Thursday, March 11, 2010

Israel's Toyota Strategy

Regrettably, I won't be able to attend the AIPAC Policy Conference in two weeks (since I'll be going to Israel next month, I had to prioritize one trip over the other), because it ought to be a doozy. Prime Minister Netanyahu is set to appear and presumably President Obama will speak too; both have a real need to be on that stage, especially given this week's comic-tragedy of errors in Jerusalem. But the way things have been going, you can expect Obama's speech to be interrupted by a murmer in the crowd and then an announcement from the Israeli interior ministry revoking the conversion to Judaism of Rabbi Capers Funnye, Michelle Obama's first cousin.

How bad was this week? When Vice President Biden comes off looking like the most levelheaded person of the bunch, that's bad. Poor Michael Oren. The Israeli ambassador to Washington must be wondering what his government will do next to alienate American politicians and American Jews.

Let's see... I know! Why don't we insult the Vice President AND then give the meshuggah chief rabbinate the power to revoke all conversions done by rabbis everywhere. And let's do it all in the same week! And let's do it precisely at the moment when Israel needs to tighten its ties to America the most, with Iranian sanctions on the UN docket likely to be watered down or vetoed. Hmm... and maybe, just for the fun of it, let's try to convince the world that the Prime Minister has no control over his own government, even in an area of the greatest diplomatic sensitivity, just as he's thinking about sending his air force into it's most complicated mission ever. Nah, let's prove a point instead. And let's do it a half hour before one of Israel's greatest friends, the Vice President, who has proven himself a friend of Israel's many times over more than his boss, is about to sit down for dinner with the Prime Minister.

People talk about gridlock in Congress. Well in the Knesset, a little more gridlock would be a good thing. The diplomatic track with the Palestinians is going nowhere, which is fine for now, as long as there isn't slippage on that front while the economic situation for the West Bank continues to show marked improvement. The "facts on the ground" that will make peace more possible in a year or two would be thriving industrial parks in Nablus and Jenin, not added construction in Shilo and Ariel. Meanwhile, with the lid on that kettle, Israel and America can focus on the situation that can't wait: Iran.

But instead, Israel's leaders pursue a Toyota Strategy, both in diplomatic and internal affairs: Take 'er out on the highway, rev 'er up, place the pedal to the metal and come what may!
True, apartments in Jewish areas of Jerusalem - even post '67 areas - should not be confused with far-flung settlements (Obama is not the first American President to make that mistake); but reckless decision making can not be sanitized by the excuse that it was simply a matter of
bad timing. Stupidity is stupidity, no matter what time it is. We'll switch our clocks this weekend and even in daylight savings time, we'll wake up on Sunday morning and the Toyota Strategy will still be stupid.

Yes, I'd love to be a crumb of hametz on the wall at AIPAC in two weeks.

For a variety of astute opinions on this week's fiasco, see this New York Times online commentary.

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