(December 31, 2018 / JNS)
As Arabs and Muslims warm to Israel, the left grows colder. These shifts imply one great imperative for the Jewish state.
On the first shift: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently pointed out “a great change” in the Arab world, which has a growing connection to Israeli companies because it needs Israeli “technology and innovation … water, electricity, medical care and high-tech.” Explaining this normalization as a result of Arab states “looking for links with the strong,” Netanyahu was too considerate of American liberals’ feelings to add another factor: Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of appeasing Tehran jolted the Arab states to get serious about the real threats facing them.
It is striking that full-scale Arab state warfare against Israel lasted a mere 25 years (1948-1973) and ended 45 long years ago; and that Turkey and Iran have since picked up the anti-Zionist torch.
Nor is it just Israeli companies making inroads into Arab countries. Israel’s sport minister broke into tears as “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, was played in Abu Dhabi upon the victory of an Israeli athlete. Rumors are swirling about a handshake to come between Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) and Israel’s prime minister.
That Arab and Muslim enmity has fractured, probably never to be reconstituted, amounts to one tectonic shift in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The second, no less important, involves the global Left’s growing hostility to Israel.
This pattern can be found consistently from South Korea to Thailand to South Africa to Sweden to Brazil. The Durban conference of 2001 initially brought this phenomenon to light. Among many other examples, the Black Lives Matter movement accuses Israel of “apartheid” and “genocide.” A Communist labor union in India representing 16 million farmers apparently joined the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement.
Attitudes towards the Jewish state follow an almost linear progression of growing negativity as one goes from right to left. A 2012 Pew Research Center survey of American adults found 75 percent of conservative Republicans sympathize more with Israel than with the Palestinians, followed by 60 percent of moderate and liberal Republicans, 47 percent of independents, 46 percent of conservative and moderate Democrats, and 33 percent of liberal Democrats.
It was not always thus. Joseph Stalin was so instrumental to Israel’s birth in 1947-49 by providing diplomatic support and armaments that Abba Eban, Israel’s first U.N. ambassador, observed that “we couldn’t have made it, either diplomatically or militarily,” if not for Soviet help. Democrats Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy rank among the most pro-Israel of American presidents, but Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower was unquestionably the most antagonistic.
MBS vs. Jeremy Corbyn symbolizes these two tectonic shifts, as does Israel now enjoying better relations with Egypt than with Sweden. The president of Chad turns up in Israel but a singer from New Zealand does not. Israel’s athletes compete in the United Arab Emirates, but get banned in Spain. Muslims show increasing indifference to the breakdown in Palestinian-Israeli diplomacy, but leftists express growing anger over it.
This last point has great importance: The rage against Israel is not about Ashkenazi-Sephardi relations, tensions on the Temple Mount, a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure or Israel’s own rumored nuclear weapons. Rather, it almost exclusively concerns the status of some 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Thanks to a mix of Palestinian public-relations expertise and continued anti-Semitism, the welfare of this small and powerless but fanatical population has transmogrified into the premier global issue of human rights, getting endlessly more attention than, say, Ethiopia—and motivates nearly all denunciations of Israel.
Therefore, when the left, now largely excluded from power, eventually returns to office in countries like Japan, India, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, Israel will face a crisis due to the unresolved situations in the West Bank and Gaza.
Accordingly, a resolution of this issue should be an utmost priority for Israelis.
That does not mean touting yet another peace plan doomed to crash on the hard rock of Palestinian intransigence. It does mean, whatever one’s favored plan might be, Palestinian aggression towards Israel must end: No more suicide attacks, kite bombings and rockets. Only this will soothe leftist rage.
Only an Israel victory and a Palestinian defeat will achieve this. Getting the Palestinians to cry uncle is an urgent priority for Israel and its supporters.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.