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A satirical Ikea guide to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis


Last week, top Israeli and Swedish diplomats engaged in a heated spat following Sweden's decision to recognize Palestine as a state. Ambassadors were scolded and withdrawn, and pointed barbs were flung in both directions.

"The Swedish government needs to understand that relations in the Middle East are more complicated than a piece of furniture from Ikea that you assemble at home," said Israel's hawkish Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. The quip seemed to echo Israel's patronizing comments earlier this year, when an Israeli official labeled Brazil a "diplomatic dwarf" for condemning Israeli operations in the besieged Gaza Strip.

But Lieberman's Swedish counterpart was ready with a riposte.

"I will be happy to send Israel FM Lieberman an IKEA flat pack to assemble," said Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. "He'll see it requires a partner, cooperation and a good manual."

The exchange got picked up on social media. Karl Sharro, a London-based Lebanese blogger known for his biting political wit, made the following intervention on Twitter.

The satirical map, done in the form of the Swedish furniture manufacturer's cartoonish guides, offers a critical take of current Israeli actions that's being echoed in the international community.

The Obama administration, as WorldViews discussed, is frustrated with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expanding plans for settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, areas most countries consider to be occupied Palestinian territory.

That has been compounded by the increasing certainty that many in Netanyahu's government, including prominent allies such as Lieberman and Naftali Bennett, Israel's minister of the economy, have no interest in allowing the two-state solution for a separate Israel and Palestine to ever come into fruition.

Meanwhile, tensions in Jerusalem are reaching boiling point. On Wednesday, a Palestinian with suspected ties to Islamist group Hamas rammed a minivan into a crowd on a Jerusalem train platform and then assaulted bystanders with a tire iron, killing one, before being shot dead by police. Later in the day, another vehicle, which Israeli officials say had a Palestinian license plate, rammed into crowd of soldiers, injuring three. A similar attack two weeks before led to two deaths, including a 3-month-old infant who was a U.S. citizen.

At the same time, Israel's settlement expansions have fueled unrest in East Jerusalem and led to violent clashes between Palestinian youth and Israeli security forces. Many fear the specter of a third Intifada. Last week's brief closure of the holy al-Aqsa mosque on Temple Mount inflamed passions and prompted Jordan to withdraw its ambassador from Israel. On Wednesday, the Jordanian foreign minister deemed the mosque closure a "red line" that Israel had crossed.

For some Israelis, Jerusalem's status -- and that of much of the West Bank -- is a foregone conclusion. "Israel cannot withdraw from more territory and cannot allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank," Bennett, who leads an Israeli political party that draws considerable support from settlers, wrote in Wednesday's New York Times.

In his piece, Bennett outlined an alternative vision for the region where Palestinian enclaves, shorn of control over their own borders and increasingly encircled by Israeli settlements, would be given more autonomy. Israel's security concerns require maintaining this sort of authority and refusing to allow the Palestinians to build up their own military, Bennett argues.

It's a proposal that will move no one on the Palestinian side, which sees the profusion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a fundamental impediment to the viability of any Palestinian state. Critics have already compared Bennett's suggestion to the "bantustans" of apartheid-era South Africa.

In this context, Sharro's joke image is a rather grim illustration. It depicts Israel's overwhelming military might and its penchant to bulldoze Palestinian homes. Absent, others would note, is a depiction of Hamas terror attacks on Israeli civilians.

But perhaps the starkest "instruction" is that of the man approaching the West Bank with a saw. However the land gets carved up, it will be hard to ever make the region whole.