Critics of Israel periodically issue doomsday warnings about how the Jewish state will face international isolation if it does not quickly give in to Palestinian demands. Last week’s United Nations Security Council vote shows, once again, how wrong they are.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that Israel’s reluctance to make more unilateral concessions will bring down upon it “an increasing delegitimization campaign.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and other pundits likewise declared that Israel is increasingly “isolated” and is being treated as a “pariah” state.
But when Palestinian advocates last week presented the U.N. Security Council with a resolution demanding an Israeli withdrawal from Judea, Samaria and much of Jerusalem, they couldn’t muster enough supporting votes – -in a forum which, in the past, was notorious as the scene of international ganging-up on Israel.
The Third World bloc, which is thought of as being uniformly anti-Israel, suddenly cracked. Two African nations, Nigeria and Rwanda, defied the Palestinians and abstained. Further shifts in Third World attitudes toward Israel could be in the offing. According to recent media reports from India, the New Delhi government is seriously considering adopting a more pro-Israel position at the United Nations. As the founder of the Third World/Non-Aligned bloc, India’s possible new orientation would signal that the underdeveloped nations are no longer in the Arab League’s pocket.
Important Western countries likewise took a stand at the U.N. last week. Australia voted against the resolution — despite recent Islamic extremist attacks and threats that might easily have intimidated other governments. Great Britain abstained — despite the recent vote by the British parliament supporting recognition of “Palestine.”
At the time of that British parliamentary vote, there was much hand-wringing in the Jewish world. The vote seemed to lend credence to claims by the doomsday crowd that Israel’s reluctance to make more one-sided concessions was leading “all of Europe” to turn against it. More sober-minded observers pointed out at the time that symbolic resolutions in parliaments are not the final word. Sure enough, when it came to making an actual policy decision, the British government refused to go along with the U.N. resolution.
Much the same is true with regard to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. The movement’s few successes have generated a lot of attention but do not necessarily indicate some new trend in public opinion toward Israel. Recall that when the American Studies Association voted last year to boycott Israel, it received enormous international media attention. Not many people are aware that the ASA’s action was condemned by the American Association of Universities, the American Association of University Professors and the American Council on Education (representing 1,800 educational institutions), not to mention the 92 university presidents — including the presidents of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell and Johns Hopkins — who issued a statement denouncing the ASA’s boycott.
The American public at large likewise remains firmly in Israel’s camp. This year’s Gallup annual World Affairs survey found fully 72 percent of Americans have a “very favorable” or “mostly favorable” view of Israel. Compare that to the number who have a favorable view of the other countries in Israel’s neighborhood: Egypt, 45 percent; Saudi Arabia, 35 percent; Libya, 19 percent; the Palestinian Authority, 19 percent; Iraq, 16 percent; Syria, 13 percent; and Iran, 12 percent.
And this is despite decades of unfriendly news media coverage of Israel, and despite the Obama administration’s frequent statements of sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs.
The gloom-and-doom crowd has an agenda. They want to force Israel to retreat. So they promulgate self-fulfilling prophecies about Israel being isolated in the hope of browbeating the Jewish state and its friends into giving up. They never win at the ballot box, so they look for alternative ways to bring about Israeli concessions. Demoralization is a tactic. Generating despair is their goal.
Israel and its supporters understandably worry about how the Jewish state is viewed by the rest of the world. But last week’s events at the U.N., and other recent trends, show that skilled diplomacy, reasonable arguments and, ultimately, a just cause can go a long way toward blunting the international campaign against Israel.
Moshe Phillips is president of the Religious Zionists of America’s Philadelphia chapter.