Leading article: Israel must listen to the world

Share
Related Topics

Allow us to do something difficult and necessary: to set out the pro-Israeli case for lifting the blockade of Gaza. Condemnation of the Israeli Defence Force's killing of nine people on the Mavi Marmara on Monday is justified and important, but it is hardly unusual.

The operation was, at best, badly botched and a breach of international law. But the argument that ought to matter is that it was counterproductive and not in Israel's interest. As Professor Ilan Pappé depressingly but accurately writes on page 39, the "Israeli official and public mindset" is the main barrier to a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the Holy Land.

The perception of Gaza in Israel could not be more starkly at odds with that of the rest of the world. The reporting of the storming of the flotilla could not have been more different in Israel from anywhere else in the world. Public opinion in Israel sees Gaza, ruled by Hamas, as a threat, and the actions of the Israeli Defence Force in boarding ships as self-defence. These attitudes are not delusions. Hamas is formally sworn to the destruction of the state of Israel, while Gaza has been the source of indiscriminate rocket attacks, which have diminished since the Israeli military re-invasion of Gaza in December 2008. Nor is Israeli public opinion closed to the possibility of negotiation. Opinion polls – depending on the phrasing of the question – consistently report support for negotiations with Hamas.

And, if Israeli public opinion is an obstacle to peace, so is Palestinian opinion. The reason that Hamas cannot be ignored, wished away or isolated, is that it won elections in Palestine in 2006, and continues to enjoy the support of the population, at least in the Gaza Strip.

The more important side in this asymmetric conflict, however, is the Israeli. It has the military strength and the economic power. Until the Israeli "mindset" can be changed, any hope of changing Palestinian attitudes is futile. Of course, mistrust on each side feeds the other, but Palestinian hostility towards Israel is partly a reaction to humiliations and suffering of an unequal relationship. The idea that a people will respond constructively to ever harsher treatment is not supported by many historical examples.

And the wider Muslim resentment of Israel, which is threatening to destabilise the region, is a reaction to Israeli muscularity. What is happening in Turkey and Egypt, until now fixed posts of stability, is an attempt by political elites to assuage popular outrage against Israel. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, may be sincere in his anger, but his threat to try to go to Gaza himself by ship seems designed to put himself at the head of the mob.

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian President, meanwhile, has sought to appease Islamist exploitation of fellow feeling with Palestinians by opening the Rafah border crossing into Gaza. That is a huge propaganda gain for Hamas, because Egyptian support for the Israeli blockade of Gaza confirmed that fellow Arabs regarded Gaza as a security problem.

Israel is losing ground, and the Israeli people and government need to realise that before it is too late. The potential shift of Turkey and Egypt from the neutral to the hostile camp cannot be in Israel's interest. Equally, countries such as Britain that have long supported Israel should not be finding it more difficult to do so. As we report today, the anti-Israel movement is gaining strength and cultural cachet (if you can call Gorillaz and Klaxons that).

For decades, Israel has relied on the support of the US. So far, Barack Obama has lacked the will to exert meaningful pressure on the Israeli government. Mr Obama has not even got back to the position of George Bush Snr three decades ago, threatening to withhold loans unless settlement building ceased.

But Israel should not take Mr Obama or American opinion for granted. Yesterday the White House described the blockade of Gaza as "unsustainable".

Unexpectedly, perhaps, this newspaper finds itself in agreement with Tony Blair, the representative in Jerusalem of the UN, US, Russia and the European Union. Last week he pointed out that the policy of blockading Gaza was "not helping the people and isolating the extremists" – it was "in danger of doing it the wrong way round". He did not spell it out, possibly because it would offend rather than help to change the Israeli "mindset". But the only hope in the Middle East is that Israelis can be brought to see that the blockade is isolating the people of Gaza and helping the extremists.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing & Sales Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A reputable organisation within the leisure i...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Recruitment Genius: Doctors - Dubai - High "Tax Free" Earnings

£96000 - £200000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a better earning p...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly expanding company in ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
British Prime Minister Tony Blair (L) pictured shaking hands with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi on 25 March 2004.  

There's nothing wrong with Labour’s modernisers except how outdated they look

Mark Steel
 

Any chance the other parties will run their election campaigns without any deceit or nastiness?

Nigel Farage
Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee