(January 29, 2018 / JNS)
US President Donald Trump’s December declaration recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital can be seen, in retrospect, as the crowning achievement in a string of extraordinary diplomatic breakthroughs in Israel’s favor which have a cumulative significance regarding Israel’s standing in the world.
This remains true despite the subsequent negative vote at the UN General Assembly on the question of Jerusalem. This vote was of no practical significance, but it demonstrates the still-extant gap between the friendly and even strategic relations that Israel enjoys with many countries on the bilateral and regional levels, and the criticism which is still directed at Israel (and the pro-Israel US) in multinational fora.
Overall, over the course of 2017, Israel has secured a series of diplomatic achievements, some of them unprecedented, in the international arena; amounting to a strategic breakthrough. The facts are hard to dispute; even if the matter has become, to the detriment of sober discussion, a point of contention between Prime Minister Netanyahu and his political rivals.
The emerging transformation of attitudes toward Israel is founded, first and foremost, on an ever-widening recognition of the nature and severity of the common strategic challenge which totalitarian Islamism poses to many of the world’s countries.
Along with this comes the growing appreciation of the benefits offered by a closer partnership with Israel in a variety of fields, including security and economics, innovation and technology.
It is also easier to associate with Israel today due to Israel’s prudent management of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel’s strategy of measured and low-key response to Palestinian provocations is proving to be a wise, long-term strategic approach. This is true, even if this has met with the angry disapproval of significant elements in Israeli society, who would like to see a harder hand applied against Palestinians involved in hostile activity against Israel. .
The emerging transformation of attitudes toward Israel is founded, first and foremost, on the ever-widening recognition of the nature and severity of the common strategic challenge posed by totalitarian Islamism.
Of course, Israel’s diplomatic hardships are not yet a thing of the past. Israel’s positions on the Palestinian issue and on the future of Jerusalem have not been well received in Europe, including by close allies like Germany. The automatic majority against Israel in the UN General Assembly, even if it has been reduced, still exists. Russia’s policy in Syria and its close ties to Iran is troubling. The BDS movement is still active, and has scored occasional successes.
Nevertheless, the string of events and achievements described in this paper is of far-reaching importance. Israel must exhaust all effort to gain maximum diplomatic benefits from the current positive trend, and nourish the conditions which allow its continuation.
This paper seeks to outline the momentum of Israeli diplomatic work; to examine the fundamental reasons for Israel’s achievements; to pinpoint their strategic implications; and in doing so, to suggest a series of operational recommendations.
Dr. Lerman is the Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies. Lerman was deputy director for foreign policy and international affairs at the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. He held senior posts in IDF Military Intelligence for over 20 years. He teaches in the Middle East studies program at Shalem College in Jerusalem.