Lara Friedman writes: Recently, the European Union adopted harsh new Iran sanctions, strongly supported by Israel. Shortly thereafter, Israel announced new East Jerusalem settlement construction. The EU’s top official Catherine Ashton, who was about to visit Israel, condemned the announcement in measured terms; Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, publicly told her, in effect, to shove it. Imagine if in response, Ashton had indefinitely postponed her trip. Imagine that Israeli ambassadors in EU capitals were summoned to the local foreign ministries and read the riot act. Imagine that Israeli press had been alerted, leading to headlines about how Prime Minister Netanyahu and Lieberman were squandering the friendship of the EU and European support on Iran for the sake of settlement expansion.
None of that happened. Instead, Lieberman’s comments were politely ignored. Ashton went to Israel. And settlement construction advanced.
This episode demonstrates how things got to the point where they are today. Netanyahu and Lieberman believe they are unaccountable because they have never been called to account. They’ve seen that their defiance of Israel’s closest allies carries no price, either diplomatically or in the domestic arena. The two are, of course, linked: Israel’s allies acquiescing to Netanyahu treating them as underlings and enemies has only strengthened Netanyahu politically, and added to his aura as “King Bibi.” [Continue reading...]