Netanyahu feels complete impunity because all US politicians need ‘support of Jewish community’ — former Israeli diplomat

US Politics
on 36 Comments

Colette Avital is a former consul general of Israel in New York and a former member of Knesset for Labor. On Sunday in New York, she was asked by Bradley Burston at the Haaretz New Israel Fund conference what steps should be taken to move Israel away from its intransigence on the peace process. She said only international pressure would have that effect.

Let me start by saying something personal. For almost 40 years I was a member of the Israeli foreign service and not only my job but my passion was to build support for the state of Israel in every single shape or form, whether by convincing journalists, politicians… trying to influence people how to vote at the United Nations. That was what I did.

Today I am coming here to say that without foreign intervention, without pressure on Israel, nothing will move. It certainly is not easy for me to have made that change. And that change is necessary, it has been necessary to me. I love the country, I am Zionist, but I do not approve of the policies. So there is a difference between supporting Israel as a country and objecting to its policies. And it’s in the spirit that I would like to say what I think should be done.

And what I think should be done is to try to get through the bubble in which the Israelis live. It is not only Netanyahu or [Naftali] Bennett or [Uri] Ariel who are the drivers. For that you need the public. And I would say the public has swayed very much to the right. It is living in a kind of bubble where everything is possible. The prime minister is doing anything he can conceive or think because he thinks that this is being done with impunity. He has managed to convince the Israelis, not only that we do not have a partner but that the Arabs have always hated us, they always hate us… There’s no way in normal civility to ever have any kind of agreement with the Palestinians.

So what I think has to be done is a combination of things to reach the Israeli public. I do not think we can change the mind of Netanyahu. He is immune to criticism, he has brought relations with the United States to the point that we know, the lowest point. He objects from time to time to what the foreign minister of Sweden says, but he is really doing what he wishes because he thinks that nobody is going to punish him, because he thinks for instance that in America at the end of the day any politician will need the support of the Jewish community, so there is no real pressure of America on Israel.

I think that many things can be done on the political level, if for instance the United States and Europe got together, seriously, as they have done on the issue of Iran and tried to see how to move whatever what they want to call it– the peace process is a word we’re not using anymore– but to move to some kind of peace conference in the Middle East. I think we need to reach the public opinion. We need to try to get to the Israelis to understand that this occupation has a price.

Avital opposed labeling of settlement goods by European countries as insufficient to convey that understanding. She also did not endorse Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, saying that Israeli academics oppose the settlements and don’t need to be pressured to do so. But she did call for European countries to demand that Israelis get a visa before visiting Europe. This would create an “outcry.” She emphasized that the pressure could not only be on the Israeli government:

I believe that without an international intervention, without putting some form of pressure, not only on the government, but on the people… that is a necessity.

Avital’s message about Netanyahu’s impunity is one that many critics of US foreign policy have tried to make, from Walt and Mearsheimer to MJ Rosenberg to Stephen Sniegoski, even Tom Friedman, when he said that the Congress is bought and paid for by the Israel lobby; and that analysis has been redlined. It has been called anti-Semitic. She is plainly talking about money, the Adelson primary that is taking place in the Republican theory and the Saban clinch that Hillary Clinton is performing. The Israel lobby is (sadly) a theory of Jewish influence. Netanyahu shares it.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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36 Responses

  1. WH
    December 16, 2015, 12:47 pm

    ‘Israeli academics oppose the settlements and don’t need to be pressured to do so’

    Some of them are individually, but the institutions are involved in military and propaganda undertakings. And the academics aren’t boycotted as individuals, they’re boycotted when they represent those institutions.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 16, 2015, 1:13 pm

      and besides, what are the chances this blanket statement: Israeli academics oppose the settlements, is correct? because i’m sure lots of them live in the settlements. and i’m quite sure there are more than a handful who support bennett, netanyahu and other radical rightwingers.

      • Krauss
        December 16, 2015, 2:06 pm

        It’s funny, she talks about forcing the people to pay a price but when her people(Israeli liberal establishment) get impacted, all of the sudden she’s against that. Can you spell hypocrite?

    • diasp0ra
      December 16, 2015, 7:26 pm

      That’s hilariously out of touch considering that approximately 25% of all employed persons in settlements work in education, which is nearly double the national average within Israel of approximately 13% of workers in education

      Source: https://www.btselem.org/download/201007_by_hook_and_by_crook_eng.pdf

    • Essex101
      December 17, 2015, 8:34 am

      ‘Israeli academics oppose the settlements and don’t need to be pressured to do so’ –

      Do me a favour – Many will be directly involved even if they cry about it afterwards. I was at TAU for a year a long long time ago and professors would disappear for a day or two for reserve duty – no doubt not manning checkpoints, probably more insidiously providing consultancy…

  2. Annie Robbins
    December 16, 2015, 1:05 pm

    while i appreciate her sentiment and that it was “certainly” not easy for her to make “this change” i think she is woefully lacking in courage. asking israelis to get a visa in response to a decades long occupation and land theft is not going to make any sort of significant difference. perhaps inconvenience and it might jog their mentality a little bit. but it doesn’t amount to pressure. pressure means sanctions.

