The optimist in me would like to think that at the end of the day, despite our differences a shared sense of humanity can bring us together. Unfortunately, people like Benjamin Netanyahu only feed my much larger internal pessimist.
The Prime Minister of Israel did not attend Nelson Mendala’s funeral citing the exorbitant expenses of the trip.
But, before we get into Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu’s political snafu with Mandela’s funeral, it’s important to understand Mandela’s involvement in both national and international conflict.
Mandela’s struggle to end apartheid in South Africa is one that will never be forgotten. His death in December of last year reminded the world of his fight that eventually led him to become President of South Africa, bringing equality to a nation that had been plagued with injustice.
Mandela was a beacon of hope worldwide for those who, to this day, live with injustice. He urged the resolution of conflicts worldwide including the Israel and Palestine conflict, amongst many. However, in this situation Mandela was known to have sympathized with the Palestinians. In an address on the International Day of Solidarity with Palestinians, Mandela said, “But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”
Let’s fast forward to December of 2013.
Mandela’s funeral was held in South Africa, and with the exception of a few like the Dalai Lama and Benjamin Netanyahu, world leaders flocked from near and far to pay their respects. While the exact reasons for the Dalai Lama’s absence is not clear, he has been denied a visa to South Africa many times in the past, which makes it impossible to attend a funeral there.
Netanyahu’s office cited cost concerns as his reason for not attending Mandela’s funeral, which is truly fascinating to me. Netanyahu’s office spent $127,000 on accommodations for him to fly to London to attend Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. The state of Israel also paid $3,000 a year on ice cream for his office. Why one office would possibly spend $3,000 dollars on ice cream is beyond me. I’m more of a frozen yogurt person.
And guess whose money Netanyahu is using for ice cream? Taxpayer money, the taxpayers of Israel. I don’t know what I was expecting, after all they did learn from the best.
Evidently, Netanyahu could not care less about travel costs. Once his office stops spending almost $2,000 on scented candles, then maybe a lack of funds will slide as a legitimate excuse.
Simply telling the world that Mandela was amongst “the greatest figures of our time” holds absolutely no weight when you are absent at his funeral. Words are empty; actions give you credibility.
By not attending, Netanyahu actually backs himself further into a corner. Not attending the funeral for a leader who has called you out on the policies of your country obviously relays dissent with that opinion. But that also exhibits a child-like reaction to the problem. Avoiding it won’t solve anything.
Alternatively, attending gives the impression that you believe the selfless actions that Mandela took for his country are justified.
It proves that despite Mandela’s opposition to Netanyahu’s handling of the Palestinian situation, he respects Mandela enough to attend his funeral, despite personal qualms, which will show Netanyahu’s confidence in what he stands for.
Confidence is tested by your ability to stand by your beliefs in the face of criticism. It was the perfect opportunity to convey that to the world, instead of refusing to attend the funeral as a political play. Not attending only uncovers Netanyahu’s weakness: his overconfidence in his own policies in regards to the Palestinians.
Mandela’s funeral was bigger than the Israel and Palestine conflict and Netanyahu’s absence at his funeral was a mistake that did nothing but hurt his reputation. And you can’t salvage that with ice cream.
Aliza Asad is a second-year international studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Filed Under: Opinion