Monday, September 20, 2010

Israel: Not SO Isolated

Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, asks Is Israel More Isolated than Ever?

And he comes to the conclusion that it is not.

While it is true that back in 1973, Israel was faced with a number of countries that severed relations--since 1991, diplomatic relations have turned around and in fact countries have established or upgraded their relations with Israel:
For example, all states within the Soviet orbit, in former Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, as well as most African and Asian states opted for diplomatic relations. Significantly, rising powers such as China and India, and pivotal states such as Russia, Turkey, and Nigeria decided to have full diplomatic relations with Israel, which have been maintained ever since.

Generally, states facing the challenges of terrorism and/or radical Islam, mostly a post-1991 phenomenon, seek cooperation with Israel. The Jewish state has much to offer in the area of intelligence and tactical and doctrinal counter-terrorism. Because of the growing Islamist threat, the number of states seeking security relations with the Jewish state is on the rise. There are many countries that fall into this category, and the Israeli-Palestinian intractable conflict hardly deters them from useful interactions with Israel.
On the one hand--since 1991, the challenges of terrorism have led some countries to look to Israel and on the other hand, the threat of a nuclear Iran has put Arab differences with Israel vis-a-vis the issue of a Palestinian state on the back burner. As a result:
Israel also has cordial and fruitful relations with Muslim states that emerged from the dissolution of the Soviet Empire. Israeli presence is well felt in states such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Muslim identity of these populations and their elites does not hinder relations with Jerusalem in areas important to their national interests. Their sensitivity to the imagined or real misfortunes of the Palestinians is very low.
In the East, Countries that do not carry anti-Semitic baggage also not only do not have a problem with Israel, but also find that they have things in common:
A high level of friendship toward Israel and the Jewish people characterizes the two most populous and dynamic states on the world scene – India and China – rising powers in every sense of the word. Both are old civilizations that have not been burdened by anti-Semitic baggage, like Europe. They treat the Jewish State with reverence as they see in it a similar old civilization that has had remarkable achievements. Most Asian countries, even if they vote against Israel in international forums, have a similar attitude. Likewise, countries on the Pacific Rim, an area that has gained international significance, are usually pro-Israel. South Korea and Australia are prime examples. Sub-Saharan African countries also contain very pro-Israel circles for a variety of reasons.
Of course, there are a number of countries in Europe where anti-Semitism exists and is even growing, but even there a distinction can be made:
Belgium, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden, in particular, display anti-Israeli positions bordering on anti-Semitism. Fortunately, none are core European states. Some European universities have become unpleasant places for Israelis, and a large portion of the European intelligentsia is intuitively anti-Israel, even denying Israel’s right to exist. It is also true that much of the elite European media is hysterically biased against Israel.

At the same time France, Germany, and Italy (the power centers of the European Union) are ruled nowadays by leaders that have a soft spot for Israel. Influential pockets of strong pro-Israeli sentiment are still present in all Western European states. Some even view Israel’s struggle as a vanguard of their own beleaguered Western civilization, threatened by moral relativism and Islamic fanaticism. The growing fears of Muslim immigration in the Old Continent provide an important corrective on the prism of Israel.
Going a step further, there are the international forums where Israel fares badly. Even here, Inbar finds reason if not for optimism, at least not excessive pessimism--though things are bad, they have not gotten worse. He points to Israel's acceptance into the OECD as proof of this. I suppose he is able to maintain this 'optimism' by limiting himself to just one passing reference to the Goldstone Report and the Gaza flotilla.

One could argue that in fact while a number of countries may have established ties with Israel, those which want to isolate her through international forums have in fact gained strength and have become more successful. The Goldstone Report was in fact a major blow against Israel. The control of the UN and its agencies by the Arab countries and their allies maintains a serious threat.

Having diplomatic friends and allies is a big improvement over the 1970's, but it remains to be seen how Israel and its allies are able to respond to the growing influence of the Arab coalitions and their influence.

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