    She also did not endorse Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, saying that Israeli academics oppose the settlements and don’t need to be pressured to do so.

    yeah, i am really not getting the point of saying United States and Europe got together, seriously, as they have done on the issue of Iran and tried to see how to move

    serious meant years of sanctions. you can’t just get together and chat. the reason iran was motivated at the P5+1 conferences was because they wanted the sanctions lifted. this is sort of a no brainer. and if she wanted to not endorse bds because of “academics oppose the settlements” she could go for a watered down bds w/the exception of the academic boycott.

    but what’s the point of suggesting outside pressure without placing a mechanism with which to pressure on the table. because visas are the sort of thing that are not that much of a hinderance. too bad.

    • Krauss
      December 16, 2015, 2:09 pm

      All of your points are valid, but she also stated she’s a Zionist. Zionism dictates permanent expulsion and expansion. Such an ideology will never rest until it has ALL of the land. That has been the mantra from the beginning.

      I don’t think Avital is dishonest here – she’s delusional. She doesn’t want to face what the problem is: Zionism. She thinks she can square the round hole, just like J Street will forever insist that “time is running out” on the 2SS but never admitting that it’s been long dead.

      These people’s entire identities are built up on Israel and Zionism. If they lose that, to a large extent, they lose themselves.

      • Sibiriak
        December 17, 2015, 8:15 am

        Krauss : All of your points are valid, but she also stated she’s a Zionist. Zionism dictates permanent expulsion and expansion.
        ——————

        Zionism is compatible with two states in Palestine–as long as one of them has a Jewish super-majority.

      • MHughes976
        December 17, 2015, 12:31 pm

        What does ‘Zionism’ mean to you, esteemed colleagues? What is your definition? Mine is ‘the belief that people who are Jewsh, and they only, have an inherent right (now commonly called birthright) to a share in sovereignty over the Holy Land – others having a share only by the true heirs’ grace and generosity, as they regard it’.
        I have no right to demand that others use that definition, which is why I am asking for your ideas. But I think that what has been done in Zionism’s name corresponds to the definition I suggest. One implication is that Zionism is incompatible with any acknowledgement, concerning any persons not considered Jewish, that ‘they have as much right to be here as we do’ – I think that this is the deepest reason why 2ss has never really been on the table.

      • RoHa
        December 17, 2015, 8:23 pm

        @MHughes.

        That seems to be a pretty good definition to me. I would be inclined to add this (or some very similar) rider:

        “Any action undertaken to maintain that sovereignty is justified.”

      • eljay
        December 18, 2015, 8:27 am

        || MHughes976: What does ‘Zionism’ mean to you, esteemed colleagues? What is your definition? … ||

        Zionism: The injustice and immorality of Jewish supremacism in/and a supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine.

        The kicker for me is the fervor with which so many non-Jews participate in enabling, defending and enforcing Jewish supremacism in/and the “Jewish State”.

      • MHughes976
        December 21, 2015, 12:38 pm

        Thanks to RoHa and eljay. Eljay builds an evaluation (negative) of Zionism into his definition, which he is fully entitled to do. It would be interesting to look at the definition of those, like Sibiriak, who think of Z as compatible with acceptance of a 2ss, or of those who would build in an evaluative term of positive impact.

      • eljay
        December 21, 2015, 12:50 pm

        || MHughes976: … Eljay builds an evaluation (negative) of Zionism into his definition … ||

        I don’t see how Jewish supremacism and “Greater Israel” colonialism and expansionism – separately or in combination – can be viewed as anything other than negative.

      • Sibiriak
        December 21, 2015, 1:17 pm

        It would be interesting to look at the definition of those, like Sibiriak, who think of Z as compatible with acceptance of a 2ss…

        —————–

        I define Zionism–the ideology–in terms of the core beliefs shared by most Zionists, namely, 1) the belief that the Jews are a people, and 2) the belief that the Jewish people have a need for and a right to a homeland/ ethno-national state in Palestine .

      • RoHa
        December 21, 2015, 7:34 pm

        “I don’t see how Jewish supremacism and “Greater Israel” colonialism and expansionism – separately or in combination – can be viewed as anything other than negative.”

        That’s because you are an …

      • eljay
        December 21, 2015, 9:34 pm

        || RoHa: That’s because you are an … ||

        …ageing vegetarian? Huh.

