Gadi Taub is an assistant professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I remember being impressed by him when he resided in the US, a number of years ago. He was a Meretz person then, but I doubt that he is now (I’d say he’s more centrist). I don’t know that I agree with every word here, but this is a generally wise piece from The New Republic website:
There once was a very successful campaign in Israel for road safety. Its slogan was, “On the road, don’t be right, be smart.” The day after the flotilla raid last week, more than one pundit in the Israeli press brought up the slogan. We’re right, they said, but why can’t we also be smart?
The raid was by no means smart. Israel blindly stepped into a p.r. campaign orchestrated by Turkey and Hamas, doing enormous damage to its own international image and credibility. But the raid was not an isolated incident. Rather, it is only the latest example of how Benjamin Netanyahu’s prime ministership is steadily eroding Israel’s legitimacy.
Why do Israelis believe they’re right on the flotilla specifically and Gaza more generally? Because Israel evacuated Gaza to the last inch, and Hamas, which controls Gaza, kept shooting rockets at Israel’s civilians. Because Hamas is not only calling for the murder of every single Jew—its covenant is by no means ambiguous on that—but also arming as best it can for this holy cause. Under these conditions, and despite Hamas’s refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist, Israel still actively sustains Gaza. Israel’s hospitals accept tens of thousands of Gazans for medical treatment; it lets food and medicine daily through its checkpoints on Gaza’s boarders; and it supplies Gaza with electricity and gas. No other country in the world sustains a government bent on its destruction in such a way. (Egypt, with which Gaza shares a border, takes no such responsibility.) Given all this, as Israel sees it, stopping a Turkish attempt to open an arms importation route to Gaza was right.
But this does not make the raid smart. The “humanitarian mission” carried on the flotilla was not a move in a military game, nor was it a court case in which complicated judicial arguments count. It was a gambit in the game of p.r., played in front of a worldwide, hardly informed TV audience, and mediated, more often than not, by hostile media. It is easy to see how Israel could have handled the situation: It should’ve just let the flotilla pass. The whole hot-air balloon would have been deflated. The world audience, if it had noticed the affair at all, would have been left with a few snippets of the “peace activists” chanting anti-Semitic slogans to the wind, then hugging Hamas officials. That’s it. (There was a similar attempt to pull off a p.r. stunt under Ehud Olmert’s administration. Olmert let the “peace mission” through. No one remembers it now.) …
Israelis are stunned by the fact that the world has grown to think of Hamas as the righteous victim and of Israel as the evil aggressor. This perception of Israel is false and malicious, but it does not mean that Israel bears no responsibility for it. Yes, there is a lot of anti-Semitism in the world. Yes, there are unfair biases against the Jewish state. But Israel has been feeding them. So long as Israel’s government continues to settle in the West Bank, no one—not even Israel’s American friends—will believe that Netanyahu seeks peace. So long as Israel seems to be bent on making its occupation permanent, on holding a whole population under military rule without basic political rights indefinitely, it will be increasingly ostracized by the international community.
Today, Israel is not the belligerent party in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is Israel that has offered partition, and the Palestinians who have consistently refused it. [To me, this last sentence is debatable.–R. Seliger] Netanyahu inherited a winning hand. He could have put a peace plan on the table, leaving the Palestinians to refuse it. He could have declared that Israel wanted to withdraw from the West Bank and would do so if its security was guaranteed by an agreement with the Palestinians or a third party. He could have offered state housing help for those who would leave the settlements even before an agreement. Instead, he mumbled something half-heartedly about two states, and then moved on to fight for enlarging settlements. … Link here for entire article online.
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