This week’s prize for political chutzpah goes to two prominent Israelis — President Shimon Peres and Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor — whose salaries are paid for by our tax shekels.
On Sunday, Peres reiterated his position that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “is a true partner for peace,” while criticizing the current government for failing to grasp that the public is firmly in favor of a two-state solution.
As if that weren’t bad enough, Peres went even further on Monday, when he told a group of Christian leaders that there is “nothing wrong” with talking to Hamas.
The irony here is that part of the reason that Peres was appointed to his cushy post in the first place was so that he would finally be forced to keep his utopian ideas about a “new Middle East” to himself, and to stop going around the globe undermining the policies of his country.
But being a figure-head does not come naturally to the elder statesman, who has always had a soft spot for all things European, particularly wine, women, song, and socialism. This is not to say that he hasn’t enjoyed what the peace camp in the United States has to offer him by way of honor, mind you. And he was certainly more than delighted to be awarded the Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama. But nothing could really match the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize that was bestowed upon him — together with his nemesis, the late Yitzhak Rabin, and his buddy, the late Palestinian Liberation Organization head Yasser Arafat, in Oslo.
So it was quite foolish for anyone to expect that he would cease to be who he is as soon as he took up residence in the President's Residence in Jerusalem — a move that cost him his marriage.
Still, one might have harbored a glimmer of hope that the blatantly anti-peace-process behavior on the part of the Palestinian leadership, both in Gaza and in the West Bank, would have served to modify his stance somewhat. Alas, it was not to be. And the Right needn’t get all up in arms over it. As president, Peres is not supposed to voice partisanship, but that is not the real reason for our anger. After all, had he expressed the opposite view, nobody in conservative circles would have uttered a word, other than to use it as an opportunity to say, “You see? Even Peres is now on our side.”
No, what we should all be appalled by relates to the gall of the second winner of the “big-mouth” sweepstakes.
While Peres was on his podium promoting the Palestinian Authority, Prosor was in the audience at a different conference — one that was hosted by the Foreign Ministry for 160 ambassadors and heads of Israeli missions abroad.
After National Security Council chief Yaakov Amidror gave a lecture/briefing on key issues, such as Iran and the Palestinians, Prosor — who, unlike Peres, has not been a vociferous leftist — got up during the Q&A portion and posed a challenging question. What he asked had to do with the timing of the government’s announcement that it would build housing in the E1 corridor between Jerusalem and the Palestinian Authority.
Prosor’s question elicited a round of applause from the crowd of Israeli diplomats. This irritated Amidror to no end. "Gentlemen, do not be confused,” he responded. “You are the government's representatives. If that doesn't suit you: either go into politics or resign.”
It should come as little surprise that Amidror, not Prosor, has been the one under attack for the incident. Previous Foreign Ministry bigwigs have been hauled into TV studios to express their indignation. Ambassadors are thinking people, not mere underlings, is the long and short of their argument.
Indeed. But ambassadors also commonly suffer from a form of diplomatic “Stockholm Syndrome,” which causes them to begin to identify with their host countries.
This is as understandable from a human perspective as is Peres’ glee at being treated like royalty beyond Israel’s shores. It is as difficult to resist praise as it is to withstand criticism. Prosor deserves sympathy for being stuck in the snake pit of the U.N. and surviving.
But he should not be let off the hook for worrying more about what the world will say about Israeli policy than doing his job of promoting and defending it. The fact is that the “international community” is not hostile to Israel for its construction of this or that house. Indeed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t actually send any bulldozers to E1, and doubts at home that he will ever do so have been strengthening the Habayit Hayehudi party on the Right.
It is about time that Israeli diplomats stop imagining that their task would be easier if the Netanyahu government would only be more appeasing. They ought to know better, since their situation under more left-wing governments was no different.
Whether or not Peres and Prosor are within their rights to be outspoken is irrelevant. There are many battles taking place against Israel, both military and civilian. Shame on any of our representatives for providing the multi-tentacled enemy with the slightest additional fodder.
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring.’”