By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Remember John Kerry’s 2016 speech about a UN Resolution condemning Israel’s role in the West Bank. He said the administration was “deeply committed to Israel and its security” and how he wanted Israel “living in peace and security with its neighbors.”
There are some voices like that in the West and the US who claim to be “pro-Israel”…but where were they yesterday and over the last weeks as Israel and the UAE have come to an agreement that could foresee new horizons for both countries.
Absent. Quiet. Not interested.
Some of these voices who have made Israel their hobby over the years in the US and claim to care about Israel even held a Zoom call where they discussed how Israel should be dismantled.
The reason the UAE deal isn’t interesting for them is because a broad swath of the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” crowd are not really interested in Israel at peace across the region, and with the Palestinians. They really have no interest in the region as a whole or Israel’s role in it. They don’t really care about Israel’s “security” and “peace with neighbors.”
How do we know? Because they never actually worked for peace with any neighbors. They never wanted peace between Israel and the UAE, Israel and Sudan, Israel and Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco, Iran or any country. They did want to use the lack of normalization as a tool to get Israel to make concessions. They saw isolating Israel as a way to get it to do things they wanted. They thought if they could just lay siege to Israel enough it would change.
Now, if you told me the same story about any other country…like let’s say Iran for instance, and you said that the people that are “pro-Iran” are the ones who seek to cut off its relations and isolate it…one might say “well, that doesn’t sound like pro-Iran”…if you said you’re pro-Pakistan, but what you mean is you want it to have no diplomatic relations and be isolated and under siege and forced to make concessions…are you pro-Pakistan?
Only with Israel have we had to hear how some of the “tough love, pro-Israel (Israel’s critics want what is best for it)” people are the ones who want the country isolated. Why shouldn’t Israelis and Palestinians be able to freely travel to the Gulf or Iraq or Morocco? Many times I felt meeting westerners who travel to those places that they felt a kind of privilege, they would say things like “how did you get here, aren’t you from Israel” or “how can Israelis even come here”…as if they were quite happy to “have it to ourselves”…they didn’t speak that way about any other country…I mean they may loathe the Burmese regime…but they never relished such happiness that average Burmese might not travel somewhere. Only with Israel did they have this view.
So let’s admit something. For decades many in the West actively worked to isolate Israel. Too often diplomats from the US and Europe rarely encouraged an opening to Israel. They did this, despite the fact that they paid lip services to “peace.” But they were profoundly anti-peace. They claimed they only wanted to use the isolation to force Israel to change. They thought this would empower moderates. The same people believe that isolating Iran will empower hardliners. Odd, how when it comes to Israel they believed that isolating Israel, boycotting it even, would empower moderates. Instead they got hardliners like Netanyahu. And the hardliners in Israel and the current US administration got this deal with the UAE. Just like hardliners in Iran also succeeded in many things.
So it’s interesting. They thought that they could isolate Israel, siege it…and that they could even use or excuse “armed struggle” to force Israel into concessions…they thought this systematically…never encouraging an end to incitement by Hamas and its fellow travelers…actively fanning the flames of extremism against Israel while talking about “security”…hoping that somehow the isolation and attacks might lead Israel to do what they wanted.
Unsurprisingly they were quiet as Israel’s first flight landed in Abu Dhabi. Because all of their concepts were now torn. It holds up a mirror to the lie of people who claim to like Israel and want the “best for Israel.” Maybe if they had worked for widespread normalization and then used that to engage with Israel on peace with the Palestinians, hoping that normalization and then working together in the region for more freedom of movement and prosperity, might bring about change…by empowering moderates…they might have achieved peace. Instead they used isolation as a tool…they wanted Israel to be kept apart from every country in the region…and they thought this would work, despite seventy years of evidence that the more you try to isolate Israel, the more it has accomplished.
There are questions now that should be raised about how irrelevant this crowd of charlatans are, the ones who talk about Israel’s “security” but actually oppose Israel having relationships with the region…who want to not isolate Iran, but want to isolate Israel. The UAE deal was a good litmus test for this crowd. Most were quiet, or condemned the deal. And that shows their true colors. They never wanted a secure Israel.