Exposing the Myth of Israel’s ‘Isolation’
Many critics of the current Israeli government, both domestic and external, waste no opportunity charging it with causing the Jewish state’s isolation.
Claims that Israel is ‘totally isolated’, has become some kind of reflexive cause célèbre.
Yet the reality could not be further from the truth.
Take just last Monday alone.
In the space of 24 hours, Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu met the new Egyptian Ambassador (the first after a three year absence), with relations between Jerusalem and Cairo being at a recent all-time high.
The Prime Minister also announced a trip to Kenya and Africa (following the Kenyan President’s very successful visit here last week).
Speaking of Africa, the Knesset launched a new Israel-Africa caucus seeking to strengthen ties with Israel, with Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed saying that most African countries “see Israel as a very close friend.”
There also happened to be a senior delegation visiting from the Bundestag, as well as the Italian Defense minister.
Furthermore, by all reports, Israel and Turkey are now also on the verge of normalizing diplomatic relations, with a formal announcement expected any day.
And all this just in the space of 24 hours.
To be sure, Israel is not without its challenges.
Relations with EU are perennially strained, most recently over the labeling issue, while attempts to boycott Israel, especially in Europe, still persist. The United Nations continues to single out the Jewish State, however that’s not exactly breaking news. Campuses present many challenges. And relations with the Obama Administration are less than ideal, albeit bilateral and military relations are strong and the U.S. continues to provide important diplomatic cover on the international stage.
But at the same time, the roof is not exactly caving down and Israel is not, as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman claimed “adrift at sea alone.”
In addition to some of the above examples, there are many others significant diplomatic achievements that Israel can point to.
Trade relations with India, China and Japan are at record high, with Israel’s burgeoning relations with India being a particular source of pride. Prime Minister Modi is even expected to visit Israel later this year, which would follow hot on the heels of high-level recent visits by India’s President and Foreign Minister.
The Governments of key allies Britain and Canada have just strongly denounced the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Movement, as has the EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini. At the same time, state after state in the U.S. are lining up to do likewise.
In addition to an imminent normalization in diplomatic ties with Turkey, Israel has also forged a close strategic relationship with Greece and Cyprus, buoyed by a shared interest in energy resources.
Israel also continues to enjoy strong diplomatic relations with Germany, one of our closest allies in Europe and where senior members of the Israeli government recently holding a government-to-government meeting in Berlin, headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Chancellor Merkel.
Even relations with Russia are extraordinarily close, given the countries’ mutual interest regarding the situation in Syria.
Meantime, the Palestinians have been unable to point to any significant victory on the international stage, with their attempts to use legal, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Israel being largely thwarted.
Gone is the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all the region’s ills, supplemented by the realization that militant Islam, as evidenced by the twin threats of ISIS and a nuclear Iran are the real unifying challenges of our time.
Perhaps most importantly however, it is this threat of militant Islam that has been the impetus to a growing bond between Israel and Sunni Arab states, who are increasingly looking upon Israel as an ally in this battle.
All these achievements did not happen overnight and are all the more remarkable given that Israel has gone a year now without a full-time Foreign Minister, with Prime Minister Netanyahu having assumed that role. These results are however the direct result of a concerted strategy by the Foreign Ministry and the Government of Israel over the last five or so years to improve Israel’s public standing in the global community.
Some of these policies, for example, involve devoting more attention to countries in Asia, Africa and elsewhere in our region that were previously neglected under a policy that was too heavily EU and United States-centric.
Although resolving the conflict with Palestinians remains a top priority in its own right, no longer does this define the Israel ‘brand’, with the key element to the Jewish state’s success being able to successfully extricate ‘the conflict’ from its bilateral relations, by focusing more on positive aspects of Israel’s story, such as its hi-tech and innovation, which are increasingly being sought after around the world.
Again, Israel is certainly not without its challenges, but at the same time, there is also much to be proud of, clearly belying the oft-quoted myth that the Jewish state is ‘totally isolated’ or ‘adrift alone at sea.’
* Arsen Ostrovsky is a Middle East and Foreign Policy Analyst based in Israel. You can follow him on Twitter: @Ostrov_A