Shattering Israel’s Image

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

No Israeli government has shattered Israel’s international image more than the Netanyahu government has over the past six years. Not only have Netanyahu and his cohorts systematically been engaged in rancorous public narratives against the Palestinians, but they have taken action that could only attest to his unwavering commitment to expand the settlements and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state. Although the Palestinians have also contributed to the enmity and distrust between the two sides, the conduct of Netanyahu and company has left Israel isolated and scorned while dramatically shifting international public opinion in favor of the Palestinians.

To promote his political scheme, Netanyahu has skillfully linked every conflicting issue with the Palestinians to Israel’s national security. He masterfully manipulated public opinion over the years to justify his misadventures and continued occupation in the name of national security, while bringing the peace process to a grinding halt.

He has engaged in double talk; on the one hand, he publicly endorsed the two-state solution, yet on the other hand he missed no opportunity to proclaim Israel’s inherent right to the whole ‘biblical land of Israel,’ which makes the establishment of a Palestinian state a farce.

He, like many of his predecessors, continued the expansion of settlements, except that Netanyahu went about it with zeal, gradually diminishing the prospect of a Palestinian state while defying the international community’s plea to halt this illegal enterprise.

While Netanyahu and his friends publicly and routinely charge the Palestinians of hating and resenting Israel, he conveniently forgets that the Palestinians are under occupation, where Israel often exercises unrestrained measures to reign over them. He also forgets that every Palestinian under the age of 48 was born under occupation, and their behavior and the way they feel is a natural reaction to their sense of victimhood and despair.

Netanyahu masterfully uses Hamas’ acrimonious narratives and violence against Israel to paint all Palestinians in the same light. Instead of praising the PA for forsaking violence and their full-fledged security cooperation with Israel, he capitalized on the fissure between Hamas and the PA to hold the peace process captive to Hamas’ whims.

Netanyahu manipulated the peace negotiations to create deadlocks. He repeatedly accused the Palestinians of being untrustworthy, but then he insisted on continuing settlement expansion during the negotiations, making it extremely difficult for the Palestinians to negotiate “in good faith” while witnessing their territory being chewed up inch by inch.

I do not suggest here that the Palestinians have had the best of intentions to coexist with Israel in peace. There is no doubt that over the years they have sought to undermine Israel, if not eliminate it altogether. And I do not deny that there is still some residue of that within the Palestinians.

That said, the Israelis must recognize that times have changed; Israel must distinguish between Hamas and other jihadists, who represent only a small minority of Palestinians. Today there is an absolute majority of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza who want to live in peace, without necessarily falling in love with Israel. They are sick and tired of their never-ending suffering and humiliation.

Ending the occupation and establishing a Palestinian state is certainly good for the Palestinians, but it serves Israel’s needs and future wellbeing far more so than the Palestinians. Every Israeli who bought into the argument that the Palestinians are an irredeemable foe must now reexamine the falsity of this belief.

The old and tired narratives Netanyahu and his emissaries keep promulgating about how untrustworthy the Palestinians are—about their bad intent, about the Gaza experience, about the Palestinians’ perpetual hatred, about their long-term strategy to destroy Israel, and about Israel’s constant and grave security concerns—no longer resonate.

It is time for the Israelis to ask themselves the simple question: what is really best for us? Where will the continuing occupation lead us? What will happen to Israel’s national character and identity? Can we maintain our democracy and freedom, can we have peace while keeping more than five million Palestinians hostages, can we live with our conscious, and finally, can we afford to forsake our core moral values and still live with ourselves?

The collapse of the Netanyahu government did not come one day too soon. It is time for Israelis to take stock of the damage he caused to the image of the country, to its moral standing, to its place among the nations, to its future as a Jewish state, to its friends and ties with other nations (especially that of the United States), and to its prospect of living in peace and real security.

The Israeli elections offer a momentous opportunity for all Israelis to change course and rid themselves of the clowns that have been running the country asunder. They must begin by disabusing themselves of the notion that Israel is beleaguered and under a constant Palestinian threat.

The Palestinians will never be in a position to threaten Israel’s existence. Israel is threatened from within. It is threatened by its political factionalism and dysfunctional political system, it is threatened by egomaniacal politicians whose thirst for power trumps national interest, it is threatened by the hypocrisy and bigotry of its corrupt, incurable political leaders, and it is threatened by misguided leaders who have no clue what tomorrow has in store.

