It’s never a good thing to look like a loser. That applies to countries as well as people. Consider Israel, a winning country on so many fronts: It’s on the cutting edge of high tech, turns deserts into farmlands, wins awards at film festivals and boasts one of the liveliest, most open societies in the world.
And yet, on the international stage, it’s very much a loser.
Just look at what happened last week at the United Nations. Israel got creamed by the Palestinians 138 to 9, when more than two-thirds of the world body’s 193 member states approved the resolution upgrading the Palestinians to a nonmember observer state.
It’s tempting to dismiss the vote as yet another show of anti-Israel bias at the U.N., or to diminish the Palestinian victory by saying that “it hurts the peace process,” “it’s counterproductive,” and so on.
But those are lame responses. The Palestinian goal was never to help the peace process. It was to isolate Israel on the international stage and continue undermining it. And on that, they won big.
The Palestinians don’t negotiate. They attack.
Extremists like Hamas attack Israeli homes with missiles, hoping Israel will retaliate and cause civilian casualties that will result in diplomatic disasters like the Goldstone Report.
“Moderates” in the Palestinian Authority attack Israel with verbal missiles, demonizing and libeling Jews as foreign intruders with no connection to Jerusalem. Their repeated rejection of peace offers (including one offer of a Palestinian state on 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of Gaza) and continued promotion of Jew-hatred in their society have exposed their bad faith and made Israelis wary of making further concessions -- a wariness that is then used to paint Israelis as intransigent.
Instead of sitting down to negotiate, these so-called Palestinian “moderates” go behind Israel’s back to international bodies already hostile to Israel in the hope of further isolating the Jewish state.
And guess what? They’re winning.
Israel may shoot down many missiles with the Iron Dome, but on the international stage, it has allowed diplomatic missiles to wreak havoc on Israel’s reputation and legitimacy.
Could Israel have done anything differently to mitigate last week’s humiliating defeat?
Yes, but first, it would have had to think differently.
The problem with Israeli diplomacy, as I see it, is that it’s too rational and predictable. In the treacherous snake pit of Middle East and U.N. politics, there are moments when you must be sly and nimble.
Last week was one of those moments.
Listen to Israel’s U.N. address against the resolution, given by the esteemed Ambassador Ron Prosor. The speech was powerful yet totally predictable, which is why the media and everyone else ignored it.
Now imagine if Israel, knowing it would lose big in the vote, had turned the tables on the Palestinians and said something like this:
“This Palestinian resolution, even though we don’t support it, includes a great victory for Israel. For years, we have been saying that the so-called Palestinian ‘right of return’ is a deal breaker. There is simply no way that Israel will ever allow 5 million Palestinians to return to Israel proper. Today, by reaffirming that a future Palestinian state will follow the general contours of the West Bank and Gaza, the world community is making it absolutely clear that millions of refugees will not return to Israel. We welcome this clarification, which is long overdue and is an important step forward.”
Like I said, sly and nimble.
This diplomatic ambush would have changed the subject from a Palestinian victory to a Palestinian defeat. Instead of talking about international recognition of a Palestinian state, we would have talked about international repudiation of a Palestinian demand—their “sacred” right of return.
The Palestinians would have been thrown for a loop. They know they’re vulnerable with this idea of five million refugees returning to Israel—which hardly anyone supports outside of Palestinians. The striking maneuver would have grabbed worldwide headlines and put the Palestinians squarely on the defensive.
That would have made them feel right at home, because they do it all the time: Attack Israel and put it on the defensive. In response, Israel typically treats them like harmless children while spewing out empty statements like “we want peace.”
Palestinian “moderates” like Mahmoud Abbas are not harmless children who want peace. They’re clever grown-ups who want to undermine and isolate the Jewish state any way they can. Their verbal missiles are no less dangerous than Hamas’s real missiles.
Until Israel learns how to fight on the diplomatic front as well as it does on the military one, we can expect more humiliating defeats, more international isolation, and zero incentive for the Palestinians to ever want to talk peace.
David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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