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Feedback loop: for Israel isolation begets isolation

By Dr Phil Leech | MEMO | January 4, 2015

2015 looks like it’s going to be a challenging year for Israel. While, with American and Australian support – and the help of rather cowardly abstentions by, among others, the BritishIsrael managed to sidestep a Palestinian/Jordanian effort at the UN Security Council that proposed a timeframe to end the occupation.

But rather than this being the end of the matter, it was out of the frying pan and potentially into the fire for Israel. In response to the failure, the PLO leadership took the long overdue step of signing the ‘Rome Statute’ and beginning the process of joining the International Criminal Court (ICC).

It is possible of course that entry to the ICC could have all sorts of negative consequences for the Palestinians themselves. Israel will certainly be prepared to counter any Palestinian efforts to use legal mechanisms to end the occupation by levelling charges of there own.

But none-the-less it is a move that at least shifts the conversation out of the well-worn rut where it’s been stuck for 20 years. In other words, one can at least hope that – finally – this is the end of a period where ‘negotiations’ based on the deeply flawed Oslo process of the 1990s is talked about as the only serious way to enact change.

The response from the Israeli elite – rather predictably – is one of aggressive indignation. In retaliation for France’s yes-vote at the Security council the French ambassador, Patrick Maisonnave, was summoned and reprimanded by the Israeli government while Netanyahu also responded by offering a convoluted condemnation of the Palestinians (essentially an absurd conflation of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and ISIS) and the promise to ‘take steps’ to defend Israeli soldiers (…whatever that means).

Isolation

While at this stage how far either the PLO or Israel will be successful in using the new forum provided by the ICC to achieve their goals remains unknown, one thing is clear, these events are likely to impact how Israel’s electorate sees themselves.

Interestingly recent polling data shows that for most Israelis, the question of the country’s growing isolation in the international system is one of serious concern. According to the poll by +972 magazine, “A strong majority, more than two to one, are worried: 30 per cent are very worried, and a total of 71 percent say they are worried” about Israel’s poor reputation in Europe and North America. Further, while there is certainly more concern for those on the self-described ‘left’ and ‘centre’, some 50% of supporters for Netanyahu’s own ruling Likud Party are also ‘worried’.

This should not really be a surprise. As I argued last week, Israel’s rightward shift has been gathering momentum for some time. Moreover the outward displays of its government’s uncompromising stance are growing harder to accept, particularly in Europe.

It is true, of course, that Europe has taken a fairly condescending line towards all sides in the conflict, without ever seriously offering any kind of meaningful alternative, for a very long time. The current dynamic between the Europeans and Israel is perhaps most vividly represented in a pretty awkward conversation that took place recently between Denmark’s Ambassador Jesper Vahr and Caroline Glick, an editor for the Jerusalem Post.

In this exchange, Vahr managed to patronise his hosts as well as insult, presumably, all Arab/Muslim majority countries in a single move. He insisted that Israel deserved to be held to a higher standard because of the shared culture with Europe (thereby implying that non-European cultures are inferior). In response to this accusation, Glick – representing Israel – angrily lectured Vahr and the audience on Israel’s exceptionalism, only to conclude with the familiar paradox that it would be anti-Semitic to note how Israel actually does enjoy an exceptional status in terms of international norms.

Though less pronounced, Israel’s stock with the Americans is also falling. A recent study of statements issued by the US State Department showed that Israel was the fourth most ‘unacceptable’ country in 2014. Further an attack by Israeli settlers on a visiting US delegation would seem to suggest that predictions that ‘Israel will lose all American Jews but the crazies‘ might not be too far off accurate. (Though the recent fawning of US congress members toward Benjamin Netanyahu would seem to suggest that there are plenty of ‘crazies’ right at the top if America’s government).

Insecurities

Glick’s example is instructive though. Her rage is somewhat reminiscent of the kind of behaviour that primary school teachers/pop-psychologists warn about: if person X is being mean, it’s probably because they’re feeling insecure. And clearly Israelis have a lot to feel insecure about in terms of selling their message internationally.

To be sure, the highest profile excesses of Israel’s emboldened right wing have caused significant friction with virtually every other state of significance in the region, including between itself and the most friendly regimes near by. There are several relevant examples of this, for instance:

Election time

Ostensibly the battle lines are already pretty obvious between the main political parties. As Diana Buttu, argued last month, there are no real ‘centrists’ in Israel, rather the main differences between the ‘right and the so-called ‘left’ – represented most prominently by a Labour-Hatnua pact – in relation to the Palestinians, is primarily over how it would be best to manage the image of the occupation, not how to end it.

Therefore one can expect Tzipi Livni et al. to condemn Netanyahu’s government for its handling of recent events, though it is likely that such condemnations will be issued for allowing Israel’s image to become so tarnished, not because the ‘left’ would have taken any more meaningful steps to actually end the occupation or otherwise normalise Israel’s status.

But even if they do make such points, most of the headlines of the pre-election cycle will likely be reserved for the kind of unreconstructed ethno-nationalism of the right wing which is largely responsible for creating the situation that Israeli is now in (and it is still ahead in the polls). If that does turn out to be the case it is likely that it will mean even more steps away from international norms, damaging Israel’s image further and making it harder and harder to row back from this damaging status quo in the long term.

In other words, Israel’s rightward shift has locked it into a feedback loop, which it is unlikely to escape, even with elections, in 2015.

January 4, 2015 - Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Continuing irresolution of the Israel-Palestine disaster is so morally wrong, utterly frustrating and cause for righteous indignation. All power to the Palestinians in their worthy efforts for long overdue freedom.

    Like

    Comment by Jerry "Peacemaker" | January 4, 2015 | Reply


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