As I wrote on November 29, the best response for Israel to the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN would have been to accept it, and immediately call for negotiations on the issues that need resolving, especially borders.
Instead Israel voted against the state of Palestine, and found itself very isolated – on the losing end of a 138 to 9 vote. And that 9 included such international “powerhouses” as the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, and Nauru, all in essence US dependencies. Could you even find Palau and Nauru on a map?
This was no anti-Israel vote by the Palestinians “automatic majority” in the UN. The only major Western democracies to support Israel were the US, Canada, and the Czech Republic. All the rest of Western Europe voted to support the Palestinians, or abstained. Even Germany.
And even though the US voted “no” to the Palestinian resolution, the US has repeatedly said that they support a two-state solution. They have also repeatedly said that Israel should stop building settlements. Back in 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “And the Obama Administration’s position on settlements is clear, unequivocal. It has not changed. And as the President has said on many occasions, the United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.” The US even warned Israel before the UN vote that continued building in settlements would be “counterproductive.”
So what was Israel’s response to the Palestinian’s overwhelming support for a state in the UN?
To announce issuing 3,000 building permits for new housing in settlements. And even more problematically, to authorize planning for a major new settlement in a hotly contested area known as “E1.” What makes E1 so important is that it is located between the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim and East Jerusalem. It would effectively cut Bethlehem and Ramallah off from East Jerusalem. Many Palestinians and Israeli peace activists (and other countries, including the US) believe that construction in E1 could sound the death knell for a Palestinian state. A country is not viable if you can’t drive from one city to another city without passing through foreign checkpoints.
What the Netanyahu government did was to tell not just the Palestinians, not just the 138 nations who voted for the Palestinian resolution, but also their patron and defender, the United States: “Screw you!”
To the rest of the world, including the US, the Israeli response must seem childish, petulant, and self-destructive. It’s more or less like putting a big “kick me” sign on the country, inviting the dreaded “BDS” – boycotts, divestment, sanctions. Israel is rapidly heading toward becoming a pariah nation, just like apartheid-era South Africa.
I never thought I would say this, but I can actually see the possibility of me, an Israeli citizen, supporting a boycott against my own country. It may be that the only thing that will get this hard-core right-wing government to stop being so stupid is real international isolation. Israel’s economy is very dependent on exports and trade, especially high-tech and tourism.
And I would not support a boycott because I love Palestinians. I would support it because I love Israel, and I need Israel to be a Jewish, democratic, and moral state. If we continue on this course, the Jewish state is doomed.
The Netanyahu government to me seems like the alcoholic who cannot stop until he totally ruins his life and destroys himself. Then, from the bottom, he may be able to pick himself up and rebuild. We seem to be on a course of self-destruction. It’s infuriating to watch something like that happen to a person – or a country – that you love.
It looks like the upcoming Israeli elections in January will only solidify the radical right’s stranglehold on the country. It’s a difficult time to be a liberal Zionist in Israel.