Critics of the current Israeli government, both domestic and external, waste no
opportunity charging it with causing the Jewish state’s isolation.
the reality could not be further from the truth, as Israel is making stunning
headway in its diplomatic, trade and bilateral relations.
Perhaps if one
was to rely on New York Times
columnist Tom Friedman, one could be excused for
believing Israel is “adrift at sea alone,” while there is certainly no shortage
of critics in Israel only too eager to assign blame to Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
But is this really the
case? Take the three flagship events of 2011 designed to illustrate the Jewish
state’s isolation: the Palestinians’ bid for unilateral statehood at the UN, the
second Gaza Flotilla and “Durban III.” All were spectacular flops.
UN Security Council, the Palestinian Authority could not even muster the nine
votes required to force the US to exercise its veto.
The Flotilla ended
up being more like a rubber ducky, as it was prevented from even leaving port in
Greece. Durban III was another overwhelming failure, as 14 leading democracies
In his speech before the UN General Assembly last year, Prime
Minister Netanyahu referred to the UN as “a hall that for too long has been a
place of darkness for my country.” Notwithstanding, Israel has still sought to
shine its light of humanity for all alike. Its success, maybe nothing newsworthy
for most countries, has been nothing short of spectacular for
Only two weeks ago, for the first time in history, Israel joined
the executive board of the UN Development Program, a body endowed with a $1
billion budget for allocating resources in health, welfare, women’s empowerment
and poverty alleviation to developing countries.
Last year, Israel was
also elected to the governing council of UN Habitat and accepted into the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European
Organization for Nuclear Research.
And just this week, Israel was elected
vice-chair and rapporteur of the important UN Committee on Non- Governmental
Organizations, which reviews prospective NGOs seeking accreditation by the UN
(many of which exist for no other purpose than to attack the Jewish
Israel’s bilateral relations have also flourished.
one could read The Economist
magazine and assume that Israel’s supposed
“isolation” has been “underlined by the deterioration of its relations with
Turkey and Egypt.” Never mind that under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey has taken an increasingly Islamist path, aligning itself with
Ahmadinejad’s Iran and terrorist groups like Hamas, or that the Egyptian Spring
has brought to power the Muslim Brotherhood.
Regrettable as these
developments are, they aren’t Israel’s doing.
More relevantly, under the
guidance of the current leadership of the Foreign Ministry, Israel’s bilateral
achievements have gone from strength to strength.
Israel now has more
embassies and consulates overseas than ever before.
Trade with China and
India are at record highs, while Israel has cultivated important economic and
defense relations with EU states like Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Greece,
Cyprus and Bulgaria.
Relations have also improved with a number of
African countries, including the newest state, South Sudan, while Canada has
become the undisputed champion and supporter of Israel on the world
All these achievements, however, did not happen overnight. They
are the direct result of a concerted strategy by the Foreign Ministry to improve
Israel’s public standing in the global community.
Some of these policies,
for example, involve devoting more attention to countries in Central and Eastern
Europe, Asia and Latin America, which were previously neglected under a policy
that was too heavily United States-centric.
Although resolving the
conflict with Palestinians is important in its own right, no longer does this
define the Israel “brand,” as the government has made a deliberate effort to
focus more on positive aspects, such as its hi-tech, health and agricultural
know-how and advancements. Social media, the marketing gateway of today, has
been critical to this, as the Foreign Ministry has taken advantage of this
medium to reach out to a whole new audience on a mass scale.
focus and prominence has also been given to MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for
International Development and Cooperation, run under the auspices of the Foreign
Through MASHAV, Israel was able to immediately dispense
humanitarian aid and assistance to Haiti after their earthquake in 2010, and
tsunami-ravaged Japan in 2011, as well as numerous other disaster-relief efforts
throughout the world.
The government has also partnered with civil
society organizations to tackle some principal challenges facing the Jewish
state. For example, if August 2010, for the first time ever, the Foreign
Ministry brought several hundred lawyers from around the world to Jerusalem to
discuss legal challenges in Israeli policy and advocacy.
Prior to the
Palestinian approach to the UN for a unilateral declaration of statehood in
September 2011, there was no shortage of pundits predicting Israel would face a
Instead, Israel has ridden wave after wave of
success, clearly belying the oft-quoted narrative that the Jewish state is
“totally isolated” and “adrift alone at sea.”
Just to be clear, Israel
still has many enemies seeking to delegitimize and isolate the state. And while
there are many legitimate criticisms to be made of the government’s public
diplomacy, we must also acknowledge that these successes would not have been
possible without the effort, foresight and leadership of the government, and in
particular the Foreign Ministry.The writer is a Research Fellow at the
Hudson Institute, where his focus is Israel and the UN. He is also a
member of the World Jewish Diplomatic Corps and previously served as a foreign
policy adviser to a Member of Knesset.