Israel in 2017-Look Back in Anger?-Not Really

This is the time of year when individuals, but also States, are engaged in the process of looking back on the passing year, making summations and drawing conclusions, something which happens also in Israel , despite the fact, that the Jewish New Year is in September. Just one of the anomalies of Israel, being a Jewish state, living as a small minority among a non-Jewish world. But of all the troubles of Israel, this may be the least significant, surely much less important than the effect of two UN resolutions, one accepted in the very beginning of 2017, as well as one in the very end.

The first, was the UNSC Resolution no.2334, in which the Security Council accepted an overtly anti Israel resolution, and contrary to tradition, without an American veto. So, as the year started, the Israelis got a grim reminder of a possible major change in their international standing-the end of the so-called ‘’special relationships ‘’ with the great ally, the US. The second was also a vote, which was outrageously biased against Israel, as well as the US, in which the UN General Assembly called upon President Trump to recant his declaration of American recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, a long overdue step, but one which is on the line of better late than never. Yes, again a majority in the UN, 128 out of 193 states, but unlike in the past, when resolutions of this nature have been approved in the UN, this time 65 states either opposed, or abstained, or did not attend the vote. The real message to the Israelis was, that they are not alone, but much more importantly than that, is the fact, that the ‘’special relationships’’ with the US are alive and well. If we end this summation of the year with the implications of the UN votes, then the balance sheet of the year from an Israeli perspective could still be regarded as negative. It ain’t though. This was mostly a good year to Israel, partly because of the long-standing Israeli attitude of disgust about the on-going bias of the UN towards it. Look at the ridiculous United Nations Human Rights Council which says and does nothing about the atrocities committed by some Arab regimes against their people, rather it is obsessed with accepting a barrage of anti-Israel resolutions. Look also at UNESCO, accepting resolutions denying any connection between Jews and Jerusalem. Just imagine a resolution denying any connection between Muslims and Mecca, or Catholics and Rome? This is a combination of the old antisemitic bias coupled with the modern-day Western appeasement in the face of Jihadist attack on the rest of the world. Why on Earth, should the Israelis take too close to heart, the role of the UN, but while it does not affect Israel’s foreign policy, it does Israeli domestic politics. It makes it so simple to the Likud Party with its other Right Wing partners to play up the old ‘’they are all against us’’, as a slogan and a sentiment which brings about votes in time of elections. The good news though are, that votes in the UN, do not really reflect realistically Israel’s changing stature in the international arena.

Yes, it is painful that India, for example, voted with the Arabs over Jerusalem, but in actual political and strategic terms, it is less important, than PM Modi visiting Israel, and the two countries signing deals worth billions of dollars. The same goes for many other countries, whose relations with Israel vastly improved in 2017, including many in Africa, South and Central America and the Caribbeans Islands, in Eastern Europe, but also China and Russia, whose automatic anti Israel votes in the UN are not the only expression of their relations with Israel. In 2017, one cannot talk about diplomatic isolation of Israel. It is arguably the case, that the isolation is gradually breaking, not as quickly as the Israelis would like to be, not in the UN, but in many other areas. Chief among them, Israel’s trade relations with the world. It is here , where the BDS campaign to isolate Israel has failed miserably. They seem to know how to frighten some B level artists from visiting Israel, and intimidate pro-Israel students in some campuses, but not much beyond. It is the year, 2017, when Israel’s per Capita income surpasses that of France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, and many other European countries, and also that of Saudi Arabia. There are setbacks, like the crisis of the pharmaceutical giant Teva, but the overall picture is nothing short of a tremendous achievements. Total sum of exits of Israeli companies in 2017, was 31 billion US $, and counting. All this before the beginning of the production of the huge natural gas resources and their export. The outlook definitely looks bright for a country which still has to deal with the ongoing threat to its very existence.

That said, we come to the ‘’conflict’’, and in 2017 it is not so clear any more what conflict we are talking about. There is not really any Arab country which is today or in the near future constitutes an existential threat to Israel.The Arab countries, most of them at least, are engaged in their own civil wars, and so the Palestinians are feeling in 2017, that maybe the Arab world is not lining up to support them like in the past. Yes, all the Arab countries voted as expected in the UN General Assembly, but at the same time, did their best, to discourage the Palestinians, both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, from starting another Intifada against Israel. In actual terms, in 2017, it became clear, that the agenda of the two most important Arab countries, Egypt and Saudi Arabia is focused mainly on other issues, and in the case of the former it is Iran, not Israel. As Iran and Turkey are the two countries trying somewhat artificially, to uphold the struggle against Israel, maybe we should refer to the conflict as a religious one, not something that should provide any consolation to the Israelis, but with Arab -Muslim countries like the two mentioned, and others, not participating in it, the danger to Israel is not so big.

It is in this context, that we need to view the attitude of many in Israel itself, who look around and see the improvements in Israel’s overall strategic, geopolitical standing, and turn their attention towards the domestic scene. Wishing to see a better and more egalitarian distribution of the national wealth. Wishing to see a more effective political system, one which will allow for elections to take place every four years, and clearly also a state with much less issues concerning allegations of wrong doing of senior politicians . Much to be desired, much to be enough for a good pack of new year wishes, but coming back to where we started, while 2017 was not a bad year at all, from international and regional perspectives, 2018 could still be. It is Iran and its challenge in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza which poses the main danger. It is also the need for the current Netanyahu government not to be complacent about the relations with the erratic Trump government, and to still try to move ahead with the Palestinians. May be nearly impossible, but worth the try.

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