Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Daylight In-Between

Perhaps it is no secret that I consider the Netanyahu government to be the worst in Israel's history. But, recent events in Israel and Washington have moved the meter into a dangerous red zone - and for Israel.

The foreign policy gaffs of the current Israeli government, from an absurdly handled assassination in Dubai, insulting the Turkish ambassador, embarrassing the US Vice President during a visit to Israel, to continued refusal to even marginally stop seizing land for settlements, can only be described as self-destructive.

The meeting in Washington, by all accounts, did not go well. Netanyahu was basically treated to the same courtesy as the leader of Fiji. Possibly less. Did he miss the point? Does he care? Is his failure of judgement so great that he thinks that the stream of daylight now pouring through the gap will simply vanish?

His judgement, clearly from his first encounters with the Obama administration, is that with two wars and serious domestic issues, his government could withstand pressure from a preoccupied White House. Well, Mr Prime Minister, the preoccupation with domestic affairs has cleared one big hurdle with the passage of the insurance reform (incorrectly referred to as a health care bill)law. Iraq is still a problem, but hopefully will not be so very shortly. Afghanistan appears to be going well in the short term - at least enough to withdraw. Israeli government wiggle room is rapidly narrowing.

This Israeli government is sowing a toxic field in which the two state solution will be buried if for no other reason than by inserting religious zealots into potential Palestinian territory any chance of delimiting boundaries will be gone. The demographics in that situation are not favourable to Israel. To that extent, the current government is a security risk to Israel itself. Saying last week that Jews have been building in Jerusalem, its unrecognized capital, for 3,000 years invites some unfortunate historical recollections - none of which are good for Israel

In foreign policy, Israel is pushing away its strongest - and only - ally in the region. Turkey is waking up and Israel needs to read the history of the region. Turkey is the heavy-weight and the only nation able to face down a belligerent Iran, control Syria and balance an unstable Iraq. Refusing to listen to an economic, political and military power - indeed finding childish ways of irritating it - is not a viable long-term plan.

The Netanyahu government needs to take a deep breath and consider its actions to please its leadership and a conservative religious minority that cannot hope, historically, to win what it wants. Either that, or in the next election, the Netanyahu group must be removed from power. Israel's security depends on it.

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