Israel does not have many friends in the Middle East. With just a few exceptions, it is hated by almost all of its neighbors in the region. Until recently, Israel enjoyed amicable relations with three other nations in the Middle East: Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan. Instead of Israel attempting to gain more friends in the area, it has aggravated them with an inflated sense of hubris. Israel should not undermine its national interests in order to appease its neighbors, but there is also no reason to anger its neighbors for the simple fact that they are too stubborn to work as equals with other nations.
Egypt and Israel have shared friendly relations since 1979 when Egyptian President Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel. Sadat, who was assassinated by fundamentalists in 1981, was succeeded by Mubarak, who remained in power until the revolution this spring. Mubarak upheld the peace treaty and maintained good relations with Israel, so his fall from power was definitely a concern for Israel. After Mubarak’s fall, Egypt opened up the Rafah border, allowing Palestinians to cross into Egypt, and from there, have access to Israel. After terrorists crossed into Israel from Egypt, Israeli President blamed Palestinians and sought them in Egypt, but ended up killing five Egyptian border police. This act of unilateralism and disregard for Egypt’s sovereign borders would, in many instances, ignite a war. Instead Egypt is pondering whether it should expel its Israeli diplomat, but one has to assume its previous friendly relations with Israel is over. If Israel is concerned about terrorists entering Egypt from the Gaza Strip and then attacking Israel, Israel needs to act diplomatically and work with Egypt as equals to ensure this does not happen again; attacking the Egyptian border and killing five Egyptian border police is completely inexcusable. Israel has apologized to Egypt for killing its troops, but Egypt finds it insufficient.
Israel, however, refuses to apologize to Turkey over the killing of eight Turkish nationals who attempted to bring aid to Gaza on a flotilla trip last year. Israel blockades Gaza as a “security measure,” which prevents people from delivering aid to Gaza residents, who, generally, are in major need of it. The flotilla trip was meant to deliver aid to the Gaza residents, but Israel intercepted the ships, and although almost all activists remained peaceful, Israel ended up killing eight Turkish residents and a Turkish-American resident. The UN investigated it, and let Israel off rather easy, but did say Israel was too quick to use violence. Turkey demanded an apology, but Israel — with its usual arrogance — refused. A simple apology could have let Israel off in this case, but Israel was unwilling to admit that they acted with too much force against activists simply trying to bring aid to the people in Gaza who suffer from Israel’s blockade. Turkey is also considering expelling Israel’s diplomat due to the lack of Israel’s apology for the incident.
Meanwhile, Jordan has its own issues with Israel. Jordan complained that Israel distorts history and falsely claims that the site of Jesus’s baptism is on its territory for tourist purposes, while Jordan claims it is on theirs. Jordan is also upset about Israel’s rising violence against Palestinians. Jordan has not threatened to expel Israel’s diplomat, but it is also not pleased with Israel currently, and if the resentment towards Israel boils over to Jordan, Israel may be in serious trouble. In addition, while Syria is certainly not a friend of Israel, if Assad is overthrown, there is no telling what kind of government would replace it, and what sort of chaos would ensue, but one would have to assume in the vacuum of power in Israel — if Assad is overthrown — that some arms will certainly make their way across Syria and into anti-Israeli hands. Assad is at least a stabilizing force, which Israel may lose soon.
Netanyahu has caused significant damage to Israel, both domestically and abroad, since taking office just two years ago. His hardline conservative policies have further isolated Israel from the rest of the world. Netanyahu and Israel seem content with aggravating its few friends in the region without considering the implications of it. Its attitude is reminiscent of George W. Bush’s unilateralism during the second Iraqi War; like Bush, Israel does not care who it angers. But the U.S. has enough friends, an isolated border, and enough power that it can, perhaps unfortunately, aggravate the majority of the world without receiving significant repercussions. Israel does not share those characteristics; the only thing saving it is the U.S.’s unquestionable loyalty to it. It is unclear what the U.S. gains out of this relationship, but both countries share a large conservative religious fundamentalist base that, for some reason, the U.S. feels invested in Israel’s occupation. Israel’s arrogance is a product of the U.S. over coddling it. It is under the impression that it does not need to compromise or work with its neighbors, or cooperate with the Palestinians, because it knows the U.S. will always protect it. Until the U.S. takes a firm stance against Israel, Israel will continue acting arrogantly because it has nothing to fear. Netanyahu’s refusal to give Turkey a simple apology for killing nine Turkish nationals (one being a Turkish-American) proves that Israel is too stubborn and arrogant to care what any other nation thinks. Its occupation of Palestine and violence towards Palestinians will continue until Israel begins to see themselves as equals to foreign nations.