Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s response to the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority’s peace deal with Hamas would be funny if it weren’t tragic. Immediately after the news broke of the deal Netanyahu announced, “The PA must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both.”
Netanyahu’s statement is funny because it is completely absurd. The PA has chosen.
The PA made the choice in 2000 when it rejected Israel’s offer of peace and Palestinian statehood and joined forces with Hamas to wage a terror war against Israel.
The PA made the choice in 2005 again when it responded to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza with a tenfold increase in the number of rockets and missiles it fired on Israeli civilian targets in the Negev.
The Palestinians made the choice in 2006, when they elected Hamas to rule over them.
They made the choice in March 2007 when Fatah and Hamas signed their first unity deal.
The PA made the choice in 2008 when Abbas rejected then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s offer of statehood and peace.
The PA made the choice in 2010 when it refused to reinstate peace negotiations with Netanyahu; began peace negotiations with Hamas; and escalated its plan to establish an independent state without peace with Israel.
Now the PA has again made the choice by signing the newest peace deal with Hamas.
In a real sense, Netanyahu’s call for the PA to choose is the political equivalent of a man telling his wife she must choose between him and her lover, after she has left home, shacked up and had five children with her new man.
It is a pathetic joke.
But worse than a pathetic joke, it is a national tragedy. It is a tragedy that after more than a decade of the PA choosing war with Israel and peace with Hamas, Israel’s leaders are still incapable of accepting reality and walking away. It is a tragedy that Israel’s leaders cannot find the courage to say the joke of the peace process is really a deadly serious war process whose end is Israel’s destruction, and that Israel is done with playing along.
There are many reasons that Netanyahu is incapable of stating the truth and ending the 18- year policy nightmare in which Israel is an active partner in its own demise. One of the main reasons is that like his predecessors, Netanyahu has come to believe the myth that Israel’s international standing is totally dependent on its being perceived as trying to make peace with the Palestinians.
According to this myth – which has been the central pillar of Israel’s foreign policy and domestic politics since Yitzhak Rabin first accepted the PLO as a legitimate actor in 1993 – it doesn’t matter how obvious it is that the Palestinians are uninterested in peaceful coexistence with Israel.
It doesn’t matter how openly they wage their war to destroy Israel. Irrespective of the nakedness of Palestinian bad faith, seven successive governments have adopted the view that the only thing that stands between Israel and international pariah status is its leaders’ ability to persuade the so-called international community that Israel is serious about appeasing the Palestinians.
For the past several months, this profoundly neurotic perception of Israel’s options has fed our leaders’ hysterical response to the Palestinians’ plan to unilaterally declare independence.
The Palestinian plan itself discredits the idea that they are interested in anything other than destroying Israel. The plan is to get the UN to recognize a Palestinian state in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza outside the framework of a peace treaty with Israel. The PA will first attempt to get the Security Council to endorse an independent “Palestine.” If the Obama administration vetoes the move, then the PA will ask the General Assembly to take action. Given the makeup of the General Assembly, it is all but certain that the Palestinians will get their resolution.
The question is, does this matter? Everyone from Defense Minister Ehud Barak to hard-left, post-Zionist retreads like Shulamit Aloni and Avrum Burg says it does. They tell us that if this passes, Israel will face international opprobrium if its citizens or military personnel so much as breathe in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem without Palestinian permission.
These prophets of doom warn that Israel has but one hope for saving itself from diplomatic death: Netanyahu must stand before the world and pledge to give Israel’s heartland and capital to the Palestinians.
And according to helpful Obama administration officials, everything revolves around Netanyahu’s ability to convince the EU-3 – British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel – that he is serious about appeasing the Palestinians. If he doesn’t offer up Israel’s crown jewels in his speech before the US Congress next month, administration officials warn that the EU powers will go with the Palestinians.
And if they go with the Palestinians, well, things could get ugly for Israel.
Happily, these warnings are completely ridiculous. UN General Assembly resolutions have no legal weight. Even if every General Assembly member except Israel votes in favor of a resolution recognizing “Palestine,” all the Palestinians will have achieved is another non-binding resolution, with no force of law, asserting the same thing that thousands of UN resolutions already assert. Namely, it will claim falsely that Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and Gaza are Palestinian territory to which Israel has no right. Israel will be free to ignore this resolution, just as it has been free to ignore its predecessors.
