The Israeli government is led by people who do not understand that in addition to defending Israel from its actual enemies (Hamas or Hezbollah), they have to understand whose Israel's real friends are, and who might be somewhere inbetween (Turkey, before this week's fiasco). Netanyahu, despite his claim that he supports a Palestinian state alongside Israel, strikes me as someone who still thinks that he can hold onto all of the West Bank and Jerusalem through some kind of trickery to fool the whole world. I can't believe that, despite Obama's unwillingness to unequivocally condemn the Israeli actions this week, he will not eventually tire entirely of Netanyahu and his machinations. (He clearly is already very tired of Netanyahu, but he hasn't yet figured out how to effectively pressure him - I think that Bill Clinton was better at it, when he forced Netanyahu into the Hebron Protocol in 1997, which delivered most of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority, and also forced him to agree to the Wye River Memorandum in 1998).
In all of the upset this week about the Gaza flotilla, one very important thing that happened a couple of weeks ago seems to have been forgotten - that when the international conference on nuclear non-proliferation occurred a couple of weeks ago (attended by those nations who had signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which Israel has not signed), its final communique condemned Israel, not Iran. One of the things that Netanyahu was going to discuss with Obama this week, before he aborted his trip to Washington, was this very communique. Now he's lost his chance because of his own stupidity.
Israel does face real enemies - not only Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran, but people like the leaders of the Gaza flotilla whose goal is to destroy Israel (see Greta Berlin's comments). The United States is Israel's real friend, and despite Israel's latest stupidity, most people in this country still support Israel. Will that continue to be true if Netanyahu continues to do what he can to alienate the President of the United States in the name of Israeli security?
Update (later on June 5): See Helene Cooper's article in tomorrow's New York Times, which expresses just what I was trying to get at in this blogpost. She quotes Anthony Cordesman as saying:
Recent Israeli governments, particularly the one led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Cordesman argued, have ignored the national security concerns of its biggest benefactor, the United States, and instead have taken steps that damage American interests abroad.This is what Netanyahu does not seem to understand (or maybe what he doesn't want to understand, given his own ideology and his dependence on coalition partners who are more right-wing than he is). Israel is the weaker party, and depends upon the United States for diplomatic and military support. It is in Israel's interest not to anger the U.S., especially when it comes to issues that are not crucial to Israel's survival. Settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem endanger Israel's future. If Netanyahu had the seichel that he presents himself as having, he would understand this.
“The depth of America’s moral commitment does not justify or excuse actions by an Israeli government that unnecessarily make Israel a strategic liability when it should remain an asset,” Mr. Cordesman wrote, in commentary for the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies, where he is the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in strategy. “It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States, as well as the United States to Israel, and that it become far more careful about the extent to which it tests the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews.”