Netanyahu is more of a liability than an asset

With Turkey and Egypt eyeing a new strategic alliance, Israelis should ‘fire’ their prime minister

The Turkish President Abdullah Gul was recently quoted as saying his country’s ‘ally,’ Israel, is “an ungrateful burden” adding that Tel Aviv should consider “an honourable peace” with its Arab neighbours and quit behaving as though the world owes it favours.

His scathing remarks were made amid Turkey’s announced intention of taking Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, increasing its naval presence throughout the eastern Mediterranean and using warships to escort humanitarian flotillas to Gaza.

Turkey has already downgraded diplomatic representation between the two countries and frozen military cooperation. And as if to prove that Turkey means business, 40 Israel tourists used to receiving the welcome mat at Turkish airports were kept apart from other passengers, strip-searched and interrogated in the way Turkish visitors to Israel are routinely treated. The Israeli travellers complained that they felt humiliate—or in other words they didn’t appreciate receiving a taste of their own medicine.

The word ‘ungrateful’ has also been used by former CIA chief and former US defence secretary Robert Gates in relation to the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

According to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, prior to leaving office, Gates told senior US officials that Netanyahu was not only ungrateful to the US for its efforts to preserve his country’s security, he was also endangering Israel “by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank.”

Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alistair Campbell revealed earlier this year that Netanyahu isn’t exactly flavour of the month with the Quartet’s Middle East Envoy Tony Blair who has coloured the Israeli PM in unprintable language that loosely translates to duplicitous; a view that, according to Campbell is shared by British Foreign Office officials as well as Netanyahu’s own Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

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Adding to Israel’s woes is its deteriorating relationship with Egypt subsequent to its killing of Egyptian security personnel in Sinai. Although the Egyptian government appears to have grudgingly accepted a verbal apology from Barak, the mood on the street is explosive.

People’s sheer fury was evidenced on Friday when Egyptian demonstrators broke down a barrier around the Israeli embassy in Cairo before clambering up to an embassy balcony to remove the flag when they managed to enter the embassy’s visitors’ room.

The failure of Egypt’s security forces to prevent the break-in has rightly been criticised by Egyptian politicians and world leaders as a breach of international diplomatic norms. Worse, it has added grist to the mill of Israeli victimhood and bolstered Israel’s argument that its exceptionalism derives from legitimate security concerns in a hostile neighbourhood.

However, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by ordinary Egyptians that while US President Barack Obama wasted no time in condemning the assault on the embassy that, thanks to Egyptian commandos, did not result in any Israeli being harmed, he did not speak out against Israel for murdering eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American on the Mavi Marmara sailing in international waters.

And neither did he condemn Israel for its recent killing of Egyptians. Moreover, his continual silence on Israel’s crimes in Gaza and its displacement of Palestinians in occupied east Jerusalem is despicable in the eyes of most Arabs.

Israel faces international embarrassment later this month if the Palestinian National Authority goes through with its plan to request a UN General Assembly vote on the UN recognition of a unilaterally declared Palestinian state.

Writing in Haaretz under the headline Netanyahu must go; it’s as simple as that, Yoel Marcus says “Bibi is getting on the nerves of the entire world. And that’s because of four words: They don’t believe him.” He believed “Israel’s power of deterrence has deteriorated” and “Israel is marching to the UN General Assembly weak and hated . . .”

Netanyahu can no longer tease the Palestinians with empty promises while Israelis are beginning to understand that their arrogant leader is more of a liability than an asset. Netanyahu may be experiencing some sort of epiphany too.

His Saturday evening speech in reaction to the embassy storming was conciliatory towards both Egypt and Turkey. For the first time, he expressed his understanding of a new regional paradigm and acknowledged a link between the embassy attack and a defunct peace process. For once, his urging that face-to-face peace talks should be resumed was almost believable.

But as Marcus so succinctly puts it “They don’t believe him.” This puffed-up person who’ll flush his country down the drain rather than say ‘sorry’ has lost all credibility. He may be a slick talker but he’s as much of a dinosaur as former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, former Tunisian president Zine Al Abidine Bin Ali, and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

As long as he holds office, the Israeli Army’s Home Front Command chief’s warning that the likelihood of a regional war is growing may soon ring true. With Turkey and Egypt cosying up in hopes of forming a new strategic military and economic alliance, Israelis should tell Netanyahu ‘You’re fired!’ sooner rather than later before one side or the other lights a match that sets an already smouldering tinderbox aflame.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at heardonthegrapevines@yahoo.co.uk.

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