Sep 4th 2014

Reckless Policies, Dire Consequences

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

The Netanyahu-led government’s announcement of its decision to annex nearly 1,000 acres of Palestinian land in the West Bank between the Etzion settlement block and Jerusalem amounts to nothing less than a reckless and offensive act that only further undermines Israel’s moral international standing and has dire future consequences.

Netanyahu’s hypocrisy was put on full display when he blamed Hamas for the abduction and gruesome murder of three Israeli teenagers, which subsequently led to the Gaza war, only to expropriate land in the West Bank to punish the Palestinian Authority.

In fact, President Abbas did everything in his power to cooperate with Israeli security forces in the search for the abductors and strongly condemned the abduction. Instead of rewarding him for his efforts to keep the calm in the West Bank throughout the war, for example by freeing some prisoners, Netanyahu usurped another chunk of Palestinian land.

The message Netanyahu sent clearly suggests that he has no scruples, and contrary to his public statement in support for a two-state solution, he has no intentions of ever allowing the Palestinians to realize their aspiration for statehood.

He eagerly joined the extremist right-wing members in his coalition, the overzealous madmen Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman, whose sole purpose is continuing the colonization of the West Bank at any cost as they pursue their messianic mission with blind devotion, further jeopardizing Israel’s very existence.

Beyond that, Netanyahu’s action will have ominous repercussions for Israel on many other fronts, which can be overlooked only by a man possessed by a demon which blinds him from discerning between reality and nightmare.

Netanyahu’s ill-advised action has undermined Israel’s national security as his land grab further weakens the moderate Palestinian camp led by Abbas, and strengthens the extremists led by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who can now demonstrate that moderation does not pay, justifying their continued violent resistance.

Netanyahu’s act was not only deplorable but extraordinarily ill-timed (only days away from the UN General Assembly’s annual meeting), leaving Abbas with no choice but to pursue his plans to seek a UN-mandated resolution to end the occupation within three years.

In addition, Abbas will now feel free to turn to the International Criminal Court to seek charges against Israel for gross human rights violations.

The international community, especially European countries and the United States, which matter the most to Israel, are losing patience with Netanyahu and his reactionary policy. They view his latest move not only as harmful to the prospect for a negotiated peace, but a direct contributor to instability in a region which is already in turmoil.

They view Israel as a county that abrogates its democratic values, callously disregarding international laws that govern the rules and responsibilities of occupying power while dangerously eroding its moral standing.

Western Europe in particular has already sounded the alarm and is cautioning Israel that it cannot continue its discrimination against Israeli Arabs and the occupation of the West Bank with impunity.

Moreover, Israel is undermining the strategic interests of its closest and indispensible ally, the US, throughout the Middle East. The US’ unwavering support of Israel will have its limits as the US cannot allow itself to be seen as subservient to the whims of irresponsible Israeli leaders.

I do not rule out the possibility that should Israel continue on its current twisted path under Netanyahu, we will sooner than later begin to witness the imposition of sanctions starting with some European states, further isolating Israel from the international community.

Another consequence of Netanyahu’s ill-fated policy is the rise of anti-Semitism, a disgraceful, racist attitude that has always existed in one form or another in various degrees.

Any sane individual, however, attributes the latest escalation of anti-Semitism throughout Europe, certainly the Middle East and even in the US, to Netanyahu’s and his cohorts’ loathsome policy toward the Palestinians.

Even more dangerous is the fact that a growing number of young American and European Jews (the largest pool of potential immigrants to Israel) do not wish to immigrate as they no longer view the country as pioneering, high-spirited, true to democratic values, and one in which they can take pride.

The younger generation of Jews resent the occupation and even more so the repeated violent confrontations with the Palestinians, which have no end in sight. Many feel offended by Netanyahu’s policies as they grew up with the tradition of equality, fairness, and moral correctness.

The irony is that while Israel was created as the ultimate refuge for the Jews, determined to safeguard the security and well-being of the Jews anywhere, it has now became a liability.

Jews living in and especially outside Israel find themselves torn between their desire to defend Israel and their apprehension about the continuing occupation and discriminatory policies.

Even more troubling is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Israelis have emigrated from Israel in recent years as they witness their country losing its reason for being. They feel betrayed by their leaders’ inability to remain faithful to the country’s founding fathers, who sought to build a strong, inclusive, and just nation living in peace and harmony with its neighbors.

Sadly, many Israelis have resigned themselves to live with corrupt leaders, whose hunger for power knows no limits and who have readily sacrificed the welfare of the nation for personal gains and ambition. Is there any wonder why they have lost hope and now want to escape from the country they once were willing to die for?

They cannot envision, and neither can I, how the status quo with the Palestinians can be maintained or “managed” without repeated violence that will only grow in intensity, making Israel a living hell as we have just witnessed from the last Israel-Hamas war.

Ironically, with all his fanaticism and faults, Netanyahu may still be able to change the dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He should sit down by himself and think without his “chief advisor”—his wife, whose lust for power knows no bounds—and ask himself where Israel will be in ten or fifteen years down the line if the current situation continues to fester.

Perhaps he should also ponder about the legacy he wants to leave behind.

Does Netanyahu want to leave an Israel as an occupying power existing in a constant state of war, a garrison state, controlled by fanatic right-wing and religious leaders, becoming ever more isolated, whose Jewish population is depleting, with no friends, gloomy future, ever more vulnerable while forfeiting the one chance given to the Jews to rise from the ashes of the Holocaust?

Or will it be the country that has everything it takes to become a “light unto the nations.”

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "
Apr 22nd 2021
EXTRACT: "As far as anyone can tell, the US military is not on the verge of an internal breakdown, let alone primed to stage a coup d’état. But few predicted anything like the US Capitol riot before protesters equipped with body armor, stun guns, and zip-ties breached the building. Before the US is blindsided again, its leaders must act resolutely to root out extremism in the military."
Apr 17th 2021
EXTRACT: "The new report on 2020 by the International Renewable Energy Agency reveals that the world’s renewable energy generation capacity increased by an astonishing 10.3% in 2020 despite the global economic slowdown during the coronavirus pandemic." .... "In 2020, the global net increase in renewables was 261 gigawatts (GW). That is the nameplate capacity of some 300 nuclear power plants! There are actually only 440 nuclear power plants in the whole world, with a generation capacity of 390 gigwatts. So let’s just underline this point. The world put in 2/3s as much renewable energy in one year as is produced by all the existing nuclear plants!"
Apr 16th 2021
EXTRACT: "When we examined the development of nations worldwide since 1820, we found that among rich Western countries like the United States, the Netherlands and France, improvements in income, education, safety and health tracked or even outpaced rising gross domestic product for over a century. But in the 1950s, even as economic growth accelerated after World War II, well-being in these countries lagged.
Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."