BigMo’s Blog

Politics and Economics in Israel

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot?

25 February 2010
Rehovot, Israel

For quite some time it’s been said, the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Lately, however, it would seem to be that it is us – Israel – that is missing opportunities. Perhaps it would be more correct to say, we are deliberately shooting ourselves in the foot. Repeatedly.

The Likud-led coalition has been working diligently to align itself with so-called moderate Arab states. There has been some limited success in this area. Israeli businessmen and athletes are becoming regular visitors to countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, as well as Jordan and Egypt. Why then, was the decision made to assassinate a leader of Hamas in one of these countries, embarrassing both Israel and the UAE?

Yes, I know that Israel has not confirmed that it was behind the assassination. It never will; that is long-standing government policy. Some will say it is part and parcel of the war on terror and that in this particular case it was long overdue. No argument there, but the timing was certainly not coordinated well with other priorities. Some will claim that there is no solid proof that Israel was behind the assassination. However, what other government has the capacity to get a hold of the passports of Israeli citizens who immigrated from four separate countries?

Speaking of which, why would the government authorize an operation utilizing the passports of citizens holding dual nationalities? At the same time it has been assiduously lobbying some of those same governments to implement crippling sanctions against Iran and to shun Hamas. Certainly, this was a “high-value” target, but isn’t Iran’s nuclear weapons program also?

Another issue on which the Likud-led coalition has dropped the ball lately was the recent announcement to allocate funds to restore Jewish heritage sites in Israel – and also in the Occupied Territories. I’m all for this, having recently been to Harel and having found the observation tower closed because it was unsafe to climb. However, the inclusion of sites in the Occupied Territories wasn’t going to go unnoticed by the Palestinians, who have been waging a fierce (and largely successful) propaganda war.

I’m not one to be a Monday morning quarterback, so for what it is worth, here’s how I would have handled these two issues.

Regarding Hamas, in the past Israel has used targeted assassinations within Gaza with great effectiveness. This policy should be re-instated and the leaders of Hamas targeted, albeit, when they are in Gaza. Every assassination will assuredly bring a salvo of rockets into southern Israel, but every leader eliminated will have an impact on the organization’s structure, capabilities and morale. In addition, it would not overshadow foreign policy initiatives vis-à-vis moderate Arab states, Europe and Iran.

Regarding Jewish heritage sites, Israel should offer to pay for restoration and improvement of the sites in the Occupied Territories, stressing their importance to all three monotheistic faiths. Such an announcement should also point out the immediate economic benefit of such improvements, and the long-term economic benefits of religious tourism. It would also put the Palestinian Authority in the position of having to explain, if the refused the funds, why they were against economic development and equal access to religious sites.

Israel’s leaders, both current and future, need to have a more nuanced and thoughtful approach to interconnected issues. Some critics will say that the Occupied Territories, Iran, Jewish heritage sites and terrorism are not connected. And in truth, amny of these issues are not directly related to one another. However, I have to remind you: when you are asking someone else for help (be they moderate Arab states or Europeans) you have to take into consideration their policies and how they see the issues.

February 26, 2010 - Posted by | Middle East

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