    • Marnie
      December 17, 2015, 12:37 am

      The supposed change she’s made are about as meaningful as a smoker going from Camel’s to Marlboro; the change is going to help – the smoker has to completely give up smoking, in any form. This woman still calls herself a zionist. WTF? She may be fooling herself, but nobody else.

    • Sibiriak
      December 17, 2015, 8:33 am

      Annie Robbins: the reason iran was motivated at the P5+1 conferences was because they wanted the sanctions lifted.
      —————

      AND because the cost of getting the sanctions lifted was not at all that great. There was no demand for regime change, no demand to “democratize” the Islamic Republic, no demand for Iran to fundamentally change its foreign policies.

      The more onerous the conditions attached to sanctions, the more onerous the sanctions must be. To get Israel to give up its expansionism and allow a full-fledged Palestinian state will require extremely onerous sanctions.

  3. Krauss
    December 16, 2015, 2:12 pm

    I’ve long said that the ultimate price to Israel will be cultural isolation. I’m skeptical if they can be defeated economically, and militarily they are very strong.

    In the end, it’s the same thing that brought white-ruled SA down: the cutting of all ties. Israel may fare better, because while they see themselves as part of the West, there are still more differentiating factors than the case of the white Christians of SA, who were mirror-images of the general public in the West. It was literally like family turning on you, so Apartheid simply had to end.

    Nevertheless, Israel has no other cultural sphere to turn to. What do the average Israeli share in common with the average Chinese or the average Indian other than empty bromides of “we value education”? Do they have significant overlap in their cultural history, their current references, their philosophy and language? No. Israel has no other place than the West to turn to for kinship.

    And if they lose that, will they endure the isolation it entails? SA didn’t. But Israel just might. It’s hard to say, because they haven’t really paid any price. That’s why Avital is so scared of cultural BDS. It’s why she brings up the visa issue. It’s all touching this third rail.

    • Qualtrough
      December 17, 2015, 1:13 pm

      Israel would be toast without US financial and military support and the US running cover for them at the UN and other international forums.

  4. Eva Smagacz
    December 16, 2015, 4:30 pm

    I do wonder for how long would Israel maintain it’s military supremacy if they did not have access to american ammunition and american spare parts for it’s military hardware. I remember reading somewhere (DEBKA file?) that during operation Protective Edge Israel had to dip into American stocks of ammunition as it’s own stocks became depleted ( and we are talking of 5 weeks of “war” against infinitely less well equipped Hamas partisans. If they had to produce their own ammunition, they would have to import each and every one of raw materials from outside – and only by sea or air.

    • JWalters
      December 16, 2015, 6:09 pm

      If Americans wake up, Israel is toast. I think they’re fearing that, and that’s why they’re frantically pushing bigotry, war, and chaos, including through their puppets in the GOP debate. Desperate to keep Americans distracted and duped.

      • Kay24
        December 17, 2015, 5:59 am

        Good point. That is why they are also desperate to silence any criticism with accusations of anti-semitism. They do not want the zio controlled media to speak of their crimes, nor highlight what is really going on over there. Americans are apathetic, and take everything that the media says at face value. Never wasting their energy investigating the situation for themselves. Israeli leaders must keep using the word “terrorists” to justify the slow genocide going on. Children are thrown in jail for no valid reason, and the zionists mete out a harsh punishment for them, while their own people are given a kiss, and a loving pat on the head, for the same crimes.

        For this charade to go on, they must keep the American people in ignorance, and buy the hasbara’s idiotic tales.

  5. Citizen
    December 16, 2015, 6:33 pm

    Obama replaced all the munitions and bombs Israel dropped on Gaza over summer of 2014.

  6. Parity
    December 17, 2015, 12:18 am

    I believe it was John Whitmore who suggested that Western countries should refuse to grant visas to Israeli settlers. That action might discourage people from living in the settlements, and it would underscore the illegality of the settlements. It would punish the people who need punishing.

    • Kay24
      December 17, 2015, 6:01 am

      The people who need punishing will never get punished, as long as the US Congress, and media, are in those deep, deep, zionist pockets. The parasites seem to feed on the greedy and power hungry.

    • italian ex-pat
      December 17, 2015, 9:47 am

      @ Parity

      You are forgetting that tens of thousands of settlers hold American citizenship. They need no visa to come to the US nor travel to most Western countries.

      • Mooser
        December 18, 2015, 4:48 pm

        “You are forgetting…

        I don’t think so.

      • Citizen
        December 19, 2015, 11:17 am

        15% of illegal Israeli settlers are dual American citizens, new research claims http://toi.sr/1fJqxNK via @timesofisrael

  7. Ossinev
    December 17, 2015, 6:55 am

    @Krauss
    “In the end, it’s the same thing that brought white-ruled SA down: the cutting of all ties. Israel may fare better, because while they see themselves as part of the West, there are still more differentiating factors than the case of the white Christians of SA, who were mirror-images of the general public in the West. It was literally like family turning on you, so Apartheid simply had to end.”

