Height of hypocrisy

How has Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s behavior in the Amman embassy crisis been hypocritical?

JORDANIAN POLICE deployed during protests against Israel in Amman. (photo credit: REUTERS)
JORDANIAN POLICE deployed during protests against Israel in Amman.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In his excellent book No Country for Jewish Liberals, Larry Derfner repeatedly makes the point that Israel claims the moral high ground in its conflict with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world, despite often behaving in a far from moral way itself.
Derfner (full disclosure: we were once colleagues) provides numerous examples of Israeli hypocrisy over the years. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cynical and exploitive behavior last week will give him plenty of material should he ever seek to update his book and devote a section to the return of Ziv, the Israeli bodyguard, from Amman.
Imagine for a moment that it was not Ziv who shot and killed two Jordanian citizens in Amman, but Jordanian security guard Ibrahim who shot and killed two Israeli citizens at a Jordanian embassy residence in Tel Aviv, allegedly after being attacked by a teenager wielding a screwdriver. We all know that in the opinion of IDF Chief of General Staff Gadi Eizenkot, there’s no need for professionals to empty a magazine at youngsters attacking with a blunt instrument.
Carrying on with the what-if scenario, let’s assume that Israel honored the Vienna Convention on diplomatic immunity and allowed Ibrahim to leave the country for Jordan without being questioned or charged. How would Prime Minister Netanyahu then react if Jordan’s King Abdullah gave Ibrahim a hero’s welcome on his return? We can all write the tweets, Facebook posts and YouTube videos Netanyahu would unleash, condemning Abdullah for feting the killer of Israeli civilians. The script is already there from all of Netanyahu’s repeated attacks on Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for supporting terrorism.
So why would Netanyahu think the Jordanian monarch would feel any differently if he stage-managed a hero’s welcome for the Israeli bodyguard? But once again proving Henry Kissenger’s famous adage that Israel has no foreign policy, only domestic policy, Netanyahu chose to put his own narrow political interests above those of the country.
Rather than hide Ziv away and immediately begin an investigation into what actually happened in Amman so as to quickly restore our vital diplomatic relations with the Hashemite kingdom, Netanyahu sought to create a narrative of a daring rescue from enemy territory (via his breathless phone call to discover whether the embassy team had crossed the border back into Israel, straightaway distributed to the Israeli media) and capped by his hero’s welcome of Ziv to his office.
Netanyahu’s reasons for doing so are singularly transparent: after a week of humiliating setbacks – the awful terrorist murder of the Salomon family at Halamish, followed by the incident in Jordan which led to the government’s total capitulation over the issue of metal detectors at the Temple Mount – the prime minister was desperate to present some form of achievement to his political base. And so he shamelessly manufactured the “rescue” of Ziv, regardless of the cost to Israel’s ties to Jordan.This is no one-off incident of Netanyahu putting his own selfish interests above those of the country he is supposed to lead. In a revealing interview dissecting his own political failings in Yediot Aharonot’s magazine this weekend, former Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog provides a crucial insight into the weakness that lies at the heart of our prime minister.
Discussing the coalition negotiations between himself and Netanyahu that ultimately went nowhere and which were primarily responsible for Herzog’s recent leadership defeat, Herzog recalled how Netanyahu’s closest aides warned the prime minister that accepting Labor’s demands regarding restarting the peace process would destroy the Likud.
“And then I understood: Netanyahu the statesman knows what needs to be done, but Netanyahu the politician is scared, a coward, who is deeply entrapped by his political base. He is not,” Herzog continued, “prepared to look his base in the eye and say: for the good of Israel, we need to need to enter a process that will ensure the future of the State of Israel for the Jewish People, through secure borders and a stable Jewish majority for generations.”
We see this cowardice time and time again from Netanyahu: not just in times of crisis such as the past week, where his instinct for political survival overcame any rational decision-making, but in cases as relatively simple as that of Elor Azaria, rightly convicted of manslaughter of a wounded Palestinian terrorist.
Initially, Netanyahu knew what the right thing to do was in this case, and soon after the killing issued a statement saying such actions were not in line with the norms of IDF behavior. But the minute Netanyahu’s political base began to agitate in favor of Azaria, the prime minister abandoned such principles, and began to hold supportive conversations with the father of the killer, bizarrely comparing Azaria’s parents to bereaved parents who have lost their sons in battle and even calling for Azaria to be pardoned.
Such a political coward is no leader and does not deserve to be prime minister.
The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.