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

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: a duchess by any other name is just wrong

Guy Keleny
A teenage girl uses her smartphone in bed.  

Remove smartphones from the hands of under-18s and maybe they will grow up to be less dumb

Janet Street-Porter
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US