Analysis: World won’t wait for our elections

The world will have to wait until March 17 to hear from Israel, even if diplomatic emergencies break out.

Imagine calling the country’s 101 emergency hotline, only to have a tape machine answer that there will be no one able to take calls until March 18.
That, essentially, is what Jerusalem has in store for the diplomatic emergencies breaking out, well, almost everywhere.
The French parliament just recommended recognizing a Palestinian state, and other European parliaments are posed to do the same. Critically important relations with Egypt and Jordan need to be managed at the very top by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Strategy needs to be drawn up and policy implemented on ways to ensure the international community keeps the heat up on Iran.
Yet, Israel – with its decision to go to the polls March 17 – has essentially placed a “do not disturb” sign on its door.
Do not disturb, not because we are sleeping, but rather because we are preoccupied with a campaign that will feature the following uplifting themes: Life in Israel has never been worse; the country is one notch away from losing its democratic character; the economy is a complete and utter disaster; the country’s leaders – essentially the same ones who will be back the next time around as well – are incompetent opportunists at best, woeful liars at worst.
Or, as Labor head Isaac Herzog said on Israel Radio on Monday, life here is hell, every day, every hour.
Those messages will be heard not only by Israel’s eight million people, but also by both friends and foes around the world trying to take the measure of Israeli society, judge its stability, probe its weaknesses, give it credit ratings.
And these people – governments, public institutions, credit rating institutions – are not simply going to push the hold button and not bother us for the next few months as we endlessly pummel one another, and the country’s good name.
The credit rating institutions will give their credit ratings even though we will have neither a finance minister nor a budget for another six months. European countries will continue pursuing ways of pressuring Israel into making concessions, even though the foreign minister will be otherwise preoccupied. The Palestinians will carry on with their plans to take a resolution to the UN Security Council calling for a Palestinian state three years from now inside the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as its capital, even though the prime minister will be busy campaigning.
There are those who argue that now that Israel has declared elections, those moves in European parliaments toward recognizing a Palestinian state will be put on hold until it becomes clear who will form the next government, with the Europeans (and Americans) hoping it will be a less right-wing government more amenable to their positions.
But this is wishful thinking.
The European legislatures are unlikely to postpone votes already in the pipeline on whether to recognize a Palestinian state because of early elections in Israel. And there are essentially two reasons for this. First, because these processes are already in motion, and once in motion they are difficult to stop.
Second, because politicians in Europe and around the world are looking at the same surveys we are all looking at here, and realize that come March 18, the political environment is unlikely to look that much different – or “better” from a European perspective or that of the US administration – than it does now.
So why slow down processes aimed at pressuring Israel? The one exception may be the Palestinian attempt to get a resolution through the UN Security Council.
The US, which is not keen on having to use its veto to block this resolution, may try to convince the Palestinians to wait with this measure until after the elections. And, in the likely eventuality that the Palestinians will not bow to those requests, Washington may ask the other states on the body to put off dealing with the matter until the spring, after there is a new government in Israel.
But those other countries are unlikely to agree to the request, thinking this is another Israeli “trick” to buy time, drag things along. And those perceptions will be reinforced by the vitriolic campaign rhetoric that will be coming out of Israel itself.
For the ninth time since 1992, in another 103 days, Israel will be going to the polls. It would be great if during this period the world would respect our privacy and just leave us alone to beat ourselves up.
But it won’t, and it will come knocking, only to find no one answering our door.
We will – to our own detriment – be otherwise preoccupied.