Israel has historically served as a beacon of hope for the Jewish people, offering a home and a safe haven for those seeking refuge from persecution and discrimination. Today, it continues to provide economic opportunities and a strong Jewish community for its citizens.
However, Israel has also faced intense scrutiny, criticism and hostility from the international community. In recent years, there has been growing recognition of the importance of public diplomacy and grassroots cooperation in strengthening Israel’s ties with the world and combating antisemitism.
One of these organizations is the Heartland Initiative, led by Yonathan Ben Yisrael and myself, Gedaliah Blum. The Heartland Initiative focuses on building bridges and relationships on a grassroots level between international officials and their counterparts in all regions of Israel—especially in Judea, Samaria, Binyamin and the Jordan Valley. We believe that mutual benefit is achieved through building long-lasting relationships and cooperation with real and measurable results.
Through its work, the Heartland Initiative has shown that public diplomacy and grassroots cooperation are key to strengthening Israel’s standing in the world. By creating opportunities for dialogue and understanding between Israel and its partners around the world, we are helping to break down barriers and build new relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation, regardless of race or religion.
One of the most exciting developments in recent years has been the growing cooperation between Israel and the Gulf states. While relations between Israel and many Arab states have historically been fraught with tension, several Gulf states have begun to embrace the benefits of closer ties with Israel.
This shift has been driven in large part by the strength and resilience of the Jewish state, which has proven itself to be a reliable and capable partner in the face of numerous challenges. From technological innovation to defense and security, Israel has demonstrated time and again that it is a force to be reckoned with.
The Heartland Initiative sees this as a model for how Israel should relate to the world. Instead of making concessions and showing compromise, which is perceived as weakness, the model of strength facilitates mutually beneficial cooperation between Israel and its neighbors.
The opportunities for cooperation between Israel and the international community extend far beyond the Gulf states. Many other regions around the world offer enormous potential for collaboration and cooperation with Israel—Eastern Europe, Kurdistan, India, Scandinavia, South America, Africa and the Far East.
In each of these regions, the key to success lies in public diplomacy and grassroots cooperation. By fostering dialogue and understanding, and by building relationships based on shared interests and values, Israel can create new opportunities for partnership and cooperation that benefit all involved.
The Heartland Initiative is at the forefront of fostering strong and enduring relationships between Israel and its global partners. We recognize that cooperation and partnership, whether through formal diplomatic channels or the efforts of private individuals and organizations, are essential to achieving this goal.
Through the hosting of international delegations of grassroots officials, the Heartland Initiative has established friendships that translate into long-term business relationships. These business relationships, which can include the purchase of urban management technology and the import and export of goods, serve as a foundation for a lasting partnership. Israel’s leadership in numerous fields, including medicine, technology and high-tech, are key assets that the Heartland Initiative believes can combat Israel’s detractors.
It is important to recognize that the fight against antisemitism remains an ongoing struggle. While Israel’s strength and resilience have helped to counter many of the negative attitudes and biases that have historically plagued the Jewish people, there is still much work to be done.
To effectively combat antisemitism, it is crucial to address the root causes that give rise to it. This involves promoting understanding and tolerance, fostering open dialogue and communication, and building strong relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation.
Secondly, as we say in Hebrew, tachles—the “bottom line”—we need to do business. Business ties can generate the leverage needed to keep anti-Israel and antisemitic rhetoric at bay.
A great example of this is the water deal signed between Israel and Jordan, which exports 50-55 million cubic meters of water to Jordan annually. Although this only accounts for about 5% of Jordan’s total water consumption, it serves as a tool for promoting a peaceful and stable border.
Through the work of organizations like the Heartland Initiative, similar goals can be achieved. By creating opportunities for public diplomacy and grassroots cooperation, the Heartland Initiative is strengthening Israel’s ties with the world and combating antisemitism in all its forms.
Gedaliah Blum is a resident of Eli in the Binyamin region and a co-founder of the Heartland Initiative.