Will the Israeli center and left look at themselves in the mirror for once and ask: what is our real responsibility to the nation, to its preservation, and to its very existence? After nearly seventy years, hasn’t the time come to face the inevitable and seek peace with dignity?

The upcoming elections offer all these splintered parties an opportunity to coalesce around a leader (without the absurdity of rotating the premiership a la Livni and Herzog) and once and for all defeat the chauvinistic and blind ideologues who are leading the country toward the abyss.

Those Israelis who claim that, given the raging turmoil throughout the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear threat, and the future uncertainty, Israel should focus on its security than take a risk with the Palestinians, are dead wrong.

Nothing will provide Israel greater security than peace, and there is never, ever a bad time to make peace.




Click here for ways to follow what's new on Facts & Arts.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Added 19.06.2018
 

I find it exceptionally irritating when I hear liberals worry about whether Israel will be able to remain a "Jewish and Democratic State" if it retains control of occupied Palestinian lands.

Added 18.06.2018
Daniel Wagner: "My prediction Korean War will be formally ended, the peninsula will be denuclearised, and a lasting peace will be the result."
Added 14.06.2018
Extract: PiS [ the ruling Law and Justice party] has established the most significant addition to the Polish social safety net since 1989: the Family 500+ program. Launched in 2016, Family 500+ embodies the nationalism, traditional family values, and social consciousness that the PiS seeks to promote. The program pays families 500 złoty ($144) per month to provide care for a second or subsequent child...........The program has been enormously popular. Some 2.4 million families took advantage of it in the first two years. The benefit, equivalent to 40% of the minimum wage, has almost wiped out extreme poverty for children in Poland, reducing it by an estimated 70-80%........... Liberal pro-European politicians and policymakers are not convinced. They complain that such a generous family benefit will weaken work incentives and blow up the government budget. But initial evidence suggests that Family 500+ has actually increased economic activity. It has also reversed the post-communist decline in fertility, increased wages (particularly for women), and enabled families to buy school materials, take vacations, buy more clothes for their kids, and rely less on high-priced credit for basic household needs. And, thanks to rapid economic growth, the government deficit has steadily fallen, not grown.
Added 12.06.2018
The depths of hypocrisy of the Republican Party in supporting Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator in Singapore are hard to plumb. This is a party whose leading members adopted the Ostrich Foreign Policy Principle for decades. If you don’t like a country’s government or political and economic system, pretend it does not exist.
Added 12.06.2018
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.” But what consequences?
Added 12.06.2018
With a general election approaching in September, Swedish voters are being warned that now it’s their turn to be targeted by Russian interference in the democratic process. According to Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is leading the country’s efforts to counter foreign-influence operations, such interference is very likely, and citizens should be on the lookout for disinformation and fake news.
Added 11.06.2018
Extract: "While the presidency has grown stronger over the years, during the Trump administration Congress has been timid and subordinate. That is because the leaders of the Republican Party – which controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate – are frightened of Trump’s base. They cannot afford to alienate the roughly 30-35% of Americans who passionately back him, ignore his personal transgressions, tolerate his degradation of the country’s civil discourse, favor his brutal treatment of immigrant families, and don’t mind that he is leaving the US almost friendless in the world."
Added 08.06.2018
Has North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, made a strategic decision to trade away his nuclear program, or is he just engaged in another round of deceptive diplomacy, pretending that he will denuclearize in exchange for material benefits for his impoverished country? This is, perhaps, the key question in the run-up to the summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Until then, no one will know the answer, perhaps not even Kim himself.
Added 07.06.2018
Some analysts even project that, before long, Facebook will hold more data on its users than any government. Meanwhile, it makes a lot of money from this data. Its advertising revenues came up to around US$40 billion in 2017 (up 50% from 2016). With Google, it holds an 84% market share in online advertising.
Added 05.06.2018
Roseanne Barr is an American comedian whose fictional TV character of the same name is a working-class Trump supporter. For those who remember the show “All in the Family,” she might be usefully compared to Archie Bunker, the crude proletarian patriarch from Queens, New York. Barr’s show was swiftly canceled late last month by the television network ABC, not for anything her “character” said in her show, but for a tweet in which she described Valerie Jarrett, an African-American former adviser to Barack Obama, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
Added 04.06.2018
 

When Donald Trump was elected, I, like many others feared what his presidency might do to the country. A year and a half into his term in office, our concerns have been justified. 

