The dueling videos of Israel’s raid on the flotilla heading for Gaza – from the Israeli and from the activists’ sides – are being viewed by millions and influencing public opinion worldwide. America’s pro-Israel groups must pay close attention to the video phenomenon, the condemnation of Israel’s action by many governments, the effort to get all members of the UN Security Council – especially Russia and China – on board for a fourth round of Iran sanctions, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty conference’s final resolution last month in which 189 countries singled out Israel, and the US’s National Security Strategy issued last month. These developments must signal pro-Israel groups – including the one I head, The Israel Project – that it’s time to change course.
When world leaders are condemning Israel first and asking questions later and the “Dean” of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, says that Israelis should go back to Poland and Germany, it is tempting to burry our heads in our hands and simply say “the world is against us and it will always be the case”. But that is simply not the truth. As Herzl said, “Im Tirzu, ein zu agada” (if you dream it, it can be). Nobody wanted the flotilla incident to end the way it did. However, now is NOT the time for silence or despair.
So we ask the question: What can we DO about it? Or, what MUST we DO about it? Inaction in not an option. And we can’t keep doing the things we have been doing. They’re simply not working. We must change.
For decades the underlying assumption informing most activities in the pro-Israel community has been that only the US-Israel relationship really matters. That is no longer valid.A strong US-Israel relationship is necessary, but not sufficient for
The world order is rapidly changing. China is America's banker. Greece's debt causes a steep decline in stock exchanges worldwide. America has 186,000 soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Countries including China, India and Brazil crave energy to fuel their economic growth. Events and policies in numerous countries affect Israel. These include Security Council members – particularly Russia and China on Iran and nuclear issues – and Arab and Muslim states.
President Barack Obama is viewing American foreign policy and national interest through the twin prism of globalization, which is referred to twice in the first paragraph of his introduction to the new White House National Security Strategy document, and international cooperation. Globalization, the president writes, has “opened the doors of opportunity, but “has also intensified the dangers we face – from international terrorism and the spread of deadly technologies, to economic upheaval and a changing climate. The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone,” the document declares.
“America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation.” The introduction states that America’s “strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home” and that “we will build new and deeper partnerships in every region.”
THESE ARE the tenets that now guide American foreign policy. They shape America’s relations with Israel and the Arab world, and its approach to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Time and again, Obama and members of his administration have declared their commitment to a two-state solution, saying it is in America’s interest. These tenets indicate that, in dealing with Israel, the US will consider the impact of its policies, actions and statements on its need for positive outcomes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on the need for good relations with Russia, China and the other UN Security Council members. Though the US is the world’s only superpower, our country is not as powerful as it was last century.
The pro-Israel community must internalize these new realities. Given these and the daunting challenges Israel faces, including a prism where the kind of Palestinian state (i.e. peaceful vs. an Iranian-backed “Hamastan”) matters immensely to its security, we must adapt and change the way we do business. We as a community continue doing things right, but are not doing the right things. Our strategies are outdated, akin to shining the chrome on a broken model-T instead of getting a new car to take us where we need to go.
Unfortunately, some in the pro-Israel community still want to use the
models that do not work in the new order. Some pray for an Obama defeat
that will bring back the old order. But no matter who wins elections, it
is not coming back.
Tom Friedman was wrong when he declared the world was flat; that would
imply a beginning and an end. Quite the opposite is true. The world is
very much the globe it is – where something happening on any side of the
planet can go around and almost immediately affect the other side.
Pro-Israel groups, therefore, must grasp the new order and craft new
strategies. Developing robust programs for China and Russia – which can
each veto Security Council resolutions – has become critically
Russia is a member of the Quartet road map for peace (along with the US,
EU and UN), and wants to be a major player in the peace process. It is
also a major arms supplier to Iran and Syria, many of whose weapons end
up the hands of Hizbullah and Hamas. Thus, it is important to provide
Russian reporters and leaders with key facts about Israel, reasons why a
nuclear Iran is against Russia’s best interests, and the dangers of
selling sophisticated weapons to states that sponsor terror.
Importantly, Russia is already warm to Israel – a country with more than
one million Russian speakers, significant shared values and many
China’s ability to shape world affairs, and its economic influence, are
As of February, China held nearly $900 billion in
US Treasury securities, making it the largest foreign holder of US
debt. Contact with media and leaders in China could give that country a
more complete portrayal of Israel by which to judge its policies and
alter the Chinese public’s perception of Iran.
Expanding outreach to the Arab and Muslim world, to Europe and other
members of the Security Council, is also an important new avenue for the
pro-Israel community. At The Israel Project, for example, we developed
programs for Russia (limited polling and focus groups since 2002 and
reporter lists since 2008), the Arabic-speaking world and are reaching
out in 10 languages to 53 countries. But we have a long way to go.
As we see the statements and headlines condemning Israel around the
world, now is the time to act. As Charles Darwin pointed out, “It is not
the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent
that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Israel
cannot afford America’s pro-Israel groups operating in a world that was
or that they wish it to be. The world has changed, and we must, too.
The writer is founder and president of
The Israel Project, which
educates reporters and leaders about the Mideast. theisraelproject.org
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