The threat of international isolation is also wildly exaggerated. Today, Israel is more diplomatically isolated than it has been at any time in its 63-year history. With the Obama administration treating the construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem as a greater affront to the cause of world peace than the wholesale massacre of hundreds of Iranian and Syrian protesters by regime goons, Israel has never faced a more hostile international climate. And yet, despite its frosty reception from the White House to Whitehall, life in Israel has never been better.
According to the latest data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics, Israel’s economy grew 7.8 percent in the last quarter of 2010.
International trade is rising steeply. In the first quarter of 2011, exports rose 27.3%. They grew 19.9% in the final quarter of last year. Imports rose 34.7% between January and March, and 38.9% in the last quarter of 2010.
The Israel-bashing EU remains Israel’s largest trading partner. And even as Turkey embraced Hamas and Iran as allies, its trade with Israel reached an all time high last year.
These trade data expose a truth that the doom and gloomers are unwilling to notice: For the vast majority of Israelis the threat of international isolation is empty.
The same people telling us to commit suicide now lest we face the firing squad in September would also have us believe that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is the single greatest threat to the economy. But that lie was put paid this month with the demise of the Australian town of Marrickville’s BDS-inspired boycott.
Last December, the anti-Israel coalition running the town council voted to institute a trade, sports and academic boycott against Israel. Two weeks ago the council was forced to cancel its decision after it learned that it would cost $3.4 million to institute it. Cheaper Israeli products and services would have to be replaced with more expensive non-Israeli ones.
Both Israel’s booming foreign trade and the swift demise of the Marrickville boycott movement demonstrate that the specter of international isolation in the event that Israel extricates itself from the Palestinian peace process charade is nothing more than a bluff. The notion that Israel will be worse off it Netanyahu admits that Abbas has again chosen war against the Jews over peace with us has no credibility.
So what is preventing Netanyahu and his colleagues in the government from acknowledging this happy truth? Two factors are at play here. The first is our inability to understand power politics. Our leaders believe that the likes of Sarkozy, Cameron and Merkel are serious when they tell us that Israel needs to prove it is serious about peace in order to enable them to vote against a Palestinian statehood resolution at the UN. But they are not serious. Nothing that Israel does will have any impact on their votes.
When the Europeans forge their policies towards Israel they are moved by one thing only: the US.
Since 1967, the Europeans have consistently been more pro-Palestinian than the US. Now, with the Obama administration demonstrating unprecedented hostility towards Israel, there is no way that the Europeans will suddenly shift to Israel’s side. So when European leaders tell Israelis that we need to convince them we are serious about peace, they aren’t being serious. They are looking for an excuse to be even more hostile. If Israel offers the store to Abbas, then the likes of Cameron, Merkel and Sarkozy will not only recognize “Palestine” at the UN, (because after all, they cannot be expected to be more pro-Israel than the Israeli government that just surrendered), they will recognize Hamas. Because that’s the next step.
It would seem that Israel’s leaders should have gotten wise to this game years ago. And the fact that they haven’t can be blamed on the second factor keeping their sanity in check: the Israeli Left. The only group of Israelis directly impacted by the BDS movement is the Israeli Left. Its members – from university lecturers to anti-Zionist has-been politicians, artists, actors and hack writers – are the only members of Israeli society who have a personal stake in a decision by their leftist counterparts in the US or Europe or Australia or any other pretty vacation/sabbatical spots to boycott Israelis.
And because the movement threatens them, they have taken it upon themselves to scare the rest of us into taking this ridiculous charade seriously. So it was that last week a group of washed-up radicals gathered in Tel Aviv outside the hall where David Ben-Gurion proclaimed Israeli independence, and declared the independence of “Palestine.” They knew their followers in the media would make a big deal of their agitprop and use it as another means of demoralizing the public into believing we can do nothing but embrace our enemies’ cause against our country.
The time has come for the vast majority of Israelis who aren’t interested in the Nobel Prize for Literature or a sabbatical at Berkeley or the University of Trondheim to call a spade a spade. The BDS haters have no leverage. A degree from Bar-Ilan is more valuable than a degree from Oxford. And no matter how much these people hate Israel, they will continue to buy our technologies and contract our researchers, because Cambridge is no longer capable of producing the same quality of scholarship as the Technion.
And it is well past time for our leaders to stop playing this fool’s game. We don’t need anyone’s favors. Abbas has made his choice.
Now it is time for Netanyahu to choose.