In the past, prime ministers would react with scorn and contempt to the UN and European resolutions against Israel. "Um-Shmum," David Ben-Gurion said angrily (um is the Hebrew acronymic pronunciation for 'UN', and the 'shm'-prefix signifies contempt or irony). "Those anti-Semites," Yitzhak Rabin said of the Europeans. And Menachem Begin said after the Sabra and Shatila massacre: "What does the world want from us? The Arabs kill each other and they blame the Jews."
It appears that Europe's concerted onslaught on the Netanyahu government following its decision to build thousands of housing units in the territories cannot be erased with a few slogans. Israel is experiencing a reality it has never experienced before: Europe is going to set a price tag for the country's conduct in the territories. No less.
A senior European official told me this week that a new era is upon us: No more of the usual and expected condemnations and expressions of concern after every decision on additional construction in the West Bank. From now on, the official said, the Israelis will feel the price of their leaders' decisions.
The European countries plan to impose sanctions on the Israeli government: Freezing agreements, labeling items that are manufactured in the settlements and lowering the level of diplomatic relations.
"In the aftermath of the decision to upgrade the Palestinians' status in the UN to that of a non-member observer state, Netanyahu acted like the leader of a criminal gang, not like the prime minister of a country that is a member of the world body," the European official said. "We were shocked by the decision to build (more housing units beyond the Green Line). It shows that all of Netanyahu's statements regarding the two-state solution idea are meaningless."
It is safe to say that the Washington is encouraging Europe's conduct. The White House authorized Europe to punish Netanyahu's government. This has nothing to do with Netanyahu's behavior during the US elections. The Obama administration realizes that a way must be found to jumpstart the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and reach an agreement.
Remember when Netanyahu threatened to launch a ground offensive in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense, even though he never intended to actually do it? This situation is similar. Netanyahu does not plan to change the policies of his predecessors, who assured the Americans Israel would not build even one house in problematic areas. The difference is that this time Israel will pay for the irresponsible statements of its leaders. The bill will be presented to us - the citizens.