    It is as you indicate just a question of time. The PA is already on the point of self implosion.When it goes yes there may be an increase of resistance attacks and there will be the usual Israeli knee jerk “measured” response to an increase in “terror” . But the die will have been cast and there will be IMO a definitive new element in the scenario which will be hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs organising demonstrations calling for equal rights and citizenship. The Israelis will of course brutally suppress and ban these but the cat will be out of the bag and the Apartheid and anti Apartheid reality as with South Africa will take its course with the time scale considerably reduced courtesy of modern communications technology.

    Nitay and Co are stumbling blindly towards this outcome largely because of his power crazy ego and the unqualified support of the Zionist lobby in the US and its control of the US MSM. But even AIPAC and the NYT will not be able to hasbarise brutal suppression of a Civil Rights movement in a supposedly democratic ally state.

  8. James Canning
    December 17, 2015, 1:11 pm

    Rich American Jews have indeed made it virtually impossible for the US to act in its own best interests, in matters pertaining to Israel. This situation in fact is not a good thing for Israel.

  9. oldgeezer
    December 18, 2015, 11:46 am

    I’ve read this article several times. It’s wonderful that she has stated that pressure is needed.

    It is wonderful that she seems to get it.

    Then she seems to backpedal and suggest actions that create very little pressure. What percentage of Israeli’s do not hold dual passports? Of that percentage what further percentage travel regularly outside of Israel? It wasn’t that long ago that visas were the norm so this hardly seems to be much more than a minor annoyance for a very small number of people.

    Ultimately it’s hard to tell if she truly does get it or if, seeing that pressure may be applied, is seeking to protect the zionist project and expansion by ensuring the least effective means of pressure is the one deemed to be appropriate by people in the west.

    • yonah fredman
      December 18, 2015, 2:22 pm

      oldgeezer- Those Jews (both in Israel and in the US/diaspora) who are supporters of Israel within its 67 borders, but who oppose the occupation, are in a new situation trying to adjust their (proposed) pressure on Israeli society to reflect the mixed nature of their/our stand. BDS is serious business, but those who are the loudest voices in BDS seek to destroy the Zionist regime (their words not mine) and so these liberal Zionists must find some middle ground regarding pressure that somehow registers their protest but does not seek to undo Israel.

      on a related topic after listening to a BBC America (radio) report card on Obama’s international legacy I found myself imagining what Obama might do in his post election phase (from november of next year until january 20th of 2017). Would he encourage the French to pass a UN resolution regarding a strict interpretation of 242, clarifying the world’s position regarding the occupied territories? In his last month in office Bill Clinton tried to push through an agreement between PLO and Israel, would Obama try the same? (In his last month in office, Reagan administration began talking to the PLO in December of 88.) And then the question that this discussion brings to mind: what would be my preference? Would such a move by Obama strengthen the chances for a quicker resolution? (What would it be like defending such a UN move by Obama from the inevitable attacks by all my anti Obama relatives and friends?) Assuming a Hillary victory would he consult her first? Assuming a republican victory, I have to assume that there is a sort of understanding that a lame duck president will not undercut the next president between election day and inauguration day.)

      • Mooser
        December 18, 2015, 4:45 pm

        “BDS is serious business, but those who are the loudest voices in BDS seek to destroy the Zionist regime (their words not mine)

        And yet, it’s odd, isn’t it, for all the amplitude, the only words we have are yours?

        ” I found myself imagining what Obama might do…”

        You always do. And often imagine what he’s done too. You have a livid imagination.

  10. pabelmont
    December 21, 2015, 11:28 am

    Israel-as-occupier deserves a sort of water torture — drop, drop, drop, with each drop a bit of pressure, sometimes on the government, sometimes on the people, always announced publicly.

    Yes, the mere labelling of goods grown or produced in OPTs (and OST as the Golani wine) is not enough, it should all be refused admission to EU for sale (and contraband when carried by travellers). Yes, Israelis should be required ti get visas.

    But none of these is in the long run enough. Anti-Israel “news” should be published (in the event the EU and USA nations have any control or influence over how “news” is presented) — where by “anti-Israel” I mean telling a lot of truth about current and past events, rather as if MondoWeiss were published daily in NYT and in EU papers and on TV.

    When public pressure becomes enough, the nations could then apply real sanctions (the “S” in “BDS”) such as stopping all trade, or all air-travel, or the like.

    But this is circular — the nations will not likely do this unless their public’s apply pressure to them.

    Perhaps the pressure of terrorism, when recognized as in part energized by anti-Zionism, would supply energy both to publics and to governments.

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