July 13, 2024
Netanyahu Should Talk to European Nationalists
Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Jerusalem, Israel on July 19, 2018. (Image source: Kobi Gideon, Israel Government Press Office)
Pictured: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in Jerusalem, Israel on July 19, 2018. (Image source: Kobi Gideon, Israel Government Press Office)

Critics of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu argue that he should never speak to European nationalists because European nationalism often goes hand in hand with anti-Semitism.

Ironically (or perhaps hypocritically) many of these same critics urged Israeli prime ministers to speak to Yasser Arafat and other terrorist leaders who have advocated and practiced the murder of Jews. What is the difference? In both cases elected leaders have to hold their collective noses to speak to other leaders of whose ideologies and actions they strongly disapprove. But when you are the leader of a country, pragmatic realpolitik must often prevail over pure ideology.

Recall the grimace on the face of Yitzhak Rabin when President Clinton urged him to shake the hand of Yasser Arafat, a man who was personally responsible for ordering the murder of Israeli children, women and men. When I subsequently discussed this with Rabin, he said that his hand was shielded by the velvet glove of diplomacy. The left praised Rabin, as well they should have. But many of the same people now condemn Netanyahu for extending the same velvet glove of diplomacy to extreme European nationalists.

There are lines, of course, that no one should ever cross even with the protection of a velvet glove. But if that line was not crossed with Arafat, it certainly is not being crossed with Viktor Orbán and other nationalist leaders. The line cannot be based on the whether the alleged villain is right-wing, left-wing, Muslim or Christian. It must be a line based on objective factors.

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