I’m collecting overstatements.
“Israel is rapidly destroying any chance of there being anything to talk about.”
“It was an act of hostility, antagonism, and diplomatic terrorism against its single most valuable ally.”
“The Israelis really blundered this time. The whole world is against them.”
All right then, the announcement by Israel’s Ministry of the Interior of its intention to build new settlements in East Jerusalem, coming as it did while Vice-President Biden was in Israel to herald another go at peace via “proximity peace talks,” was bad timing. That’s all it was. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone, certainly not anyone who listens to Israel. Building Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem became policy immediately following the 1967 War, a war, not so incidentally, lustily launched and resoundingly lost by Israel’s four surrounding Arab neighbor-states while “the whole Arab nation” egged them on from the sidelines. Anyone listening to Israel, including the Palestinians, recognizes its commitment to the policy and grasps the significance of the facts on the ground: the land, the neighborhoods, will remain Israel’s.
Even the timing shouldn’t be so surprising—the Israelis have made such pronouncements in the face of power often. They can’t be accused of being coy or conducting a whisper campaign; to the contrary, they want to be sure everyone knows their intentions. Say what others will—they're not guilty of tact.
The response from the media is auto-overstatement.
“Israel's Snub of Biden: More Than Just Bad Timing.”
So how do our diplomatic leaders, people of reason, our people of impeccable western manners, react? With snubs. With so’s your mother posturing. With mine’s bigger than yours swagger. Don’t laugh, but it starts coming down to whose snub is bigger. Is it Netanyahu’s or Biden’s? Is it Joe’s buddy, Barry, and their gal Hillary flexing hyperbole? When, oh when, do our government leaders get out of the schoolyard?
I’m on the outside looking in, witnessing the fracas and perplexed by both sides. Through the haze, I can’t help observing that for a president who doesn’t believe in not talking to your enemy to snub a time-tested good friend is bad policy, bad taste and… bad timing.
And since the subject is bad timing, let’s acknowledge, looking back on six decades of Arab-Israeli encounters, that there’s been much less fuss over much worse timing.
Leaving your house and land behind at the instruction of your Arab leadership so you and your family are out of the way while they drive all the Jews into the sea or “wipe Israel off the face of the map” is bad timing.
Premeditatedly attacking an elementary school in Ma’alot in Israel’s Western Galilee and killing 22 students in their early teens is bad timing.
Invading a nation on its people’s holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur—a day, it should not go unnoted, when those people are most likely to be reflecting on and atoning for their sins, customarily in a house of God, is bad timing.
Infiltrating Munich’s Olympic Village by night and under hoods, and using the quadrennial premier sports event as a platform to attack and terrorize, murder or take hostage, a team of young amateur athletes in their prime, is bad timing.
Hijacking an Air France airliner, directing it to Entebbe, Uganda, holding 105 Israeli’s hostage for a week and threatening to kill them unless Palestinian terrorist demands are met is bad timing. (Commander Lieutenant General Jonathan Netanyahu, the 30-year-old older brother of eventual Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was the only Israeli killed in the legendary rescue mission.)
And, possibly trumping all strictly from a political point of view, saying no to getting 96% of your demands when you represent the Palestinian people because you insist on 100%—and more, if you can pass a camel through the eye of a needle—is bad timing, and mind-numbingly self-defeating.
There you have just a few of the low points. Do you hear a rueful murmur from anywhere in “the whole world”? Neither do the Israelis.
Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Israel’s Jews learned that lesson in history from the Holocaust. It may be the only history lesson they need. Bad timing? Someone (possibly Golda Meir) said: Better a hundred bad editorials than one obituary. Who better than those responsible for the security of the people of Israel to know that?
To be continued...