Here's one thing to remember: you don't have to be a supporter of the U.N. vote on Palestinian statehood to oppose Israel's recent E1 action. The world is wide enough to tolerate people who, A. Think the Palestinians were irresponsible and counter-productive. B. The U.N. was – well – the U.N. C. Israel's recent decisions have not been that smart.
This is the essence of my IHT-NYT article from yesterday:
The Israeli government had reason to be angry, but that’s a lame excuse for shooting itself in the foot.
So why did Israel do it anyway?
The Israeli government had no good options, of course, and so was prone to making a mistake. It couldn’t take a step that might result in the collapse of the more moderate Palestinian Authority and risk the rise of the radical Hamas. It is isolated, with very few friends that support its policies toward Palestinians. And it faces elections soon, with the threat to the ruling party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming from the right — where demand for retribution against the Palestinians is high — rather than the center-left, which is weak and fractured.
And while you're at it, you might want to read this Palestinian take from Latitude colleague Raja Shehadeh. It will give you some sense of why Israel is so angry with the Palestinians for taking the unilateral route to the UN:
“But surely this is different,” I said. “The recognition will enable us to join the International Criminal Court and some specialized U.N. bodies, like the International Atomic Energy Agency, which means we will become a vital member of the international community.”
The woman was not impressed.
Kareem tried: “Now we can begin to bring legal cases against Israelis. Isn’t this something? This, and seeing how isolated Israel has become for me are cause enough for celebration.”
We were standing in the noon sun; the sky was clear. “A perfect day for street activities,” Kareem said.
3 more comments on the E1 debacle
1. I'm not at all impressed by the "defiant" position of the Israeli government, and by the fact that "Ignoring international pleas to halt E1 construction plans, the Higher Planning Council of Judea and Samaria is scheduled to debate the controversial project for 3,500 apartments in an un-built area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement". The government can't cave under the pressure two months before Election Day, and has to appear strong and unbending for the time being. This doesn't mean that E1 construction is a done deal. Planning and voting and debating and all other preliminary actions mean little until we see bulldozers on the ground – and I believe that this will not happen.
2. I began this post by saying that one can oppose both Palestinian rejectionism and the choice for an Israeli retribution at the same time – one doesn't have to take the same side on all matters. This is also true as one ponders the decision by former prime minister Ehud Olmert to criticize the Israeli government as he visits the US. Agree with Olmert or disagree with him – I like the way other (more civilized?) countries make it impossible for a politician to besmirch his own government while abroad.
3. For "a bit of perspective" – that is, as not to be led into thinking that no serious person would even consider the E1 decision a rational one - read Elliott Abrams who thinks the E1 affair is "much ado about nothing". And remember: Israeli leaders aren't dumb. When they make a decision – even one with which one doesn't agree – they usually have reasons, and not all of them sinister:
The argument over E-1 is not new, nor is planning there some sort of right-wing plot that reflects this particular Israeli coalition. As noted, every prime minister from the left has had precisely the same position, and all new units in the West Bank today must be approved by the Defense Minister, Ehud Barak. That does not make the Israeli position correct but puts it in a bit of perspective.