Aaron Menenberg
The Jerusalem Post (Opinion)
June 28, 2011 - 12:00am

The only way France and Britain will vote with the US is if negotiations get under way with at least the appearance of promise – and that was Obama’s strategy with his speech.

Obama spoke a few days before the G8 meeting in France last month, where he knew the issue would come up. A few days later, the French announced an initiative to get the two sides back to negotiations. What happened to this initiative? Israel pressured the US to reverse its support for the French effort and the Palestinians, who had welcomed the French initiative and were publicly questioning the wisdom of a General Assembly vote, have since re-committed to their unilateral strategy.

Although Obama has mismanaged the peace process since taking office, he chose one of the better options going forward, but Israel made sure it wouldn’t be executed.

Despite Obama’s pragmatic approach to the General Assembly vote, the majority of Israelis were ready to rip his head off immediately after he said “1967 borders.”

This immediate, blind anger is indicative of the Israeli foreign-relations approach: obstinacy and petulance.

Netanyahu, via the international press, told the West it should oppose the Fatah-Hamas unity deal. The problem with this is that the Western nations want to come across as balanced mediators of the conflict, not as taking instructions from Israel.

Netanyahu’s comments preempted the West’s reaction, giving it no chance of avoiding this appearance unless it took another line, which it ultimately did.

Actions like this, and Netanyahu’s public lecturing of Obama on the 1967 borders, are often justified in Israel as political moves to keep the coalition happy. Many Israelis feel Netanyahu should be sticking up for Israel even more vocally, and in Israel this makes sense, because the loudest and most aggressive tend to have the most influence. But in the international community, it reinforces the perception of Israel as a bully.

Many laugh this off as “the way Israelis are,” but this comes at a cost that is not worth the price; Israel can and must do better.

Further, Israel has shown an uncanny ability to blunder its own domestic policies in very public ways, adding to its negative perception. The housing issue in Jerusalem, for example, when the municipality announced new construction at exactly the wrong time, when Vice President Joe Biden, a strong Israel supporter, was in town, causing him – and Israel – significant embarrassment, and handing Israel’s enemies an easy victory. And this week, the Government Press Office’s un-Western-like threat to journalists intending to cover the flotilla (who were told in a statement that “participation in the flotilla is an intentional violation of Israeli law and is liable to lead to participants being denied entry into the State of Israel for ten years, to the impoundment of their equipment and to additional sanctions”) caused enough of an international stir that Netanyahu needed to walk back the GPO’s ill-advised “warning.”

These sorts of homegrown blunders create unnecessary bad press for Israel, with nothing to be gained.

Israel can be its own worst enemy, often contributing to its delegitimization.

Its mismanagement of the Mavi Marmara and Operation Cast Lead, to use two of many examples, allowed Israel’s detractors to rationally criticize it based on the only evidence available to everyone; because Israel failed to provide timely information. The only information available to the world was that coming from Israel’s enemies. This factor also makes efforts to take positive messages about Israel to the world less effective.

Despite its legitimate claims of excellence in many regards, Israel is sabotaging itself by enforcing the growing international perception of it as an obstinate and petulant actor.


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