Is Israel’s Maximalist Negotiating and Rhetorical Approach Helpful or Harmful?

July 9, 2015 § 5 Comments

I have a piece out in Politico in which I argue that Israel’s tendency to take the most extreme position available on an issue is hurting it in tangible ways. The two areas that I point to – although there are others – are Israel’s influence on the Iran negotiations and Israel’s defense of its actions in Gaza. In both situations, Israel is largely in the right, but this fact gets obscured by the Israeli government setting a bar so high for itself that everything else it says tends to get ignored and it puts itself unnecessarily on the defensive. To my mind, it betrays a sense of Israeli insecurity that shouldn’t actually be there, and I wish that the Israeli government would take a step back and reassess its strategy for dealing with threats of all sorts. Here is the opening of the piece:

With the latest deadline for nuclear talks with Iran looming at the end of the week, we can already predict the biggest loser in the event of a deal: Israel. An agreement along the lines of what has been reported is not what Israel wanted. It was never going to be. But the shortsighted, take-no-prisoners stance of the Israeli government has guaranteed that its concerns got shorter shrift than was absolutely necessary.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s incessant calls to prohibit any Iranian enrichment of uranium—when it was clear very early on that the P5+1 was not going to proceed along such lines—did not serve to set a negotiating baseline. Instead, it ended up marginalizing Israel and created a situation in which the American negotiating team became even more indifferent to Israeli interests. By making what was an unrealistic goal the centerpiece of his opposition strategy rather than focusing on attainable elements, such as thorough inspections or limits on ballistic missiles, Netanyahu damaged his own cause. The perception that he, not Iran, was the unreasonable party marginalized Netanyahu and assured that negotiators would not take anything else he said seriously, irrespective of the underlying truth at the heart of his position, namely that Iran is a bad actor that has spent decades fighting Israel and the West and destabilizing the Middle East.

The arena of Iranian negotiations is not the only one in which Israel’s tendency to take an extreme position has obscured the justice of an underlying issue. While Iran is the threat that looms largest in the eyes of the Netanyahu government, another major one is diplomatic isolation, a multi-tentacled menace that requires a coordinated response if Israel is to defeat it. The danger is embodied by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to isolate Israel economically and culturally, but the larger risk lies with a growing perception among mass audiences that Israel deserves extra opprobrium for actions that are depicted as extraordinarily beyond the pale. Recognizing the danger of this development, the Israeli government has attacked it with guns blazing, but often in a way that leads to Israel shooting itself in the foot.
Read the rest at:


Tagged: , , , ,

§ 5 Responses to Is Israel’s Maximalist Negotiating and Rhetorical Approach Helpful or Harmful?

  • mordy says:

    I can’t disagree with anything you wrote in yr Politico piece, however I do want to ask for a clarification on the following: “When your foreign minister and economy minister use the word terrorist to refer to a Palestinian leader who has not advocated violence and who your own head of domestic intelligence certifies has not engaged in terrorism, your legitimate complaints about that leader’s diplomatic intransigence and unwillingness to respond to negotiations tend to go unheeded.”

    W/ the caveat that I agree that making the less incendiary claim would be of value to an pro-Israel PR campaign, is it not also factually accurate that Abbas funded the Munich massacre in 1972?

    • I have no idea whether that is factually accurate or not, but if the best and most recent example is from 1972, accusing someone of contemporarily engaging in terrorism is just not going to ring true to most people.

      • mordy says:

        True, and like I said I don’t think the kind of rhetoric ramping up that Bibi does it particular useful for his cause. I do think there’s a theoretical case to be made that some of Abbas’ more inflammatory statements, particularly about the Temple Mount, are designed to provoke terror. Otoh it’s important to note that in comparison to his predecessor Abbas has practically been an ‘angel of peace.’

  • Michael W says:

    Never seen Politico before. Their comment section raped my eyes. Not scrolling down there ever again.

  • comradebillyboy says:

    Always good to see new commentary from Ottomans and Zionists. I find it almost impossible to sympathize with anything Netanyahu does these days, especially with regard to the Iran talks. I think he is making support for Israel a partisan political issue and he may permanently damage US-Israeli relations.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading Is Israel’s Maximalist Negotiating and Rhetorical Approach Helpful or Harmful? at Ottomans and Zionists.


%d bloggers like this: