times op-ed, Abbas’s Palestinian Authority has no control over a large segment of its population in the Gaza Strip which is controlled by Hamas. To claim statehood as Abbas is attempting, without having set foot in Gaza since 2007’s coup by Hamas, Poser writes, “…is like New York City electing a mayor who is unable to travel to Brooklyn.”
For Friedman, Beinart and others in the US Media, to expect Bibi or any other responsible leader of Israel to carelessly relinquish territory in Judea and Samaria that now provides a security buffer over to Abbas, without absolute assurances it won’t become the next Gaza is madness.
Yet, were it to get a nod from the U.N., there is no assurance that it wouldn’t reach that point. Indeed to go by history, each and every time Israel has traded land for peace it has turned out badly. Even the Sinai today, turned back over to Egypt in 1979, has become a terrorist training ground and Egypt, as Barry Rubin notes, “the definition of the proper Egypt, held by 90 percent of the Sunni Muslim population, is that of a highly religious, highly nationalistic country that has a chip on its shoulder toward the West. We are talking about a revolution leading to more — not less — extremism and enforced conformity.”
To the north in Lebanon, where Israel pulled back, it’s lost too. Hezbollah is in control with over 40,000 rockets aimed at Israel.
Yes, they are right. Israel is alone and isolated.
It is surrounded by unstable, radical regimes that wish to destroy it. But you’d think that would be exactly the time when a true friend would come to its side and not let any distance appear between the two longtime allies in order to avoid precisely what has taken place. Instead and as Jon Tobin points out in his Commentary blog, “The president’s (Obama’s) decision to ask Israel to make unilateral concessions to bribe Abbas to talk as well as his inexplicable decision to pick fights with the newly elected Netanyahu over the status of Jerusalem only persuaded the Palestinians that they need only sit back and watch while America battered its Jewish ally.”
Given the current tangled mess, now akin to defusing a bomb, it will take delicate diplomacy to avoid a catastrophe--something evidently in short supply by those claiming to have Israel’s best interests at heart.
Abe Novick is a writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org