FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Chronic Failure of Israeli Leadership

President Obama was full of gushing goodwill towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during their summit in Washington this week. There was no mention of an extension to the moratorium on Israeli settlement building or the Israeli commandos’ attack on the Turkish aid flotilla bound for Gaza. In private, the White House and even the Israeli delegation were quick to say that  Obama’s climb-down had not been quite as humiliating as it looked, and assurances had been given that the moratorium would be quietly extended. But the President was at pains to reverse the cool reception   Netanyahu got during his visit to the White House in March when when he was not even allowed a photograph with  Obama, who kept him waiting while he had dinner with his family upstairs.

The reason for Netanyahu’s friendlier reception is obvious enough. Obama needs every vote he can get in the mid-term Congressional elections in November when a third of the Senate and all the House face re-election. The Republicans have been seeking with some success to portray him as anti-Israel. Pro-Israeli lobby groups have been putting intense pressure on Democratic Senators and Congressmen to demand that the White House be more accommodating.

The outcome of the brief confrontation between Israel and the US is not surprising. With its collective mind focused on the upcoming elections, the White House is disregarding signs of disquiet from the US chiefs of staff and security policy establishment that Israeli ill-treatment of the Palestinians and excessive use of force in the region is turning Israel into a liability for the US. They warn that the US will not always give unstinting support to acts they see as irresponsible misjudgements, be it against the Turks on the high seas or Palestinians in Gaza and Lebanon.

As in the past, such protestations have got nowhere. Israeli leaders remain protected by an all-purpose American insurance shielding them from the results of their mistakes. In fact, they do not even view these as mistakes, since Israeli propaganda portray idiocies – such as the use of elite troops trained to kill to thwart the Turkish peace activists – as reasonable decisions.

Since no errors are admitted, there is no reason not to repeat them. Worse, the Israeli political and military leaders go on holding their jobs despite an Inspector Clouseau-like ability to blunder.   Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, both behave with the swaggering arrogance of successful warlords, though their careers are littered with failed operations.

The Turkish aid boat fiasco is not difficult to understand when it is recalled that it was   Netanyahu, when Prime Minister in 1997, who allowed Mossad to try to assassinate a Hamas leader in Amman by injecting a slow-acting poison into his ear as he left his office. The plan went wrong; two Mossad agents were captured and   Netanyahu was forced by King Hussein to supply the antidote to the poison and release Palestinian prisoners.

Ever since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, Israel has been ruled by one of the stupidest and least responsible leaderships in the world. Their failings have been masked by propaganda and by Israel’s American insurance policy, but nothing else can explain Israel’s record of repeated failure in military and security operations. So much of Israeli politics revolves around manipulating the sense of threat felt by Israeli voters, that the capacity to deal with real threats is stultified.

Contrary to Israel’s reputation for military prowess, the last time it won a war was 37 years ago, against Egypt and Syria in 1973. Israel’s long invasion of Lebanon in 1982 initiated an 18-year-long guerrilla war against Israeli occupation of the south of the country, which only ended with a precipitate Israeli withdrawal in 2000. All its military operations over the last 10 years have failed to achieve their aims.

Political leaders are so often accused of stupidity that it is worth asking if they behave more foolishly in Israel than elsewhere. The main explanation is that Israelis believe their own propaganda and their supporters abroad adopt a skewed view of events as if it was an article of faith. Israelis, leaders and followers alike, acquire a wholly distorted picture of the world around them. Hubris breeds self-righteousness and arrogance that robs Israel of friends and allies and repeatedly leads its leaders to underestimate their enemies.

Critics of Israeli actions, be they Israeli peace activists or members of the Turkish government, are demonized as supporters of terrorism. In this fantasy world sensible policies become difficult for leaders to devise and, if they do so, impossible to sell to voters. It is scarcely surprising that Israel’s only victories these days are won on the sofas of the White House.

Turkey’s progress towards becoming a regional power in the Middle East moves nervously forward as it fends off allegations that it is “turning to the east”. It is surprising that its increased influence is so late in coming, given Turkey is more powerful than any of its neighbors, including Iran. Divisions within Turkey are deepening, not evaporating. The long battle between the mildly Islamic but democratic AKP party and its secular but authoritarian opponents is, if anything, hotting up. So too is the struggle between Kurdish guerrillas and the central government in the south east of the country. “The Turkish government displays a taste for moderation and mediation abroad that it seldom shows at home,” says one diplomat acidly.

With the European Union on its sickbed, it is surprising anybody still wants to join it. Turkish enthusiasm has been ebbing fast. Its economy is expanding faster than many EU members. But the main reason for Turkey joining the EU is political rather than economic. Seeking EU membership has been a potent antidote to military coups, torture, arbitrary arrests and censorship of the media in recent years. This could all go into reverse if Turkey’s EU membership application is finally pronounced dead.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of “Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq

 

WORDS THAT STICK

?

 

More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

September 20, 2018
Mel Gurtov
On Dealing with China
Dean Baker
How to Reduce Corruption in Medicine: Remove the Money
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail