Why Israel ignores global criticism of Gaza flotilla raid
Israel's growing isolation – including the global outcry over the May 31 Gaza flotilla raid – strengthens a pessimistic world view, say analysts. Israelis see international criticism as hyperbole linked to centuries of anti-Jewish persecution – and something that can be ignored.
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Alon Liel, a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, says that in the recent past, the prospect of international isolation prompted former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to make concessions to the Palestinians.Skip to next paragraph
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The same pressure is less likely to influence cabinet ministers in the current government, such as conservative Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, he adds.
"Their approach is: 'No matter what we do the world will hate us,' " he says. "So far, I see the Israeli siege mentality affecting the government."
The sense that Israel faces international critics bent on undermining its legitimacy is more than a conservative perspective. It spans Israel's left-right political divide.
"It is a sentiment that exists today more than in the past, because the trend is de-legitimizing Israel and isolating Israel internationally," says Yossi Alpher, co-editor of Bitterlemons.org, an Israeli-Palestinian opinion forum.
"Where it becomes dangerous is when decisions are made and when it obscures the fixable causes of this delegitimization campaign. There are causes which are treatable and there are causes which are not," he says.
Israel still needs the US
Still, the "deck stacked against us" view is offset by a recognition among policy makers that Israel needs the international community, particularly the US and Europe to solve many of its foreign challenges.
In contrast to Israel's solo decision in 1981 to bomb an Iraqi nuclear reactor, Israel currently portrays Iran's nuclear ambitions as a problem for world powers.
The recognition today that the Jewish state can't embark on pre-emptive wars and occupy foreign territory to silence militants on its borders has prompted Israeli governments to accept UN forces to maintain stability in Hezbollah strongholds in southern Lebanon, Mr. Alpher says. "We have to work with the world," says Alpher. "We don't have [other] solutions because we don't want to reoccupy."
Israel was more isolated in the 1970s, when it lacked diplomatic relations with key countries such as Egypt, China, and India, says Ephraim Inbar, the head of the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University and the author of a study of "outcast" nations.
The relative isolation is what prompted Israel to order a unilateral strike on an Iraq, and a 1976 raid in Entebbe, Uganda, to rescue a hijacked plane. "Jewish history is conducive to this reluctant acceptance that we are not liked," he says. That said, Inbar says that Israel's foreign policy is characterized by realpolitik. "We understand the importance of the US and the relative unimportance of UN resolution."