So what did we have last week? Two ultimately damaging decisions to both sides of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict: a U.N almost-unanimous vote awarding the Palestinians the status of a non-member observer state, and an Israeli decision to authorize the building of 3,000 homes in Judea and Samaria. The only thing that these two decisions have in common is that they could have been avoided by level-headed decision making by the Israeli government.
The week actually started out as promising since Israel decided to downplay its objections and not make a fuss out of a 100% done deal, an excellent decision, but one that apparently was too good to be true.
After the U.N vote, Israel decided to punish the Palestinians. Looking at the areas in which the building was authorized, the decision does not totally lack merit – these areas are close to the green line and are most likely to be included in Israel’s future borders in any future deal with the Palestinians. Then why does the decision leave me with such a bitter taste?
Purposely declared after the Thursday U.N vote, the decision was supposed to punish the Palestinians for acting unilaterally and off the negotiation table. The question is – who exactly was punished here?
If the U.N vote managed to crystallize anything, it is the fact of Israel’s international isolation. There is no doubt that Israel’s reaction more than likely only helps exacerbate the set of considerations leading Israel’s foes and stalwart allies alike to vote in favor of the Palestinian bid. Surely, there are better ways to amend Israel’s international status!
Besides the actual content of the decision, the timing itself also reflects poor judgment on the part of the Israeli decision makers as it almost seems like a rash and childish retribution to a U.N decision that is mainly symbolic in nature. Calling the Palestinian move “diplomatic terrorism” also doesn’t help.
I don’t envy Israeli officials in Washington – again and again finding themselves explaining Israeli ingratitude as reflected in countless embarrassing policy decisions, despite continuous backing and support by consecutive American administrations. Last week was another fine example of the way Israel recklessly slaps the hand that feeds her as America, like it almost always does, tried its best to prevent the vote in the U.N.
Does Netanyahu truly believe Israel can continuously take this special relationship between the two countries for granted? Thomas Friedman of the New York Times put it like this back in 2010, when Israel haggled with the U.S over the unilateral freezing of building in the territories:
“Israel, when America, a country that has lavished billions on you over the last 50 years and taken up your defense in countless international forums, asks you to halt settlements for three months to get peace talks going, there is only one right answer, and it is not “How much?” It is: “Yes, whatever you want, because you’re our only true friend in the world.”*
If this latest folly is any sign of decision making in the coming four years of Likud rule, then we are looking at an additional four lean years of problematic relations with Washington, and of no progress on the Palestinian front.