The diplomacy of bullies and double-standards

Private conversation overheard over an open mike:

President 1:

I can’t stand him. He’s a liar.”

President 2:

You’re sick of him, but I have to deal with him every day.”

All spoken privately but accidentally broadcast over an open mike. President 1 was Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of state of France, and President 2 was Barack Hussein Obama, the current incumbent in the Oval Office.

There were no calls for either president to issue a public apology, despite their immature behaviour and their contemptible breach of diplomatic niceties.

Now fast-forward a couple of years.

Defence Minister:

(The Foreign Secretary) has come to us determined and is acting out of an incomprehensible obsession and a messianic feeling – (he) cannot teach me a single thing about the conflict … The only thing that can save us is if (he) wins the Nobel Prize and leaves us alone … The security plan is not worth the paper it is written on.”

All said in a private conversation eavesdropped by someone who immediately broadcast what he had overheard.

Response: Fierce insistence on an immediate, public and written apology from the Defence Minister.

The Defence Minister was Israel’s Moshe Yaalon, and the Foreign Secretary was John Kerry. The US publicly humiliated its purported close ally Israel for something that it declined to do when its own leader did exactly the same thing a couple of years earlier. That’s how bullies work.

Nobody can pretend that what Defence Minister Yaalon said was diplomatic. The problem, however, is that if it is unacceptable to even have private thoughts, then society has definitely taken a turn for the worse. Big Brother is not only watching you, he is even listening in on your private conversations and monitoring your intimate thought processes. If we are now to conduct diplomacy by gunboat – the big bullies simply using their massive overweight to crush the breath and thought processes out of everyone – then it is truly time to take stock.

The US administration has seen its policies, tactics and strategies shot out of the sky from Libya to Egypt, from Syria to Iran, from Afghanistan to Iraq, from Gaza to the disputed Jewish provinces of Judea & Samaria aka the West Bank (following Jordan’s illegal ethnic cleansing of all Jews from territory on the west bank of the River Jordan and Jordan’s subsequent occupation of the land). So it smacks of raw cynicism – some might say overt anti-Semitism – for the same US administration to focus all its ferocity on the one part of the entire Middle East that is an oasis of security, economic growth, political stability, open democracy, equal rights, free media and transparent governance: the Jewish state of Israel.

It appears that the more setbacks the US administration suffers elsewhere in the mire of political and economic insecurity engendered by its policies, the more determined it is to impose its will on the one country on which it still has some leverage: the Jewish state of Israel.

The same US administration that demanded a public apology from the Israeli Defence Minister for his rather abrupt remarks has failed to respond equally robustly to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who on Tuesday 14 January triumphantly attested that the US-led drive to accommodate Iran’s nuclear ambitions means the US and the West have “bent to Iran’s will”.

And the US response to this paragon of diplomacy?

The Iranians are describing the agreement in a certain way for their domestic audience.”

Come again? No demand for a public apology? No rebuke for the Iranian President? An Iranian leader who expresses his honest opinion is excused because that is just for domestic consumption, but an Israeli leader who expresses his honest opinion has to apologise for daring to have an opinion? What is the correct term for this? It begins with “double” and ends with “standards”…

But double-standards are what we have come to expect from an ethically foundering US administration, an administration whose moral compass seems to have been demagnetized into disparaging and abandoning its allies while at the same time supporting and encouraging its enemies.

When a day later Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif laid a wreath at the grave of Lebanese mass-murderer and arch-terrorist Imad Moughniyeh, all the US could do was muster up the following whining complaint:

The decision to commemorate an individual who has participated in such vicious acts, and whose organization continues to actively support terrorism worldwide, sends the wrong message.”

Eulogizing a mass-murderer merely “sends the wrong message”, but stating that US Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts are misguided prompts a public rebuke. Obama’s administration takes double-standards to new heights. And they say it is the Jews who invented chutzpa…

Moshe Yaalon was certainly undiplomatic in stating so openly what many both in the US and elsewhere acknowledge: that President Obama received a Nobel Peace Prize for merely winning an election. No other head of state anywhere in the world has been given this coveted award for simply succeeding in being elected. It is probably safe to say that no head of state in the democratic world would have accepted this signal honour without having first earned it. The penchant for bathing in unearned awards and other bright trinkets is usually the preserve of heads of state such as Idi Amin, the three successive heads of the North Korean regime, Libya’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, former Iraqi non-elected strongman Saddam Hussein and others. Of course President Obama is perfectly free to accept unearned awards – such is the nature (and the benefit) of living in a democracy.

But Obama’s administration is washing its hands off the mayhem that its failed policies have created in undemocratic countries and regions throughout the Middle East, while focusing solely on victimising the region’s sole democracy: the Jewish state of Israel.

Because that is what it is: victimisation. Diplomatic strong-arm victimisation carried out by bullies behind the cover of failed regional aspirations. It signals desperation to retroactively earn some of the kudos Obama prematurely received for simply accepting the keys to the White House.

Yes, the USA has traditionally supported Israel militarily and financially, and increasingly rarely even where it really matters – politically. But that is changing, fast, in a climate where the new USA is perceived as weaker in every significant respect, not least when it comes to its global political, economic, military and diplomatic clout.

The USA of today is not just a paper tiger; as Moshe Yaalon indicated, there is every reason to distrust the quality of the paper from which the current US administration is made, just as there is every reason to distrust the quality of the paper on which any US-brokered agreement is written.

The double-standards of the current US administration not only ignore real humanitarian disasters (remarkably often caused by failed US policies in the Middle East); these double-standards are actually encouraging Palestinian Arab intransigence in the one single arena in which the USA is flexing all its diplomatic muscle: peace between Israel and its Palestinian Arab neighbours.

Moshe Yaalon may not have been particularly diplomatic when he wished John Kerry would leave Israel alone to forge its own future together with its Palestinian Arab neighbours. Israel envisages a future side by side with its Palestinian Arab neighbours, while they unfortunately envisage a future where Israel is replaced by Palestine. All with the tacit understanding of the current US administration. Because the simple fact is that the US treats Palestinian Arab intransigence just as it treats Iranian intransigence: claiming it’s all just hot air, intended for domestic public consumption. According to current US administration policy everyone is entitled to let off a little steam, posture for their local electorate, pander to their domestic audiences – except the Jewish state of Israel.

The fact of the matter, however, is that every time the current US administration has meddled in the Middle East, the result has been added strife, more deaths, increasing chaos.

The time has come for Israel to take stock of who its real allies are: those nations that obstruct realistic peace and thereby encourage intransigence and strife – whether through foolishness, naiveté or a darker agenda – or those nations that are sufficiently pragmatic to recognise who they can trust and who should be avoided at all costs.

About the Author
Ilya Meyer is former deputy chair of the West Sweden branch of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association. He blogs about Israel and Sweden’s relationship with Israel at the Times of Israel and at He made his debut as a writer of political thrillers with The Hart Trilogy: "Bridges Going Nowhere" (2014), "The Threat Beneath" (2015) and "From The Shadows" (2016), where the action switches seamlessly between Samaria, Gaza, Israel and Sweden. The books are available from as ebooks and also in paperback. Work has started on a fourth book, "Picture Imperfect".
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