A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article for this blog entitled “Israel in Further Isolation” where I commented that while he has been Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu has contributed to the further isolation of Israel on the world stage. I was especially critical of his acceptance of John Boehner’s invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress without consulting with the President Obama. I pointed out that even after the President’ remaining two years in office, there is a good chance that the next US President will also be a Democrat and that Netanyahu did Israel no favors by further alienating the President of Israel’s closest and most powerful ally. Well it appears that Bibi has not learned his lesson in dealing with foreign governments.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish Synagogue shootings in Paris, and then again following the terrorist attacks in Copenhagen, Netanyahu strongly insinuated that the Jews in Europe were not safe in the countries were they lived and invited them to immigrate to Israel. Back at home in Israel Netanyahu’s government began preparations for the possible immigration of over one hundred thousand European Jews. Encouraging “Aliyah”, the immigration of Jews scattered throughout the world to the land of Israel has always been a basic policy of Netanyahu’s right wing government and he speaks of it often. However, this time Bibi appears to have committed a major political faux pas and may have managed to further isolated Israel, this time from its European allies. Evidently he is attempting to be an equal opportunity insulter.
Netanyahu’s comments and invitations could easily be taken as insults by the governments of France, Denmark, and the other European nations. He is essentially saying that the European governments are not capable of protecting their Jewish communities and that European Jews would be safer in Israel. This coming from the Prime Minister of a country whose very right to exist is contested by most of its neighbors, which has been the target of an uncountable number of terrorist attacks, and whose people have never known a day of real peace since Israel declared its independence. It is a nation so embattled that every able bodied young man and woman is drafted into the Israeli military.
In addition, while the people Netanyahu has invited to immigrate identify as being Jewish, they also strongly identify as being French, Danish, German, etc. The countries where they live are their homes and have probably been their families’ homes for many generations. The notion that they might leave their homes, their friends, and everything they have ever known to move to another country with an unfamiliar language and customs because they are fearful surely must be insulting the pride and patriotism of many European Jews.
When Netanyahu spoke at the Grande Synagogue in Paris after the French terrorist attacks and took the opportunity to invite French Jews to leave France and immigrate to Israel, the assembled Jewish congregation sent him a very clear response by spontaneously singing “La Marseillaise”, the French national anthem. Following Netanyahu’s remarks in France, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the head of the European Jewish Association, was particularly critical of Netanahu’s remarks pointing out that immigration is not the answer for European Jews. He said, “Anyone familiar with the European reality knows that a call to Aliyah is not the solution for anti-Semitic terror,”
You would have thought that Bibi would have gotten the message, but apparently he is a bit tone deaf because later after the Danish terrorist attacks he declared that European Jews are “not safe” and called for a massive immigration of European Jews to Israel. Apparently Bibi’s remarks did not sit well with the Danish Jewish community either. Jair Melchior, Denmark’s chief rabbi, said he was “disappointed” by Netanyahu’s remarks and then went on to say, “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism. If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”
I think that it is fair to say that Bibi’s invitations to the Jews of Europe to “come home” to Israel did little to forge closer ties to the governments on the European continent. This coming on the heels of his further alienation of the President of the United States makes us wonder what he is all about. There can only be one answer, his words and actions are meant for domestic, not international consumption. As I explained in my earlier article, Netanyahu is facing a tough election scheduled for March 17th. Israel has many political parties and as many a fourteen of them will probably elect at least one member to the 120 member Knesset, Israel’s legislative body. No one party will come close to electing the majority of Knesset members necessary to select the next Prime Minister. Forming a coalition of enough parties to create that majority is difficult at best. Netanyahu’s international actions and remarks must be calculated to increase his chances of continuing his political career in Israel’s highest office.
However, the question remains, is Israel well served by reelecting a self serving politician such as its present Prime Minister? Israel, while surrounded by hostile nations, has grown more and more isolated from its allies. Does it make sense for this small nation to reelect a government which has continued to fail to try to make peace with its enemies? Should it reelect a Prime Minister who has gone out of his way to alienate his country’s allies in order to maintain his own political power? As they say, its not our call.