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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It's Not About Israeli Panic or Isolation But Western Unreliability

"Then was the palm of the hand sent from before Him, and this writing was inscribed: MENE MENE, TEKEL UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing....Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." --The Book of Daniel

By Barry Rubin

Agence France Press reports that the Palestinian bid for UN recognition of unilateral statehood is “causing diplomatic panic” in the United States and Israel.

While Israel is certainly concerned, I think “panic” is totally wrong as a description. After all, Israel’s overwhelming interpretation is that the UN event will change nothing. As for U.S. panic, where has the Obama Administration been for the last year when this outcome was totally predictable?

The Associated Press says that Israel is “increasingly isolated” ahead of the vote. I don’t think that’s how Israelis look at this either. We know that cynicism makes sense—various countries will vote for the resolution or abstain purely to get popularity points with Arab and Muslim-majority states and then do nothing.

The most important effect on Israel is that it will never again listen seriously to these countries' advice or criticism since they don't keep their most basic promises or commitments. Saying Israel is panicking or isolated suggests that Israel should want to make more concessions, striving to please the West, and depending on its support in exchange. We're over that, dude. Just because Israel still tried to be polite don't think it's stupid.

Now, if you want to see a real crisis, go to the Financial Times which reports as follows: ”Tunisia and Egypt have received only a fraction of funds promised by the international community to support their transition to democracy, according to the two countries’ finance ministers.”

So after all the outpouring of devotion to the supposedly great democratic outpouring of the profoundly oppressed people living under horrible dictatorships, these two countries and their people will be left twisting in the wind. They face financial situations actually worsened by the months of upheaval, lost tourist revenue, and frightened off investors. And they will not get real help from the West. What is the relationship of these news items?

Simple. Western countries don’t keep their commitments to Israel. They also don’t deliver on their supposed sympathy for Arab peoples who—according to the Western states—are struggling for independence and rebelling against unacceptable economic situations. That means instability, civil war, and massive suffering becomes more likely in Egypt and Tunisia. In other words, the West is not reliable. If that’s true, why should anyone listen to its advice? Why should Israel take big risks or make large concessions in exchange for Western promises.

The Palestinian Authority, which breaks all of its commitments, is rewarded. It refuses to negotiate with Israel for almost three years and Israel is criticized for not negotiating. It daily incites violence and Israel is blamed for being violent and overreacting. It slaps President Obama in the face repeatedly and only Israel is criticized for alleged ingratitude to America's president. The Turkish regime becomes increasingly repressive and tramples on Western interests only to be praised.

Become more moderate? The PA would be crazy to behave that way since the West generally punishes moderation and rewards those who are antagonistic to it.
Amazingly, Western governments and leaders don’t even notice such things.
Here are two key principles that are going to guide Israel's policy no matter who is prime minister:

1. The Arab and Muslim world has shown Israel that it makes no sense for Israel to make more concessions or take risks because in general they are not going to change their goal of wiping it off the map. That doesn't mean they will actually do anything but that will remain their theoretical goal and their rhetorical stance. Nothing--repeat nothing--Israel will do or say will change this.

Here's an example. The Palestinian Authority ambassador to Lebanon (anyone remember that the PLO signed the Oslo agreement promising it wouldn't conduct international relations?) explains that even if there is a Palestinian state no Palestinian refugee, inside or outside that country's boundary, will become a citizen. Why not? Because this might weaken the Palestinian case for demanding that all such refugees be allowed to go live in Israel where, of course, they would work to turn Israel into another Arab, Muslim, Palestinian state that would eventually be incorporated in Palestine. So much for a "two-state" solution solving the problem.

2. The Western world has shown Israel that it makes no sense for Israel to make more concessions or take risks because in general they are not going to change their perception that Israel is at fault for the lack of peace and has not shown its desire for peace after 20 years of strenuous Israeli efforts to negotiate peace. This is also despite the fact that Israel has made huge concessions, withdrawn from territory, and advocated talks on almost a daily basis. You are about to betray every previous commitment to Israel made in the peace process in exchange for its risks, concessions, and compromises--risks that have brought the death of hundreds of Israelis.

Therefore I say unto you: Mene Mene, Tekel Upharsin.
Mene Mene, your policies have failed and you will be voted out of office or subvert your own countries' interests until someone finally notices.
Tekel, you have proved yourselves unworthy of our trust.
Upharsin. We are going to ignore you from now on.

You can write that Hitler can be appeased; Stalin wants compromise; Ayatollah Khomeini's a reasonable guy; Turkey's Islamist regime is a great role model for the Middle East; the "Arab Spring" is leading toward moderate democracy; and the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate, secularist organization. You can say that the moon is made of green low-calorie cheese whose mining will provide green jobs.

It doesn't matter.

Guess what? Israel isn't isolated. You are. From reality. And that's what counts.

As the nature of the coming Middle East crises becomes impossible to ignore, you are the ones who will suffer humiliating defeats and shocks that will force you to change your policies or be changed for other leaders.

As Omar Khayyam's poetry puts it:

"The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it."

And, believe me, nothing gives you the finger like Middle East reality.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports, 
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