“Well,” I imagine Bibi Netanyahu telling his worried supporters this week, “we’ll always have Palau.”
It may well be true, but I’d rather have Paris.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that in the UN vote that gave the Palestinian Authority (now “Palestine”) observer status last Thursday, the government of Palau cast one of nine votes in Israel’s favor. It’s just that I would have preferred the support of the Europe Continent over the citizens of that small island in the Pacific, population 21,000.
In the face of what is being described in the Israeli press as the country’s worst diplomatic crisis in the last two decades, one wonders if the prime minister miscalculated the reaction to his government’s decision to announce plans to build housing in the area known as E-1, between Jerusalem and Ma`ale Adumim, a city of 40,000.
Denmark, England, France, Spain and Sweden called in their respective Israeli ambassadors to condemn the decision, which is being slammed around the world and seen by many as a nail in the coffin of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. But Netanyahu is digging in his heels, blaming the international community for the UN vote that was, in the words of an Israeli government spokesman, “a blatant and fundamental violation of agreements to which the international community was a guarantor.
“No one should be surprised that Israel is not sitting with its arms folded in response to the unilateral Palestinian steps.”
Israel is in an impossible diplomatic position; it needs to be tough in a neighborhood that respects power over conciliation, but it needs to be seen as willing to promote peace in addressing the U.S. and a Western world that is fed up with Israeli settlements and occupation.
Somewhere in the middle is an American Jewish community that finds its heart with Israel but, increasingly, its stomach queasy over the prospect of an Israel more and more isolated in the world.
We’d like to see Bibi and President Obama walk off into the sunset together, with Bibi declaring, “Barack, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
But the Mideast is not “Casblanca,” and what looked like a warming of the two leaders’ relationship during the Gaza crisis has turned very cold very fast.