Now I know the Israeli Defence Forces are famous in song and legend. Humanitarian, courageous, self-sacrificing, restrained. But when the Israeli ambassador to the US told us (after almost 2,000 Palestinians had been slaughtered, most of them civilians) that the Israeli army should be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its "unimaginable restraint" in the Gaza war, I had to glance at the calendar. Was it April 1, perhaps?
The Nobel Prize for "unimaginable restraint", according to Ron Dermer, should have been solemnly handed out to an army which much of the world believes guilty of war crimes.
Oddly, I find myself more in awe of the word "unimaginable" than the "restraint", which the West always begs of Israel when it is flattening villages and cities (along with their occupants). Besides, if the Nobel Peace Prize can be awarded to Obama, why not hand the wretched thing to the IDF?
But, seriously. Is Dermer, one of Benjamin Netanyahu's most trusted advisers, simply delusional? At one point in his extraordinary address, he even referred to the RAF's carpet-bombing of German cities in the Second World War – as if this was the template for Israel's "restraint". It was like the old Blair refrain that whatever mistakes we made in Iraq, we weren't as bad as Saddam.
Well, I should hope not. But then Dermer went on: "I especially will not tolerate criticism of my country at a time when Israeli soldiers are dying so that innocent Palestinians can live."
Is the man delusional? Well, don't jump to this conclusion too fast. At the height of Israel's bombardment of Gaza two weeks ago, its embassy in Dublin posted images on its official Twitter feed of the statue of Molly Malone in Dublin's fair city – dressed in a niqab, the long black Muslim headscarf – but this was either racist or monumentally childish. Over the image were plastered the words: "Israel now, Dublin next".
In case you think this was only for Irish consumers, another picture, addressed to Paris, depicted the Mona Lisa in a hijab and holding a missile. For Italy, the Israelis provided a picture of Michelangelo's David with a skirt made of explosives.
This is surely beyond delusional. This is insane. A week earlier, the Israeli embassy in Dublin tweeted a picture of Hitler with the words "Free Palestine Now". These insulting tweets were taken down, but not before the Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, had uttered the imperishable remark that "we are now in the middle of a war and I have other things to deal with".
Well, you would have thought so, wouldn't you? But, alas, Modai, who has been a diplomat in London and the Holy See, was ambassador in Dublin more than two years ago when, at Christmas, his embassy's Facebook page carried a post which said that if Mary and Jesus were alive today they would "probably end up being lynched by hostile Palestinians".
Accompanied by a picture of Jesus and Mary, the embassy's comment read: "A thought for Christmas ... If Jesus and mother Mary were alive today, they would, as Jews without security, probably end up being lynched in Bethlehem by hostile Palestinians. Just a thought ... "
The embassy later took down the Facebook post, explaining that it was made "without the consent of the administrator of the page", and cheerfully adding: "Apologies to anyone who may have been offended. Merry Christmas!"
I personally know several Israeli diplomats, one of whom – an experienced and retired ambassador whose family champion Palestinian rights – must be appalled at this tomfoolery.
So are these ambassadors delusional? On balance, I fear not. I suspect they accurately represent a truly delusional government which is shaming the state of Israel.