Gaza War: Israel in Isolation: Between defiance and perseverance

Gaza War: Israel in Isolation: Between defiance and perseverance

There seems to be no end to Israel’s list of diplomatic setbacks. International support for the Jewish state is crumbling. What possible ways out could there be?

After the worst massacre in Israel’s history on October 7 last year, the country initially experienced a strong wave of international sympathy and solidarity. But the war in the Gaza Strip has been raging for almost eight months. And the longer the attacks and fighting continue, with their high number of civilian casualties and severe devastation in the coastal strip on the Mediterranean, the more isolated Israel is worldwide. At the same time, Hamas terror and the war have triggered an enormous wave of anti-Semitism, causing great fear among Jews all over the world.

The request for arrest warrants against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Joav Galant, submitted by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, is the lowest point so far in Israel’s constant downward trend. There is now daily discussion in the country about how to overcome this trend. Many Israelis express that they feel they have been treated unfairly.

If the International Criminal Court accepts the request for the arrest warrants, Netanyahu’s freedom of movement would be significantly restricted, especially in Western countries. However, Professor Jonathan Rynhold, head of the political department at Bar Ilan University near Tel Aviv, points out that the opposition in Israel also believes that the criminal court’s behavior is “outrageous.” This is also the position of the USA. “Even European countries that normally support the court have called the equation of the terrorist organization Hamas with the democratic state of Israel a mistake,” Rynhold said.

Recognition of Palestine shows deterioration of Israel’s reputation

The announced recognition of Palestine as a separate state by Norway and the two EU countries Ireland and Spain is seen as a further diplomatic setback for Israel. Netanyahu condemned the move as a “reward for terrorism.” The Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot classified the European countries’ decision as “evidence of the serious deterioration of the international reputation” of the Jewish state.

Everywhere you look, things look bleak for Israel: relations with its most important ally, the USA, are strained, Israel’s deployment in the border town of Rafah is seen as a threat to the peace treaty with Egypt, and Israel also has to answer charges of genocide before the International Court of Justice. There are also pro-Palestinian – sometimes anti-Israel – student protests at universities in the USA and Europe. At the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) in Malmö, the Israeli candidate Eden Golan was met with sheer hatred. Meanwhile, Turkey suspended trade with Israel and is treating more than 1,000 Hamas members in its hospitals. Israeli academics, artists and athletes also complain about growing signs of an international boycott.

Netanyahu: We can also stand on our own

Netanyahu’s reactions to international pressure sometimes seem almost defiant. “If we have to stand alone, then we will stand alone,” he said after US President Joe Biden threatened to restrict certain arms deliveries because of Israel’s advance in Rafah. If necessary, they will defend themselves “with their fingernails,” said Netanyahu.

Protests against Netanyahu’s government have also flared up again within Israel. The demonstrators accuse the prime minister and his right-wing coalition partners of driving Israel into the abyss. They are demanding a rapid return of the more than 100 Hamas hostages from the Gaza Strip and new elections.

Power base more important for Netanyahu than global reputation

Netanyahu appears to be torn between his personal political interests – the ultra-right is seen as a guarantee of his political survival – and the broader interests of the country. Radical statements by his political partners have repeatedly gotten him into trouble and are easy fodder for Israel critics. Nevertheless, Netanyahu has rarely distanced himself from them.

Rynhold sees the behavior of the Israeli government, which for months did not do enough to allow humanitarian aid deliveries into the Gaza Strip, as one of the reasons for the country’s isolation. “This has alienated our friends – the US, Britain and Germany,” he explains. “But the world’s view is definitely less important to Netanyahu than staying in power and serving his base and ultra-right coalition partners.”

Possible ways out of the impasse

Is there a way out of this mess for Israel? Yonatan Freeman, an expert in international relations at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, believes an improvement is certainly possible. “If there is a deal (with Hamas) to release the hostages, the war will probably end, although Hamas remains a major threat,” he said.

Freeman sees the involvement of moderate Arab states as a possibility for a post-war settlement in Gaza. The fact that Netanyahu has so far stubbornly refused to talk about the “day after” in the Gaza Strip is causing great frustration among Israel’s allies and also among moderate members of the government.

“We need a new government,” believes Rynhold. At the same time, he sees a victory over Hamas as an absolute necessity. “We must conclude the operation in Rafah. We must endure all the anger that is directed against us.” After that, Israel must make a real effort to set up a Palestinian administration in the Gaza Strip with a new government “that is better for the Palestinians and better for the Israelis.” This must be linked to the Palestinian Authority “and pursue an agenda that ultimately leads to a two-state solution.” But this is precisely what Netanyahu persistently refuses to do.

Source: Stern

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