Misdirected castigation

International criticism should be directed towards Palestinian leadership.

Israel’s deteriorating international status has reached critical proportions. Just this week there was a slew of indicators from around the world.
In Oakland, California and Stockholm, Sweden, longshoremen refused to load or unload Israeli ships. In Belgium, indictments were brought against Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) for alleged war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead.
In Greece, 33 citizens announced plans to sue Barak, Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and Navy chief Brig.-Gen. Eliezer Marom for Israel’s actions on the Mavi Marmara.
The most tangible result of the tide of international sentiment against Israel has been the across-the-board pressure on Israel – including from the foreign ministers of France and Italy, Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair and US President Barack Obama – to ease the Gaza blockade.
The government’s decision to abandon its years-old blockade policy – which had been intended to weaken Hamas rule and galvanize pressure for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit – without so much as an orderly review of the possible security ramifications, just weeks after the Mavi Marmara fiasco, underscored Jerusalem’s sense of impotence.
In parallel, Washington has now urged Jerusalem not to move ahead with plans to demolish illegal Palestinian houses in Silwan. And pressure is building for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to extend the 10-month building freeze in Judea and Samaria, which is due to end in September.
Barak, on the eve of his departure for Washington this week, warned that “Israel's isolation will only intensify” unless it presents a dynamic political initiative. Livni noted that “Israel’s strategic position is falling apart. We have the chance to make a change, and to do this we need to initiate new policy.”
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, evidently sensing a vacuum, is energetically advancing his longstanding, highly controversial idea for the remaking of Israel’s borders to place many Israeli Arabs inside a future Palestine.
Netanyahu, perhaps in an attempt to deflect criticism, has called on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, yet again, to enter direct talks, asking “How could we possibly live side by side if they can’t even enter the same room as us?”
PLAINLY, THERE is much that Netanyahu could do to improve Israel’s international standing – both by instituting a scandalously overdue strategic overhaul of the pitiful process by which official Israel articulates its narrative, and, substantively, by presenting a bold, coherent peace initiative of his own.
In the face of international pressure, too, however, Israel’s leaders should not lose sight of the country’s strategic importance to the US. And neither should the Obama administration.
The Jewish state’s destruction of Iraq’s Osirik nuclear facility in 1981 made possible US military intervention without fear of nuclear retaliation a decade later during the Gulf War. Israel’s reported destruction of Syrian’s nuclear project in 2007 removed another major threat.
Just this week, US Under-Secretary of Defense Michele Flournoy, in Israel for strategic meetings at the Defense Ministry, made plain that America is not ruling out a military option to thwart Iran’s nuclear aspirations. Israel could be central to any such option.
In a meeting this week with The Jerusalem Post’s editorial board, meanwhile, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Oren pointed out that Israel’s is the only armed force in the region that could and would dependably go into battle for and with the US overnight. There is also the tremendous amount of intelligence information and tactical experience that Israel shares with the US.
Against the rise of extremist elements in the Middle East, Israel is the single most important bulwark. Iran continues to push forward with its uranium enrichment while its Shi’ite leadership strengthens ties with the minority Alawite dictatorship in Syria. Both Syria and Iran, meanwhile, are supporting Hizbullah in south Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. Turkey is moving closer to Teheran and Damascus.
The more moderate Sunni states, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, watch the rise of Islamic extremism with concern, but are powerless. No local entity can serve as any kind of deterrent, with the exception of Israel.
ISRAEL KNOWS full well that it must pursue a viable peace accord with the Palestinians. The realization of a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state that recognizes and respects Israel’s sovereignty, is the only option for ensuring the maintenance of a Jewish and democratic state.
International criticism and pressure, so often of late unwarrantedly directed at Israel, should be applied to a recalcitrant Palestinian leadership that is insistently avoiding the compromises that serious direct talks would engender.