Bilal Hassen
Asharq Alawsat (Opinion)
August 25, 2011 - 12:00am

Benjamin Netanyahu is an example of a politician who sees only what he wants to see. Indeed, this has been a characteristic of many Israeli leaders, including Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barack. Those two conducted negotiations with the Palestinians and never imagined a situation other than the Palestinian official [sitting in front of them] agreeing to their views and the Israeli plan.

This is how Olmert acted with President Mahmoud Abbas. Negotiations subsequently ended in failure, and Olmert did not learn his lesson from this. Ehud Barack acted similarly with President Yasser Arafat in Camp David, and thus negotiations failed and he also did not learn his lesson.

Now Netanyahu is using the same approach but on a larger and more comprehensive scale, transcending the Palestinians and impacting upon the entire Arab nation and the region at large.

Negotiations with the Palestinians have ceased for a considerable time, without any signs of a possible resumption. When Mahmoud Abbas found the negotiation route to be blocked, he decided to go to the UN to seek international recognition for the state of Palestine. Netanyahu was enraged; he cursed the Palestinians and condemned their "diplomatic" stance. Netanyahu then initiated an Israeli effort to win over countries to advocate his position. With much concern, he claimed to be seeking the support of 60 to 70 countries for the Israeli cause, compared to the 120 to 130 countries supporting the Palestinian position. In a foolish move, Netanyahu also reiterated the warning which he gave to the Israelis; to be prepared to confront mass Palestinian demonstrations, which will cross the West Bank into Israeli territory. Netanyahu is convinced that danger only lies in this location, and he never imagines that it may emerge as a result of Israel's rejectionist stance, even if presented in a "diplomatic" framework.

At present, Israel is developing its stance by bringing itself into confrontation with Egypt, the state with which Israel concluded its strongest security agreement, namely the "Camp David Accords". The confrontation was sparked by the Israeli army launching a raid on the Israeli-Egyptian border, killing three Egyptian soldiers. Yet the Egyptian reaction was weak; recalling its ambassador from Tel Aviv and requesting that Israel make an official apology for its act. Instead of handling the crisis diplomatically, Israel aggravated the crisis further by declaring that it is officially considering the withdrawal of its ambassador from Egypt. All this happened despite the fact that Israel is constantly warning against potential damage to the Camp David Accord. If this agreement was invalidated, Israel would endure many losses, whilst Egypt would be liberated from a heavy burden on its shoulders.

Yet the most notable Israeli development with regards to Netanyahu, who sees only what he wants to see, concerns Turkey. Ever since the brutal Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, the declaration of the Gaza blockade denying food supplies to one and a half million Palestinian residents, and ever since the Turkish civilian ships moved towards Gaza in a symbolic act intended to lift the sanctions, Israel's only reaction during Netanyahu's reign has been to attack peaceful ships in international waters. Israel directly targeted a Turkish ship and killed nine civilian activists aboard. Nevertheless, in response, Turkey only demanded that Netanyahu issue an apology for the crime it committed. Even when the US intervened a few days ago and explicitly demanded that Israel make the desired apology, in the hope that this would revive Turkish-Israeli relations, Netanyahu declined to respond, subsequently jeopardizing this strategic concept. Netanyahu instead believes that Turkey should make an apology to Israel for sending a ship to Gaza in clear defiance of Israeli policies. He does not want to admit that a crime is being committed in Gaza, hear any Turkish objections, or admit that Israel has killed Turkish citizens. Nor does he wish to see any American demands and their political significance. Rather, he insists that Israel should not make an apology to anyone. For Netanyahu, Israel is always right and everyone else is wrong, including its largest ally, the United States.

In addition to these three crises - Palestinian diplomacy, Egypt and Turkey - a new Israeli crisis has emerged with Gaza. If a single missile is fired towards the outskirts of a settlement, Israel will launch a raid to punish Gaza, destroy houses and kill civilians. If a clash breaks out with militiamen ten kilometers from Gaza, near the Egyptian border, Israel will still launch raids on Gaza. Gaza is always deemed guilty, and whether or not missiles were fired from there, responsibility lies with it.

Yet now a fifth crisis is currently emerging within Israeli society. Even inside Israel, Netanyahu only sees what he wants to see. For the first time, Israeli society is protesting against the priorities of the state's budget spending, which goes primarily towards the army and settlement construction, whilst people are currently seeking to change the direction towards social services, and the construction of housing units for ordinary people. To criticize public spending on the army in Israel has always been something of a taboo, because the army enjoys sacred status there. Yet the current state of social anger has surpassed this, and now people are denouncing this taboo, and claiming their demand is both normal and just. Netanyahu's reaction has been a hostile one, where he accused those calling for a decrease in military spending of threatening Israel's national security. However, he was soon to be surprised by the army generals themselves. Shaul Mofaz (former Israeli Chief of Staff and Minister of Defense) has demanded an instant reduction in the military budget. He went further to say that the budget is huge owing to bureaucratic spending, and even if the army is sanctified, it should not remain so after 300,000 have taken to streets to demand an end to social and economic injustice.

Thus, a comprehensive political tableau has formed incorporating the Palestinians, Egyptians, Turks, Americans and Israelis themselves, all criticizing Netanyahu's positions. Yet for Netanyahu, he can confront and reject them all, and declare clearly that he alone entertains the right opinion.

How long can such a ruler remain in his position? Some say that he can remain for a substantial term, as long as the American Congress offers him unlimited aid, even if this is contrary to the will of the US President. Didn't the Congress overtly force the US President to change his position and meet Netanyahu's demands, when the Israeli Prime Minister was present at a Congress session, and when he acted as if he was the US President himself? Didn't Barack Obama end up apologizing to him?

How long can this inverted situation continue? Is this the eighth wonder of the world?


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