Scrap international opinion, build national consensus: The key to ending the Israeli settlement debate
If you missed the news about the Israeli Air force's alleged bombing of an arms convoy belonging to Hezb’allah and a Syrian Army site in Damascus, you're not alone. There is a glaring lack of media coverage dedicated to Israel's ongoing campaign against the terrorist group. In comparison, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter's calling on the Obama administration to recognize the state of Palestine generated an avalanche of headlines, commentary, tweets, and social media posts.
Why the discrepancy?
The lack of newsworthiness is due in part to a national consensus in Israel that the only way to prevent Hezb’allah from firing rockets into civilian areas inside the country is if IAF warplanes periodically conduct airstrikes in Syria or Lebanon.
Far from being lambasted as right-wing war-mongering, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's repeated vows to prevent Hezb’allah from obtaining “game-changing” arms – specifically, advanced anti-aircraft systems of chemical weapons – elicit little more than a collective yawn.
Yet it’s the construction of a few dozen housing units over the Green Line, not the potentially global ramifications of Israel’s attacks on Hezb’allah, that provokes a hysterical reaction from the media. It’s worth noting that Syria today is akin to Spain in the 1930s: a place where the superpowers of the day are waging a proxy war that is attracting volunteers from around the world. And let’s not forget that the Spanish Civil War turned out to be a tune-up for the Second World War.
So why is Israel’s increased involvement in such a flammable corner of the world not being obsessively covered by the media, or generating international opprobrium?
Well, if a solid majority of a country’s own citizens consistently back their government’s clearly defined policy on a certain issue, then there is no chronic problem that needs to be fixed by an international consortium of media elites, bearded professors, and well coiffed diplomats.
With regard to Israel’s policy vis-à-vis Hezb’allah, sanctimonious do-gooders who desire nothing more than to save Israel from itself have been muzzled by the implementation of a well thought out and highly popular policy of deterrence.
The Israeli government should thus consider taking a page from its own playbook. To date, precious time and treasure are spent on something called public diplomacy, which aims to portray Israel’s policies and actions in a positive light for international audiences. Israel’s Foreign Ministry even has a Public Diplomacy (“Hasbara”) Department, whose 2015 budget was approximately 40 million shekels.
Is this money well spent? The vast majority of Israeli public diplomacy efforts do little more than fire up the base. Unfortunately, it will take more to stem the tide of harsh international criticism in which the Jewish state is regularly engulfed.
For too long, Israeli leaders on the right and left have sought an international seal of approval for the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria, believing that once such a consensus is reached, the Israeli public, so eager to be fully embraced by the family of nations, will be willing to accept it.
This is the exact opposite of the approach that is needed. International unanimity is not the key to resolving outstanding issues regarding Israel’s presence in the West Bank. The development and execution of a clear set of widely approved policies – for example, applying Israeli law over Efrat, Ma’ale Adumim, and other large settlement blocs expected to remain under Israeli sovereignty – eventually will douse the flames of international indignation.
And Progressives will simply have to rally around a new cause.