Israel against the world - yet again

What’s good for Hamas is bad for everyone.

binyamin netanyahu 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
binyamin netanyahu 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
This was supposed to be the easiest week in the tumultuous tenure of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.   He had settled key differences with US President Barack Obama, received an invitation for a kiss-and-make-up session at the White House and come to Canada for a large pro-Israel rally and a meeting with Stephen Harper, perhaps the world’s most pro-Israel prime minister.
Instead, he had to deal with American support for a UN resolution supporting a Middle East nuclear free zone, IDF commandos under fire on the Mavi Marmara, and the international condemnation that came in reaction to the lives lost on the flotilla. He spent the night at Harper’s official residence in Ottawa but ended up convening marathon meetings with seven advisers and got no sleep.
It is no wonder that Netanyahu concluded his week frustrated,delivering an exasperated address in which he accused the world ofhypocrisy. Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office pointed out that heconcluded his speech differently when he read it in Hebrew and English.
The Hebrew version ended with a plea for unity, which was important tostress when the blame game was getting into high gear. The Englishversion concluded with an appeal to the international community totreat Israel fairly, which was Netanyahu’s reaction to the UN HumanRights Council’s vote for an international commission of inquiry hoursearlier.
“This may sound like an impossible plea, or an impossible request, oran impossible demand, but I make it anyway: Israel should not be heldto a double standard,” he said. “The Jewish state has a right to defenditself just like any other state.”
The speech came exactly 48 hours after the first broadcast of belatedlyreleased footage showing soldiers being beaten. The hope was thatduring those two days, the international pressure that had built upwhen the available evidence pointed to Israel as the aggressor woulddissipate. The clip convinced even the most skeptical Israelis thattheir first impression was wrong and that the people the commandosfought were anything but human rights advocates, but its impact on theworld was disappointing.
The most obvious reason why the film failed to fix Israel’sinternational imbroglio was that the world is obsessed with numbers. Nomatter who was right or who attacked first, nine MaviMarmara passengers and no Israelis are dead. Another reasonis that by the time the clip was broadcast, the world’s mind wasalready made up.
Sources close to Netanyahu gave a deeper explanation. They said thatIsraelis see the situation in Gaza in a more nuanced manner than theinternational community.
ISRAELIS DIFFERENTIATE between the Hamas and the people of Gaza, whothey see as victims of Hamas aggression just like Israelis in theSouth. The fact that the flotilla organizers who have ties to Hamasrefused to allow the humanitarian aid on the ships to be transferred toGaza via Israel or Egypt and that Hamas has not allowed the aid intoGaza since then reinforces that for Israelis.
But much of the international community has not internalized thatanything that helps Hamas hurts both the Israelis and the Palestinians.That’s why the declared aim of the flotilla organizers to push forlifting the blockade on Gaza was echoed around the world, while noJewish Israeli politician called for lifting the blockade all week.
Meretz issued two statements this week, one condemning the handling ofthe flotilla and lamenting the loss of life and the other calling for acommission of inquiry. The party would prefer a different solution thatwould encourage Gilad Schalit’s release and preventing rocket fire fromGaza, but even it didn’t call for lifting the blockade this week.
The international community’s condemnations suggested that Israel’shandling of the flotilla would harm the proximity talks with thePalestinians, while Israelis understand that it was those verycondemnations that make it harder for Palestinian Authority PresidentMahmoud Abbas to withstand pressure from Hamas to break off the talks.
In a week in which Netanyahu’s decision-making has been questioned, onemove he made proved to be prescient. He asked his spokesman for theforeign press, Mark Regev, to remain in Israel and not accompany him onthe trip.
Normally, it would be obvious that a prime minister’s English-languagespokesman comes with him to Canada and Washington DC. But not in a weekin which boats of supposed humanitarian activists were bound for Gaza.
“He told me I had to stay back because there was potential for aproblem,” Regev said. “I enjoy travelling with the prime minister, buthe was 100 percent right. The s--t hit the fan, and I was here.”
Regev, who weathered very aggressive questions from the foreign pressfrom the moment the flotilla raid began, said on Thursday that thequestions have started becoming easier and much of the internationalcommunity has finally internalized Israel’s side of the story.
He pointed out a story in the notoriously anti-Israel BritishGuardian newspaper defending Israel and a report inThe Times of London investigating the IHHorganization that was behind the flotilla. Foreign Ministry officialssingled out pro-Israel editorials in The WashingtonPost and the Chicago Tribune.
“International understanding of the situation today is greater,” Regevsaid. “We will never get a fair hearing at the UN Human Rights Council,but in Washington DC, London, Canberra, Paris, Rome, Ottawa and evenMoscow, they can get it. I think we are creating a situation of greaterunderstanding among the key international actors, and we are turningthis around.”
If that happens, perhaps Netanyahu will have an easier week next week.