Letting Small Problems Become Big Ones

From Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s point of view, the timing of his visit to Washington this week could not have been better.

Against the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, Netanyahu’s declaration that he would never compromise on Israel’s security is seen as obvious, not obstinate. With the West standing by helplessly as Russia’s Vladimir Putin brazenly violates Ukrainian territorial integrity, who could blame an Israeli prime minister for not agreeing to pull IDF troops out of the Jordan Valley in favor of international forces?

And who could blame him for insisting on tough security measures aimed at preventing Yehudah and Shomron from turning into yet another terror base in a tiny region that is already crowded with such bases?

Instead of being seen as a right-wing extremist warmonger, he can come across as a pragmatist who understands that the objective is not to sign a peace treaty at any cost, but to reach an agreement that ends the conflict and allows for normal life in Israel, where planes can land and take off without threat of being shot down by terrorist missiles and where children in Tel Aviv and Yerushalayim can walk to school without worrying about where they can take cover when the “Color Red” air-raid siren goes off.

The question of blame looms large as the deadline for a peace deal – April 29 – draws nearer. Even if U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arranges for an extension of the deadline, which appears likely, no one really believes that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas has either the mandate or the courage to concede that Palestinian “refugees” will never return to Jaffa and that the Jewish people have a historic connection to Yerushalayim.

Both sides are preparing for the collapse of the talks, whether in a month or a year; each has already started building its case for why the other party is to blame and should be the one punished by the international community.

Israel is concerned about a boycott and the Palestinians getting a sympathetic hearing in U.N. bodies, while the Palestinians are concerned that the world will stop pressuring Israel to hand over a state without receiving anything in return.

In light of current events in Ukraine, Syria, Iran and Egypt, Israel stands a much better chance of escaping blame for having stood firm on security arrangements. President Barack Obama, who set aside three hours to meet with Netanyahu in the Oval Office Monday despite the whirlwind surrounding the Ukraine crisis, has consistently expressed support for Israel’s security needs even as he has pushed for an agreement.

Europe is much less tolerant of Israel’s right to live in security. However, it is hoped that recent events will help it understand that Netanyahu’s tough stand on the peace process and on Iran isn’t just an Israeli interest, but a European one, as well.

The crisis in Ukraine, described by British Foreign Secretary William Hague as “the biggest … in Europe in the twenty-first century,” stems from the West’s failure to grasp the reality of Putin and act accordingly.

It should have been obvious that a Russian leader who could supply advanced weapons to a despot like Syrian President Bashar Assad and then send three warships to the eastern Mediterranean to protect him from Western forces, so that he could continue massacring his people, wouldn’t hesitate to send in troops to Ukraine, which is a more direct Russian interest.

Europe has been equally short-sighted when it comes to Iran. It has failed to understand that the nuclear weapons that the mullahs are today vowing to use to “wipe Israel off the map” can just as easily be turned on European capitals. Already now, Iran has long-range missiles that can reach London, Paris and Berlin.

Despite this, there is consensus in Europe that Tehran should be allowed to continue enriching uranium, to keep centrifuges that enable it to create fissile material for nuclear weapons and to hold on to its underground reactors. In its fear of rocking the boat, Europe is willing to allow Iran to become a threshold nuclear power that is weeks away from being able to manufacture nuclear weapons.

By avoiding tough action now, when the cost economically and to world security, is much less, Europe sets the stage for a bigger crisis tomorrow.

Similarly, playing along with the fiction that foreign troops stationed along the “Palestine”-Jordan border will be able to prevent the flow of terrorists and weapons is setting the stage for a huge crisis that could destabilize Jordan and jeopardize Israel’s security. If that happens, chalilah, then NATO will find itself meeting in useless emergency sessions, as it is today on the Ukraine crisis.

The West must learn from its mistakes and view events and leaders through less politically correct glasses. It must back Israel’s stance on firm action against Iran and on its very real security needs in any agreement with the Palestinians.

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