It's the Palestinians, Stupid

It's the Palestinians, Stupid

By Gadi Baltiansky, NRG
26.9.2011
via NRG (translated from Hebrew by Geneva Initaitive staff, click here for Hebrew original)
 
Geneva Initiative Director General, Gadi Baltiansky, writes about the importance and urgency of adressing the Palestinian issue for Israel. 
 
We are allowed to be angry over Turkish policy, and it is appropriate for us to wonder about Egyptian conduct since Mubarak's expulsion – but it is time to understand, the way to appease our neighbors lies in an agreement with the Palestinians.
 
The crisis with Egypt, the rippling relations with Turkey, the isolation from other Arab states – these are all happening partly as a result of developments with them. Our blindness to these processes will only increase hostility toward us, hurt our national security and bring Israel to a level of diplomatic distress unknown before in its history.
 
We can be angry at Turkish policy, it is appropriate to wonder about Egyptian conduct since Mubarak's expulsion, we can regret the distance that characterizes our relationship with countries like Jordan and Qatar; but anger, wonder and regret are no prescription for foreign policy.
 
Israel must understand that in the new Middle East, the voice of the people will decide more than in the past. From the streets of Tripoli to the last of Syrian cities, from Tahrir Square to Rothschild Blvd., one clear message can be heard: you need to consider us, too. 
 
Arab leaders, whoever they may be, will need to take into account "the voice of the nation" much more than their predecessors. Dictators could ignore public opinion that hates Israel, that demands solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, that requires an end to the occupation in the Territories. New leaderships, sooner or later, will be forced to listen to the people and take action.
 
The storm could be tangible
 
Israel's interest necessitates maintenance of peace with Egypt, strengthening of ties with Jordan and rehabilitation of relations with Turkey. These interests are political, strategic and security-related. We must now understand that our handling of the Palestinians does not only influence our relations with them, but rather constitutes the key to our ties with the entire region.
 
The political tsunami which Ehud Barak spoke about can come to life not only in economic hardships with Arab nations, cultural boycott and diplomatic isolation in international institutions. The storm can be more tangible, closer to our borders, if we do not know how to handle this crisis strategically, if we prefer to sink in tactical questions about the wording of the letter to Turkey or the conduct of the Egyptian security forces.
 
Israel's new policy, which must be sketched out of the new reality being created before our eyes in the region, must take into account the centrality of the Palestinian issue to the nations of this area – as opposed to the leaders we have become accustomed to in recent years. Diplomatic freeze against the Palestinians could thaw into a regional and international downpour that will land, ultimately, on the heads of Israeli citizens.
 
Foreign Ministry professionals need to tell the truth to the leaders
 
We often hear about finance ministers who offer economic policy. Usually we are exposed to assumptions, analyses and recommendations by military sources regarding national security. Now is the time that the professionals in the Foreign Ministry tell the truth to their leaders.
 
Our praiseworthy diplomats do not need to be dragged by the political or personal considerations of the minister who oversees them; they must recommend, to their minister and to the Prime Minister, the only step that could rescue Israel from the diplomatic hole it is about to fall into. They must say: without significant progress in our relations with the Palestinians, the Arab world will continue to erupt, and the lava will ultimately fall on us. Or, in other words, there are problems with Turkey, Egypt, possibly Jordan and other nations, but the solution lies in one place only: it's the Palestinians, stupid.