2017: Israel’s Year of Diplomatic Triumph

Jan. 29 2018

From West Africa to Australia and from France to Colombia, the Jewish state has managed over the past year to improve its ties with friendly nations and forge new bonds with countries that had once been hostile, or at least chilly. Benjamin Netanyahu’s official visit to India, and American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, are but the most recent such developments. To Eran Lerman, the example of Singapore is especially instructive:

In the past, the robust relationship between Israel and Singapore was formed by the security sector and was predominantly conducted in secret. (IDF officers, under the guise of “Mexican instructors,” were involved in building the small island nation’s ability to defend itself since its earliest days). Israel’s President Chaim Herzog’s visit in 1986 nearly sparked a military confrontation between Singapore and its Muslim neighbor Malaysia. Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin’s visit in 1993 was abrupt and unofficial.

[By contrast], the Israeli president Reuven Rivlin’s participation in the [2015] funeral of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew—one of the greatest statesmen of the previous century—raised no objections. In April of 2016, Lee Hsien Loong (his son, who today serves as prime minister) came to Israel for a visit that was the first of its kind. He even publicly addressed the issue of security assistance and the depth of the ties between the two countries. This new and overt stage in the relations between the two countries manifested itself by the time Netanyahu made his reciprocal visit.

Lerman explains what he sees as the reasons for the recent diplomatic moves, and their limitations:

The emerging transformation of attitudes toward Israel is founded, first and foremost, on an ever-widening recognition of the nature and severity of the common strategic challenge which totalitarian Islamism poses to many of the world’s countries. Along with this comes the growing appreciation of the benefits offered by a closer partnership with Israel in a variety of fields, including security and economics, innovation, and technology.

It is also easier to associate with Israel today due to Israel’s prudent management of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel’s strategy of measured and low-key response to Palestinian provocations is proving to be a wise, long-term strategic approach. . . .

Of course, Israel’s diplomatic hardships are not yet a thing of the past. Israel’s positions on the Palestinian issue and on the future of Jerusalem have not been well received in Europe, including by close allies like Germany. The automatic majority against Israel in the UN General Assembly, even if it has been reduced, still exists. Russia’s policy in Syria and its close ties to Iran are troubling. The BDS movement is still active, and has scored occasional successes.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy, Terrorism

 

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times