Ethan Bronner wrote a story today with the deeply ironic (for him) title:Beyond Cairo, Israel Sensing a Wider Siege. Ironic, of course, because one of the major themes of the Israeli Occupation of late has been the siege against Gaza. Now it appears, the siege is staring Israel right back in the face.
Bronner’s story actually isn’t half-bad, which is a major achievement for him. But it must’ve pained him deeply to have done so, since the story presented Israel’s status in the Middle East in a dispiriting way. It’s almost unremittingy bleak. Which is uncharacteristic of Bronner, who almost always tries to see the glass as half full as far as Israel is concerned.
With the storming of the Israeli embassy in Cairo yesterday, Turkey close to severing relations with Israel, and the Palestinians prepared to mount the barricades to gain statehood this month at the UN, things are looking mighty grim for Bibi Netanyahu these days. As usual, he manages to put the shoe on the other foot by blaming everyone but himself for this predicament:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel warned that Egypt “cannot ignore the heavy damage done to the fabric of peace.”
What Bibi fails to get into his thick skull is that with the Arab Spring, most frontline countries, with the possible exception of Jordan, no longer value the cold peace Israel has offered for decades. With Egypt now run by a regime more prone to acknowledge popular will, and Turkey run by a government which is refusing to take s(^t from Israel, and the PA possibly awakening a least for a moment from its slumber, Israel can no longer feign shock and indignation when Arab states with whom it was ostensibly at peace take a look at the mess of porridge Israel has offered them and respond: “No thanks, we prefer the real thing.”
When I read the following quotations from Israeli diplomatic ‘sages,’ they reminded me of the sort of shoulder-shrugging statements one might’ve heard from Roman diplomats on the eve of the sacking of the city by the Germanic hordes:
“Egypt is not going toward democracy but toward Islamicization,” said Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo who reflected the government’s view. “It is the same in Turkey and in Gaza. It is just like what happened in Iran in 1979.”
A senior official said Israel had few options other than to pursue what he called a “porcupine policy” to defend itself against aggression. Another official, asked about Turkey, said, “There is little that we can do.”
Another way of looking at this sort of attitude is that it’s like a man whose bedroom catches fire. Instead of putting out the fire, he shuts the door and moves to the living room, dons ear buds and cranks up his iPod.
Like the ancient Chinese, Israel is contemplating building yet another wall to keep the Arab hordes out, this time in Sinai. But once again Israel refuses to learn from history. That wall in China didn’t work. The empire’s enemies simply went around it.
Israel, of course, has one reliable ally, the U.S. No matter what Israel does or says, no matter how outrageous its behavior, Barack Obama seems to have fallen back on the Bush administration approach of benign neglect. The only problem with this approach, advocated in another Times story yesterday by an administration voice that sounded like Dennis Ross’, is that benign neglect doesn’t work when both sides have lots of weapons in their hands and aren’t afraid to use them. Such neglect will lead almost inexorably to yet another blood bath. The question is not if, but when and where and how many [die].
This article was first published at Tikun Olam