A Moroccan friend and journalist in Casablanca, Hanane Harrath, has taught me a
powerful saying from an Australian aboriginal by the name of Lillia: “If you
have come to help me, you are wasting your time, but if you have come because
your liberation is bound up with mine, then, let’s work together.”
powerful moral statement. No liberty can come at the expense of another and no
well-being of one can come at the cost of another. We are all
This is true for the individual as well as for societies
Political leaders the world over can learn from Lillia in
Australia as they voice selfish, self-centered declarations about total
independence and their countries being fully self-sufficient and dependent on
The international reality is far more complex. All countries in
the world live in a system of interdependence for their economic development,
freedom and security.
This stems from many fundamental causes, based on
the nature of human beings and international relations:
The human being is
dependent on parents, family, neighbors, friends, colleagues and communities.
His or her identity is shaped by communication and relationships with others.
This started early on, in the Garden of Eden, between Adam and Eve. People do
not survive on their own.
In the modern world, the scope of individual
and collective connectivity has grown in an unprecedented way with the
information revolution. More than half of today’s universe is interconnected by
travel and the Internet. This process has increased the awareness of
As Chinese and Americans meet and communicate, they
understand that as far apart as they are geographically, their well-being is
interdependent. The Chinese depend on the American market and the Americans on
Chinese finances – a far cry from the days of mutual
People communicate across continents on an unprecedented
scale. One billion people belong to the “Facebook State” alone, making friends
in every corner of the world and creating cross-border communities of common
values and interests, interconnected and interdependent.
countries are less independent than the ancient empires were, despite giant
economies and massive military might. In the new international system, the
weaker links of the chain are able to inflict harm on the more powerful ones.
Osama bin Laden, from the ancient caves of Afghanistan, succeeded in launching
the most lethal attack ever on the greatest bastion of power in the heart of
Manhattan. International stability today is dependent on new balances in order
to temper antagonisms that fuel conflicts. The powerful are also dependent on
the goodwill of the weak.
At the same time, poorer and weaker nations
are dependent on the strong in the international system – for an entry ticket to
a globalized world, for aid, investment and trade. In other words, both the
strong and the weak are today interdependent.
There are major
ramifications to this new system of interdependencies:
The whole nature of
international relations has changed; no country can dictate to another anymore.
Societies do not submit to the yoke of foreign powers and do not sense
inferiority. There is a democratization of international relations, and
colonialism is dead. The place of dictating policies has been taken by
The stronger powers understand that they also need the
support of weaker countries in their international policies – the veto power is
hardly made use of anymore in the Security Council.
information revolution, and with greater democratization in the world,
international public opinion has become more relevant and important. A country’s
international image has become all-important for its international
Public opinion generally sides with the underdog.
the power base of the frail Dalai Lama in the face of gigantic China.
International public opinion exposes increasingly universal values related to
respect of human rights; countries are no longer dependent only on their own
constituencies, but also on their world image.
The international system
used to be unipolar or bipolar, with the leadership of the United States and the
Today it is multipolar, with many leading countries, as
might is not measured anymore just by militaries, but also by economies
(Germany), brain power (Japan), population (China and India), land (Russia),
academic institutions and the private sector (the United States) and cultural
expression (Brazil and South Africa). The international system today is more
defined by an array of relationships in various walks of life.
Economies are not dominated anymore by domestic assets alone. They cannot
survive on full self-reliance; they depend on international trade, tourism,
financial markets, investments, modern communication, aid, loans, regional
development, etc. Economies, from the most powerful to the weakest, have become
interconnected and interdependent, with the European Union setting the best
Security also cannot be achieved on a purely national level,
as threats have been globalized, such as with international terror and nuclear
proliferation. Collective security is essential through shared intelligence,
military alliances, technological exchanges and joint use of power; NATO is the
best case in point.
Diplomacy in the era of more diffused power is
Diplomacy, once known as “the eye, ear and mouth” of
states, is not anymore about just expressing the characteristics and interests
of a state. It is about international coalition-building in favor of common
interests and in the face of common dangers. No power is strong enough to act on
its own; collective diplomacy is necessary, such as against the threat of
Iranian nuclear armament. The United States is therefore actively involved in
convincing Russia and China to come on board. Modern diplomacy is collective
diplomacy among interdependent countries.
International relations have
been reformed due to greater interdependence, moving away from imposing policies
based on balances of power, and toward greater collective action in the
international economy, security and diplomacy against the backdrop of world
There is an important lesson in this for Israel,
especially on the eve of the visit of President Obama:
The days are over where
we could solely rely on the United States.
It remains our strongest and
best ally, but America, too, for its own interests, is dependent on the views
and policies of other powers and countries. It is in need of Russia and China
for Iran and Syria, of the European Union for collective diplomacy, of the
pragmatic Arab countries for regional stability. Obama is a champion of
collective diplomacy. Cooperating with the United States on our interests is
also to take their international interests into consideration. Part of our ethos
is to rely only on ourselves, our might and capacity.
It is very
understandable, given Jewish history, but unrealistic. We are, as other
countries, independent and sovereign, but we are also, as other countries,
dependent on others for our well-being and security.
The world today is
run by collective diplomacy and we must be part of it. We cannot, despite the
prime minister’s bravado, confront Iran’s nuclear program by ourselves. We must
cooperate with the international coalition under American leadership.
To be part of the American-led international efforts, we must regain the respect
of the progressive parts of the international community and improve our image in
world public opinion. That means to regain the moral high ground of real
democracy and respect for human rights. This is also true for our Arab
Israel’s security is today strongly linked to regional
security and stability.
With Hezbollah and al-Qaida to the North, and
Hamas and al-Qaida to the South, we have to work for regional security and
anti-terror cooperation, mainly with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. Middle Eastern
turmoil will affect us all, and together we have to deal with root causes and
symptoms. In this region, we are, as in all regions, interdependent.
Key to these Israeli strategies in an interdependent world is a viable peace
process with the Palestinians. That is a prerequisite for necessary regional and
international support. Yet it goes deeper into our very being and identity.
Without an independent Palestine in the West Bank and Gaza, there is no Jewish
democracy, and without Israel, there will be no Palestinian state. This is an
existential interdependence. It is a result of the demographic reality between
the Sea and the River, but also of political and moral considerations. We, like
others today, need the international community on our side, at least the leading
And much of the world expects progress on Israeli-Palestinian
Above all, our freedom and independence cannot come at the cost of
our Palestinian neighbors’ freedom and independence, as their state will never
survive at the expense of Israel. Ruling another people means losing control of
yourself. Our economies and security are intertwined, also regionally. We cannot
remain an island of wealth in a sea of poverty and must create with the
Palestinians an architecture of regional relations and
Interdependence does not weaken and diminish sovereignty. It
strengthens it in a more interconnected family of nations, or in Lillia’s words,
“our liberties are bound together, let’s work together.”The writer is
president of the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator
for the Oslo Accords. This column was edited by Barbara Hurwitz.