The manner in which the government of Benjamin Netanyahu handled the American sensitivity towards the settlement issue makes one look back at the Suez war of 1956. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s decision, in collaboration with Britain and France, to invade Egypt angered and infuriated President Dwight Eisenhower and compelled Ben-Gurion to pullout of the Sinai Peninsula as well as the Gaza Strip. For his part, the Israeli leader learnt one important lesson: never to undertake any major decision, especially those concerning war, without ‘coordinating’ with Washington.
Thus since 1957, every Israeli leader kept the US in the loop when he/she undertook any major decision. This approach ensured greater freedom of action to Israel. Indeed, Democrats or Republican, no American President had ever asked for concessions more that what Israel was prepared to offer. As with friends, the dictum ‘tell me the full story and I will back you all the way’ remained the cardinal principle in the Israeli-US ties. Hence a number of Israeli actions such as the airstrike against Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osiraq in 1981, frequent military campaigns against Lebanon in the 1990s or assassinations of various Palestinian leaders never got more than a few friendly knuckles from Washington. The closest thing for a tension arose in the late 1990s when Israel was pursuing arms ties with Beijing despite protests from Washington. Forced to choose between a strategic customer and a strategic ally, Israel quietly settled for Washington.
This is no friendly fire
The decision of the British government to expel an unnamed Israeli diplomat is the new twist in the saga over the assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai on 19 January. For a country that values personal liberty and inviolability of privacy, the identity theft by those who carried out the assassination was ‘intolerable.’ In its assessment, there were ‘compelling reasons’ to conclude that ‘Israel was responsible for the misuse of the British passports’ of its citizens who currently live in Israel. Accusing Israel of resorting to forgeries of genuine passports, Foreign Secretary David Miliband warned British citizens to be careful while handing over their passports to Israeli officials.
The decision of the British government could only be the beginning of more and similar things to come. Already, other countries whose passports were misused in the Dubai operation had instituted independent probes and are seething with anger. Hence it is just a question of time before other countries, namely, Australia, France, Germany and Ireland whose citizens’ identities were used under false pretexts follow the precedent set by the British. With Israel’s relations with Washington under cloud, things can only get worse for Netanyahu.
Ugly head of xenophobia
Once again Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has put his foot in his mouth and this time over the Armenians. He told the BBC that out of the large Armenian population residing in his country only 70,000 are Turkish citizens. He then went on to observe: ‘We are turning a blind eye to the remaining 100,000… Tomorrow, I may tell these 100,000 to go back to their country, if it becomes necessary.’
The timing of Erdogan’s xenophobic outburst was horribly wrong as it came days after some western parliaments chose to depict the large-scale killing of the Armenians during the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.While international outcry eventually compelled the Islamist Prime Minister to backtrack, the damage was already done.
Only a century ago, the Ottoman Empire was the epitome of multi-religious and multi-cultural harmony and co-existence. Turkey has moved a long distance since then.
Disappointed by the Indian procrastination, Iran and Pakistan signed on 18 March a bilateral agreement towards implementing the pipeline project without Indian involvement. At least for now, the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project would stop at the Pakistani borders with no clarity on Indian participation. In recent months Iranian diplomats had publicly hinted that their country would not wait indefinitely and could conclude a bilateral deal with Pakistan. Capitalizing on the new Indian obsession, Tehran even tried to play the China card and hinted that the pipeline could bypass India and be extended to China from Pakistan.
Not to be outdone, few days after the Iran-Pakistan agreement, Indian media resurrected the much talked and costly underwater pipeline option, closer, ironically, to Pakistani waters. This they argued would be more ‘secured’ than overland pipeline through Pakistani territory. Indeed, ever since the idea was first mooted in 1989, the IPI was plagued with one problem after another. Was the IPI conceived at the most inappropriate timing and hence the endless problems?
Honorary Director of MEI
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