Added 01.06.2018
Extract from the article: "While the West’s relative decline is almost inevitable, its economic dysfunction is not. Yet pessimism can be self-fulfilling. Why undertake difficult reforms if a dark future seems preordained? As a result, accepting and anxious pessimists tend to elect governments that duck difficult decisions (witness Germany’s grand coalition), while angry pessimists make matters worse (by voting for Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda or for Brexit, for example). It doesn’t have to be this way. As French President Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated, bold leaders can succeed with a message of hope, openness, and inclusion, and by promoting a vision of progress based on credible reforms."
Added 30.05.2018
It has been nearly two years since the United Kingdom narrowly voted in favor of leaving the European Union. As the march toward Brexit – formally set for the end of next March – proceeds, fundamental questions about the nature of the future UK-EU relationship remain unanswered. Instead, every time a tough decision must be made in the negotiations in Brussels, British ministers kick the can down the road, or even into the long grass. This is somewhat surprising. Apparently, none of the politicians and newspaper editors who plotted for years to get the UK out of the EU thought much about what would happen if their machinations succeeded.
Added 30.05.2018
Discussions are now underway to establish a system of joint deposit insurance for eurozone banks. Proponents of the scheme, with the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) taking the lead, point out that deposit insurance would avert the danger of a run on banks in times of crisis. While this argument is true, critics emphasize the disparity in risks, owing to the high share of bad loans on the balance sheets of banks in some countries. To address this risk disparity and move ahead with the plan, balance sheets will need to be cleaned up before considering the next step. While the share of bad loans for banks in the stable eurozone countries is just 2%, the most recently published International Monetary Fund statistics, from last April, show a share of 11% for Ireland, 16% for Italy, 40% for Cyprus, and 46% for Greece.
Added 29.05.2018
Trump’s decision cannot be justified by any breach of the agreement on Iran’s part. It is, rather, a return to the old, largely unsuccessful US policy of confrontation with Iran. The only difference this time is that the Trump administration seems determined to go to the brink of war – or even beyond – to get its way. If the administration has any plans for keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check in the absence of the nuclear deal, then it is keeping them a secret. Judging by some of the administration’s rhetoric, it would appear that airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities are on the table. But bombing would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not stop it. Would Trump then consider a massive ground war to occupy the country and topple the regime? We know all too well how that strategy worked the last time it was tried.
Added 28.05.2018
US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel his planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un represents a diplomatic coup for the North Korean leader, and an even bigger victory for China. In the space of just a few months, Kim’s image has gone from that of international pariah to that of thwarted peacemaker.
Added 23.05.2018
The good news is that the United States and China appear to have backed away from the precipice of a trade war. While vague in detail, a May 19 agreement defuses tension and commits to further negotiation. The bad news is that the framework of negotiations is flawed: A deal with any one country will do little to resolve America’s fundamental economic imbalances that have arisen in an interconnected world.
Added 21.05.2018
The cryptocurrency revolution, which started with bitcoin in 2009, claims to be inventing new kinds of money. There are now nearly 2,000 cryptocurrencies, and millions of people worldwide are excited by them. What accounts for this enthusiasm, which so far remains undampened by warnings that the revolution is a sham? One must bear in mind that attempts to reinvent money have a long history. As the sociologist Viviana Zelizer points out in her book The Social Meaning of Money: “Despite the commonsense idea that ‘a dollar is a dollar is a dollar,’ everywhere we look people are constantly creating different kinds of money.” Many of these innovations generate real excitement, at least for a while. As the medium of exchange throughout the world, money, in its various embodiments, is rich in mystique. We tend to measure people’s value by it. It sums things up like nothing else. And yet it may consist of nothing more than pieces of paper that just go round and round in circles of spending. So its value depends on belief and trust in those pieces of paper. One might call it faith.
Added 19.05.2018
The protests that rippled across Russia ahead of Vladimir Putin’s fourth inauguration as president followed a familiar script. Police declared the gatherings illegal, and the media downplayed their size. Alexey Navalny, the main organizer and Russia’s de facto opposition leader, was arrested in dramatic fashion, dragged out of a rally in Moscow by police. On May 15, he was sentenced to 30 days in prison. More than 1,600 protesters across the country were beaten and detained.
Added 16.05.2018
Many knowledgeable people dismiss the prospect of advanced AGI [=Artificial General Intelligence]. Some, ..........,argue that it is impossible for AI to outsmart humanity........Yet other distinguished scholars........do worry that AGI could pose a serious or even existential threat to humanity. With experts lining up on both sides of the debate, the rest of us should keep an open mind.