June 12, 2017
“The World about Us”
In my last posting I shared several ways in which Israel’s shifting relationships with other nations are yielding positive results.
We return to that theme here, to look at other ways in which Israel has developed more self-confident, self-assertive policies.
Previously, my focus was on Africa, but Asia also deserves mention.
Dr. Alon Levkowitz writes (emphasis added):
“Israel is upgrading its economic relations with Asia by negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with China, South Korea, Vietnam, and India. These agreements will allow Israel to increase trade with Asia and improve its regional status, further solidifying Israel’s pivot to Asia…
“The Israeli foreign office should be applauded…At the beginning of the effort, it was seen as almost a mission impossible, but after much effort, the ice broke. The conservative political and economic forces in Asia understood that FTAs with Israel could serve their economic interests and would not be opposed by the Arab world…
“…Israel is the first Middle Eastern state to be in an advanced phase of FTA negotiations with South Korea and Vietnam.”
More significant still is the way in which Israeli diplomacy has strengthened with regard to Europe.
Commentator Evelyn Gordon observed just days ago that (emphasis added):
“…even in Europe, patient, persistent diplomacy can bear fruit if it focuses on a few clear, consistent messages.
“Two weeks ago, by an overwhelming vote of 112-2, the lower house of the Czech parliament passed a resolution which urged the Czech government to show ‘respect’ for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and oppose any action by the European Union or other international organizations that ‘distorts historical facts’ or is ‘imbued with the spirit of hatred of Israel’…
“That same week, the Berlin chapter of Germany’s main center-left party, the Social Democrats, adopted a resolution condemning ‘the anti-Semitic BDS campaign’ and ‘widespread anti-Zionist anti-Semitism.’”
Gordon assesses the reasons for Israel’s blossoming diplomatic successes. I think most of us can learn from what she has to say (emphasis added):
“This confidence [in dealing with Europe] undoubtedly stems in part from Israel’s growing diplomatic strength outside the West…
“Above all, however, these successes stem from focusing consistently on simple, clear, easily digestible messages: Jews’ longstanding ties to Jerusalem, the anti-Semitic nature of BDS, Palestinian incitement, and the way Europe enables it. For too long, Israeli diplomacy has tried to convey complex, nuanced messages while the Palestinians endlessly repeated simple sound bites (‘end the occupation’). But when shades of gray compete against black and white in the arena of public opinion, the latter usually wins.
“Israel’s recent victories came from hammering home black-and-white messages of its own. And if it continues to do so, it can make further diplomatic gains, even in hostile Europe.”
I do not doubt that Gordon is correct – that Israel is now using clear sound bites that resonate more solidly in Europe and elsewhere.
What I would like to suggest, however, is that this change in approach is not simply a function of a decision to try a new strategy. The ability to communicate clear, simple messages about Israel’s rights begins with a solid belief in those rights.
It seems we are moving past the neurotic, self-induced angst of the Oslo years, which called upon us to always see the other side and to be reticent about pushing the Israeli case. That’s where the “shades of gray” came in.
Gordon described one “notable development” with regard to New Zealand, which had co-sponsored UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which declared the “settlements” to be flagrantly in opposition to international law. Prime Minister Netanyahu recalled our ambassador and broke relations with New Zealand.
Last month, New Zealand’s foreign minister wrote to Netanyahu seeking a re-establishment of diplomatic ties. Comments Gordon: “Once, it was Israel that begged other countries to establish relations. Now, it’s a beggar no longer; other countries–even Western ones–want good relations no less than Israel does.”
You have to believe in the rightness of your position to take the self-assertive step that Netanyahu took.
I have been sharing information about polls that indicate a move to the right in the Israeli population. What we are seeing, I believe, is a reflection of this shift. As I described last time, the Foreign Ministry has produced a new document about Israel’s rights in the land and distributed it to all Israeli embassies.
Why did this happen now? It is because the deputy foreign minister is Tzipi Hotovely, who passionately believes in those rights.
We, of course, are also sometimes affected by dynamics in this part of the world in which we do not have direct involvement. There is one recent occurrence that merits mention here.
This is with regard to Qatar, located on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf.
A majority Sunni Muslim country, Qatar is an absolute monarchy known for its extraordinary oil wealth, which has led to decadence and excess – such as in the shopping mall pictured below:
Far more significantly, because of that wealth, Qatar has wielded considerable political influence. A fact that we might all ponder long and hard in terms of what it tells us about the potential for corruptibility in high places.
See Caroline Glick’s piece on this, for a mind-blowing picture of exactly how much influence Qatar has plied: Millions have gone, not surprisingly, to the Clinton Foundation, while well over $14 million has gone to the Brookings Institution. Considered the “premier” think tank in Washington DC, Brookings apparently had influence on the Obama administration when it supported the overthrow of Mubarak in Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood. Additional hundreds of millions have gone to a number of US universities.
Beyond imagining, but true, is this, as well:
“There is also the Pentagon.
“In the 1990s, Qatar spent more than $1b. constructing the Al Udeid Air Base outside of Doha.
“It is the most sophisticated air force base in the region. In 2003, the base replaced Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan Air Base as headquarters for the US military’s Central Command. Since 2003, all US operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria are controlled from the base.” (Emphasis added)
Qatar has embraced a radical stance, underwritten terrorism, and worked to destabilize the Sunni Arab nations in the Gulf. It has fostered special ties with Hamas – for a long period of time, Khaled Masha’al, head of the Hamas politburo, made his home in the capital, Doha – and the Muslim Brotherhood, and is allied with Iran.
Spurred by the exhortation of President Trump to take action against terrorism, Saudi Arabia, leading the way, with United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, decided they had had enough. Just about a week ago they began to take measures to isolate Qatar; these included a land and sea blockade, blocking or limiting Qatari use of airspace, and diplomatic isolation with the ejection of Qatari diplomats.
The demand is that Qatar break with Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran.
Qatar is not self-sufficient and must import essential items such as food stuff. Thus, the blockade quickly generated a humanitarian crisis, with the population suffering food shortages. Iran has already flown in relief supplies.
Because of that humanitarian crisis, there have been calls for the involved Sunni states to modify their techniques.
In addition, there is the considerable complication of the US attempting to lead Sunni forces against ISIS and other purveyors of terrorism from a base in Qatar.
This dynamic has not yet played itself out. But it is not looking positive for the region, or for Israel.
Intuitively, one might suppose that it would work in Israel’s favor if pressure were put on Qatar to stop supporting Hamas.
However, according to my best information, this is not the case. Things are almost never as simple as they seem.
Qatar apparently is breaking with Hamas: There are reports that Qatar has asked key Hamas leaders to leave its shores and that it will no longer be communicating with Hamas in Judea and Samaria.
But it is not prepared to comply with all of the demands leveled at it. Instead, it is turning to Iran and Turkey for support and in the process may ratchet up regional tensions.
Additionally, I’m being told, Hamas is more likely to promote active hostilities against Israel, than was the case when there was a close connection to Qatar. Perhaps because of a sense of isolation.
In this, as with other situations, it’s “wait and see.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.