The Volokh Conspiracy

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Israel's elections and the "international isolation" theme


In today's Israel Hayom, I have a piece about how the motif of "Israel's international isolation" will be used in the country's current election season. Here is an excerpt:

The campaign against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will focus on his alleged "isolation" of Israel from the rest of the "international community" through his diplomatic policies….

Perhaps the aspect of isolation most feared by Israelis is economic. Yet here there is simply no evidence for any isolation. Israel's trade has risen steadily with all its major partners, even those most critical of it, like Europe. Moreover, Netanyahu has opened new doors to opportunities in India and elsewhere in Asia. Just like his ideological tension with European leaders has not impeded trade, one should not credit his compatibility with the nationalist leadership of India for these new frontiers. Rather, business has a life of its own that—except in the most extreme cases—is separate from diplomacy.

Then there is the issue of European parliaments passing nonbinding suggestions to recognize a Palestinian state. The Left can hardly blame the government for these, when some of the leading figures on the left have been lobbying European capitals to pass such measures. Indeed, major Labor Party figures—including former attorney-generals, speakers of parliament, and so forth—have been at the forefront of the Palestinian recognition campaign. They have not been drummed out of the party, or otherwise significantly rebuked. So if anything, it is not Netanyahu but his critics who should shoulder the blame for this (rather insignificant) diplomatic disturbance.

It may be surprising to Netanyahu's critics, who see Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria as the source of all Israel's problems, but the one of the major reasons cited in European parliaments for passing Palestinian recognition motions has to do with an area of Eretz Israel where no Jews live—Gaza. Parliamentarians have repeatedly stressed that the timing of these resolutions—during a freeze on new construction plans—is motivated in large part by what they perceived as the brutality of this summer's Gaza War. Of course, that campaign was supported across the [Israeli] political spectrum.

And of course a left-leaning government is hardly a guarantee against international pressure. For example, the Goldstone commission report on the Gaza War—the modern blueprint for delegitimizing Israel—was concocted during Tzipi Livni's Foreign Ministry. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is thus far a nuisance at best, will not slow its activities based on who holds the prime ministry. The International Court of Justice's opinion on the security fence—the high point of anti-Israeli legal campaigns—was released a month after the government approved the Gaza disengagement.