That’s a straight line, in Netanyahu’s telling, from Hitler’s ovens to Hamas’ rockets to Abbas’ “weapon of lies.” Without shame, he lumps together the rocket attacks with the pursuit of statehood through the U.N.: “Either one is unacceptable.” When the interviewer points out that “the French and British have even threatened to recall their ambassadors” to protest Israel’s new settlement plan, Netanyahu cracks, “I suppose Israelis should have become used to the fact that we don’t get a fair hearing in Europe.” With a burst of moral narcissism, he adds: “We’re the only country threatened with genocide.”
The interviewer, referring to European criticism of the settlement plan, asks, “Were you surprised by the reaction of France and UK and Sweden?” Netanyahu replies:
I think that there’s a willingness to believe the worst about Israel in some quarters of Europe, and that’s something that has been part of our history in Europe for many generations. People believed outrageous things about the Jewish people, as some now believe about the Jewish state. What is our great crime? What is it we’re doing? We’re building in the areas that will remain in a final peace settlement of Israel. This is not some foreign land. This is the land in which the Jewish people have been for close to 4000 years. What we’re talking about is suburbs contiguous to Jerusalem. And everybody knows that they will remain part of Israel. You don’t change the map, you don’t prejudge anything.
That’s a pretty transparent allegation that European criticism of the settlement plan is anti-Semitic. For good measure, Netanyahu casually asserts “everybody knows” the area being settled “will remain part of Israel.” Never mind that Abbas calls construction in this area a “red line.” Never mind the U.S. State Department’s affirmation that “this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution.” This is Israel’s land, because Israel says so. But when Abbas persuades the U.N. to vote 138-9 for Palestinian statehood, that’s “unilateral.”
There’s a case to be made for many of Israel’s concerns about Palestinian statehood. But this isn’t it. Rockets are violence. Speeches and resolutions at the U.N. aren’t. Israel is entitled to demand probationary security mechanisms in the Palestinian territories based on recent history. But it isn’t entitled to claim those territories based on the Bible. Israel can bargain for parts of the West Bank, but it can’t take them. The Holocaust must be remembered but never abused.
Someday, Israel will have a prime minister capable of making this case to the world. My fear is that the world will no longer be listening.
William Saletan's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter: