11.12.2013 by Molad
11.12.2013 Research

Alliance in Crisis: Israel's Standing in the World and the Question of Isolation

Israel central role in the international community is a remarkable accomplishment, yet Israel remains at odds with the international consensus that military control over the occupied territories is illegitimate. This report analyzes Israel's international standing and the crisis it currently faces given its policies
Israel's international standing has been the focus of attention for many years. Is Israel moving towards international isolation? Can one quantify the effects of the widely discussed boycotts on Israel's economy? What can be done to put an end to Israel's rapidly deteriorating relations with the US and Europe? These are questions that rightly occupy the thoughts of many Israelis as well as the country's leadership.

Yet despite the issues’ importance, the conversation on Israel's foreign relations lacks depth and is often based on slogans rather than empirical data. The discussion oscillates between apocalyptic warnings on the one hand, and dangerous complacency on the other.

This report analyzes Israel's international relations with the aim of arriving at a clear understanding of Israel's current status in the world, and aims to identify the specific threats and opportunities it faces. It focuses on three arenas: diplomacy, economics, and culture. The principle findings are as follows: 

  • Israel's international standing is an unprecedented success story. Since Israel's establishment, Israeli heads of state around the world have understood the importance of ties with the US and Europe, especially given to Israel's regional political isolation. The world has shown that it is interested in close ties with Israel. Israel’s’ central role in the international community in a variety of fields — from science and culture to security and diplomacy — is a remarkable accomplishment.
  • Apocalyptic scenarios of imminent isolation are exaggerated. An analysis of the diplomatic arena demonstrates that Israel is far from being isolated in the world; many countries maintain economic, cultural and diplomatic ties with Israel and are interested in furthering those associations. Contrary to popular perception and daily messages from the offices of government officials, Israel does not suffer delegitimization. Boycotting Israel (proper) is a relatively marginal phenomenon that has not been able to gain mass popularity or even gain a foothold among the world's elite. This is because almost all those political actors coming who come in contact with Israel unequivocally accept Israel's right to exist and do not doubt the justification for its existence. Israel and its allies share not only an ad-hoc strategic partnership but an ideological and moral partnership as well.
  • Over the last decade, and particularly since Prime Minister Netanyahu's return to the premiership in 2009, Israel has often overestimated its own international clout while underestimating the potential damage of deteriorating ties with the US and Europe. This miscalculation negatively affects Israeli decision-making, thus exacting a real and heavy price on Israel's economy and diplomacy. Without a change in policy, these costs will only rise in the future.
  • Israeli foreign policy has exhibited another trend in the last decade: whenever a crisis occurs between Israel and one of its allies, Israel tries to shift focus from the crisis by creating a new destination for Israeli foreign policy: India, Eastern Europe, South America, China and others. An analysis of these attempts shows that the idea that Israel can substitute traditional Western alliances for these new partnerships is unfounded.
  • An analysis of various parameters in three focus areas over the past number of years shows that virtually all of the instances in which Israel's foreign relations are less than optimal are directly linked to Israel's presence in the Occupied Territories. There is an international consensus that rejects Israel's policies beyond the green line, which by all a reasonable estimates, should not be expected to change in the future. The notion that it is possible to ignore this point of contention between Israel and the international community is irresponsible and not anchored in reality.
  • Israel's policies in the OpT not only hurt its relations with the world but they also harm the efficiency of its diplomatic corps. The Foreign Ministry and others diplomatic sources are forced to adopt a schizophrenic policy: formally standing behind a “two state for two peoples” platform, but de facto spending considerable time and energy justifying Israel's policies in the Occupied Territories. 


Responsible Israeli leadership must take into account the dangers exposed by this rift with its allies. Simultaneously, it must internalize the notion that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must fall in line with the values of Western democracies, and that a continued deferral of such a solution will result in ever-increasing costs for Israel and its citizens.

For the full report in English click here. For Hebrew, click here.

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