The prime minister had a busy week. We were taking notes.
1. We could destroy Al-Aqsa — if we wanted to
Netanyahu dedicated a good part of the past few months to swearing up and down that Palestinians are inciting violence by suggesting that Israel, Israelis or Israeli rule threatens Islam’s third-holiest site, Haram al-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Ignoring, of course, that members of his own government regularly incite against Al-Aqsa.)
And then there was this.
“If the Jews wanted to destroy Al-Aqsa it wouldn’t take much effort, not at all,” the prime minister told party members in a closed meeting. “But that goes against what we stand for.” Hebrew.)
To be clear, Netanyahu was saying that Israel has no intention of destroying Al-Aqsa. But there is probably a far more calming (read: less crazy) way of doing so than saying that it wouldn’t be very hard to destroy Al-Aqsa.
2. Freezing Europe out of … wait a minute, there’s a peace process?
After years of threatening, last month the EU finally issued guidelines for labeling exports from Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank.
To formulate a response, Netanyahu convened a special one-man working group consisting of Israel’s prime minister, foreign minister, minister of communications, minister of economy, minister of health, and minister of regional affairs. (Spoiler: All of those ministers are named Benjamin Netanyahu.)
The special forum of ministers had a difficult task: find a way to “punish” Europe without actually doing anything — or at least anything anybody cares about.
So what did Ministers Netanyahu come up with, you ask? He/they decided to freeze the EU out of the peace process.
Yup. You heard that correctly. Israel’s retribution against the EU for correctly labeling the origin of consumer products was — to temporarily suspend contacts with the EU over a process that does not exist, and which Brussels was never even a part of.
3. Yeah, we bomb Syria every once in a while
Everybody knows that Israel bombs Syria from time to time, but most of us are forbidden by the military censor from saying as much out loud. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t give a single ****.
Eight years ago, when Ehud Olmert was prime minister and Netanyahu was a lowly opposition leader, Israel bombed a nascent nuclear reactor in Syria (according to foreign reports, as I’m legally required to say). The Israeli government’s strategy for avoiding an escalation at the time was not acknowledging the military operation at all. If Jerusalem didn’t acknowledge the attack, logic went, it might not embarrass President Bashar al-Assad, an embarrassment that might have forced him to retaliate.
Screw that, Netanyahu said. He went on state-owned television and confirmed Israel was behind the attack. Olmert was furious. “Bibi’s slip of the tongue borders on national irresponsibility. Once again Netanyahu couldn’t restrain himself and he ran to tell the guys,” now-felon-but-then-prime minister Olmert was quoted as saying at the time.
Under Netanyahu’s watch, Israel has continued to bomb Syria relatively frequently. But such attacks are rarely discussed, and almost never with any direct acknowledgement. That is, until this week. Now that everybody is bombing Syria, why should Israel be the only one to keep quiet?
So, “We operate in Syria from time to time,” Netanyahu let loose in Acre, the city that embarrassingly derailed Napoleon’s arrogant drive into Syria.