The Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced on Nov. 29 that Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered a “reassessment” of the extent to which Israel will enable European Union involvement in issues relating to the diplomatic process with the Palestinians. The move followed the reprimand ("Demarche") delivered by the Foreign Ministry two weeks ago to the EU’s ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, over the EU’s decision to label products manufactured in the settlements and marketed in its member states. At that same meeting to which he was summoned, Faaborg-Andersen was informed that Israel had decided to cancel a series of diplomatic consultations that had been planned for the coming weeks between the sides.
On reading this reaction, it is hard to decide whether to cry or simply take offense. To cry, because an attempt by a small state in the Middle East to punish Europe for a decision supported by 16 European foreign ministers and overwhelmingly adopted by the European Parliament (by a vote of 525 to 70) brings to mind the miserable fellow who cut off his nose to spite his face. Also to cry, because the decision to keep the EU away from a “peace process with the Palestinians” is akin to a decision to distance Europe from a diplomatic process between Israel and Syria. Both these processes are equally far-fetched. To take offense, because the reactions to the decision illustrate the politicians’ contempt for Israelis’ reading comprehension. The man who presumes to lead them assumes they cannot tell the difference between boycotting products and labels specifying where they are made.