Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A string of Israeli diplomatic successes - will they last?

1. Magen David Adom to join Red Cross in December

Israel introduced a watershed resolution in the U.N. General Assembly on Monday that designates January 27 as an annual commemoration day for the 6 million Jews and other victims murdered in the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two.

The measure, expected to be approved on Tuesday by consensus, rejects any denial that the Holocaust took place. It also urges members to "inculcate" future generations with the lessons on the genocide so it would not be repeated in the future.

3. The world condemnation of Iran's president would simply not have happened a year ago.

4. Neither would the UN and EU demanding Syria shut down Islamic Jihad.

5. Israel has had major diplomatic successes in establishing relations with many Muslim states since the Gaza pullout. It appears that the Iranian remarks were a direct reflection of the fear Iran has about this.

It appears that there are a number of reasons for the current thaw between Israel and the world:

First and most obviously is the Gaza pullout. While it may have been foolhardy for many other reasons, there is no doubt that a wave of goodwill came as a result. The constant refrain from the Arab world of an expansionist Israel was shown once again to be a lie.

A second, related reason is the fatigue that the world has with the Palestinian cause. As time goes on it becomes clearer that the Palestinian leaders are far less interested in the well-being of their people and far more interested in scoring political and military points against Israel. As their corruption and record of lies increases, world sympathy goes down.

Another reason is the desire that nations and organizations have for power and influence. The UN, the EU, Russia, Egypt and the US want to constantly prove that they are relevant, and solving an intractable problem is about as relevant as it gets. The only way they can solve the problem is by appearing to be even-handed, by being honest brokers in actions if not in intent. Israel will not be moved to make concessions from those that are openly hostile, so at least the pretense of fairness is needed to exert influence. Hence, cosmetic changes such as a world Holocaust day or admitting Israel to international organizations are easy gestures to acheive that goal.

A fourth, related reason is the pressure that Israel and Jewish groups has put on organizations, newspapers and governments pointing out the egregious anti-Israel bias that was allowed to fester for the past decades. One cannot discount the importance of CAMERA, Honest Reporting, MEMRI, and Anne Bayefsky. People are sensitive to pressure.

So how important are these successes, and more critically, will they last?

After Camp David and Oslo, Israel enjoyed similar surges of popularity with the world community, only to see the goodwill disappear during later events (the Lebanon war and the Intifada, respectively.) It would be a fair guess to say that this pattern will be repeated, as the Arab world keeps trying to find a way to pressure Israel that resonates with the world (which is the entire reason they pretend to support the Palestinian cause but don't actually help the Palestinian people - they want the problem to exist, not to be solved.) Sooner or later, they will succeed, and latent global anti-semitism will trump the temporary goodwill Israel is receiving.

The open question is whether the temporary gains offset the losses. The cold peace with Egypt has, on balance, probably been worth Israel's giving up the Sinai (even as the US continues to pay off Egypt's detente and as Egypt shows zero interest in normalizing relations), but at this time it is far from clear that the Gaza withdrawal will pay similar dividends.