Israel’s isolation is a myth

Canada and Australia – two of Israel’s staunchest friends

Israel’s haters and detractors love to stress Israel’s “isolation”. Even those who are ostensibly our friends warn us of the isolation we will suffer if we don’t listen to their good advice by which they want to save us from ourselves (and surrender to our enemies). These warnings of isolation can be very unnerving even if we know them to be untrue, so it is extremely refreshing, not to say heartening, to hear our true friends say out loud that they stand with us against our enemies.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper

First amongst these friends is Canada whose Prime Minister is incredibly brave in taking an oustpokenly pro-Israel stance both in international and domestic forums. I call him brave because he openly defies his large, powerful and influential friend to the south – America – on issues like the Israel-Palestinian conflict, while at the same time countering contrary voices in his own Parliament.

Harper has also opposed the Obama administration and closely paralleled Israel’s concerns regarding Iran all through his tenure, warning that Iran must be judged by its deeds, not its words. This culminated in his opposition to last week’s American-brokered deal with Iran, to the extent that he declared that Canada will keep its own sanctions on Iran in place.

Here’s an example of Prime Minister Harper’s outspoken support of Israel (h/t Debi Z). As the headline says, can you imagine Obama speaking like this?

It is deeply gratifying to know that Stephen Harper is to be honoured in Israel by having the Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary named for him.

We thank PM Harper and all the Canadians who voted for him for his strong unwavering support of Israel. May his term of office continue and extend as long as possible, and may he continue to influence other Canadian politicians with his pro-Israel stance.

Australian PM Tony Abbott

Another very strong friend of Israel is the new Australian government whose Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that Australia is going to support Israel at the UN – on that most controversial of issues: the settlements – in order to balance the extreme anti-Israel bias at that miserable institution:

AUSTRALIA has recalibrated its position on Israel and Palestine to ensure only “balanced” UN resolutions receive its support, says Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop.

Australia this month abstained from two UN General Assembly resolutions; one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Under Labor, Australia had supported the resolutions.

Ms Bishop said the shift “reflected the government’s concern that Middle East resolutions should be balanced”.

“The government will not support resolutions which are one-sided and which pre-judge the outcome of final status negotiations between the two sides,” she said through a spokeswoman.

The resolution to end “all Israeli settlement activities in all of the occupied territories” was supported by 158 nations. Australia was one of only eight nations to abstain.

Australia was one of only five countries to abstain from calling for Israel to “comply scrupulously” with the 1949 Geneva Convention. The resolution was supported by 160 nations.

We saw an example of that extreme bias being pointed out only a couple of weeks ago by a fortuitous slip of the microphone from a UN interpreter who noticed the UN’s extreme anti-Israel bias by remarking:

“I think when you have… like a total of ten resolutions on Israel and Palestine, there’s gotta be something, c’est un peu trop, non? [It’s a bit much, no?] I mean I know… There’s other really bad shit happening, but no one says anything about the other stuff.”

As with Canada, the Australian government’s new pro-Israel stance is very courageous since it stands up to so many powerful anti-Israel forces as well as opposing voices within its own Parliament. In the past, Australia under PM John Howard was a very staunch supporter of Israel, and it is very heartening as well as a great relief to know that under the new government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Israel once again has a strong friend and supporter in the Antipodes.

Besides these two powerful and outspoken supporters, Israel has support from some unexpected places.

Israeli President Shimon Peres and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto

President Shimon Peres is currently visiting Mexico, whose President Enrique Peña Nieto called the visit “cause for celebration”. In case this should be dismissed as so much diplo-speak, it should be noted that

eight bilateral cooperation agreements were signed in the fields of science, culture, youth, sport, water technology and management, and exports which Peña Nieto said would enable more economic development and the creation of jobs.

Israel was also chosen as the guest of honour at the Guadalajara book fair:

President Shimon Peres will inaugurate the Israeli pavilion at the Guadalajara International Book Fair during his state visit to Mexico. Israel was chosen to be this year’s guest of honor at the fair, the most important Spanish-language book fair, and second in size only to the Frankfurt Book Fair.

[…]

President Peres inaugurates the Israeli pavilion in Guadalajara, Nov 30, 2013

The Israeli delegation to the fair will include more than 30 authors, poets, members of the academic community and publishers, including authors David Grossman and Etgar Karet, poets Roni Someck and Agi Mishol and Israeli Nobel Prize Laureate for chemistry, Professor Ada Yonath. In addition, the delegation will include a series of artists including singers Ahinoam Nini and Ivri Lider.

[…]

During the nine days of the fair, the Israeli delegation will stage over 200 different cultural activities. Israeli Ambassador to Mexico Rodica Radian-Gordon stated at a press conference at which the events planned for the Israeli pavilion were presented that “The Israeli presence at the fair will be a celebration of Israeli culture in Mexico,” and added that this is the greatest Israeli presence ever at a cultural event abroad.
Founded in 1987, the Guadalajara Book Fair has been choosing one country as guest of honor since 1993. The guest of honor receives massive media exposure, which begins prior to the fair itself.

Israel’s participation as a guest of honor at the Guadalajara Book Fair is a result of an initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through the embassy in Mexico and in collaboration with the local Jewish community.

Even at the UN, that most outrageously biased institution of all, Israel has friends who have worked to invite us to join a regional group at the Human Wrongs Rights Council (UNHRC). The main outcome of this move will be to end a historic wrong committed against Israel, and will end its isolation (there’s that word again) at this prejudiced place:

Israel on Friday was invited to join a regional group within the United Nations Human Rights Council, marking a major diplomatic achievement that significantly increases Jerusalem’s ability to advance its interests at the Geneva-based body.

The council’s Western European and Others Group (WEOG) decided to invite Israel to join after none of the member states voiced opposition to the move within the 48-hour period prescribed earlier this week.

[…]

However, Israel will most likely remain the target of disproportional criticism and condemnation from the council.

The European states agreed to welcome Israel into their midst in exchange for Jerusalem’s return to the council and its participation in its Universal Periodic Human Rights Review process.

Israel left the council a year and a half ago to protest its alleged anti-Israel bias.

“Though it’s not yet final, we are hopeful that Israel will very soon be admitted into the Human Rights Council’s Western group, putting an end to a longstanding act of discrimination whereby the Jewish state was the only nation to be excluded from a regional group,” said Hillel Neuer, the director of Geneva-based nonprofit UN Watch.

Admission to WEOG would allow Israel to participate with all other UN member states in receiving regular briefings, and have a say in the selection of council investigators, Neuer said. “More than anything, admission for Israel would be a sign of equal treatment, removing what has been an ugly stain of bigotry upon the reputation of the UN.”However, he added, “it will not detract from the Arab states’ continued ability to target Israel in resolutions, urgent sessions and a special agenda item.”

Human rights lawyer and pro-Israel activist Anne Bayefsky said Israel’s anticipated admission to WEOG is “indeed a major victory for Israel.”

However, she too stressed that Jerusalem’s position within the body remains far from ideal. “It is important to recognize that [Israel’s admission] says absolutely nothing about the UN Human Rights Council. This is a change made by the western group of states, and has nothing to do with the council itself,” she told The Times of Israel.

“At the council, Islamic states continue to hold the balance of power by controlling the African and Asian regional groups — which, taken together, form the Council majority. WEOG is vastly outnumbered at the council, and preposterous anti-Israel resolutions, and investigations and reports, will continue to flow like untreated water from a sewer.”

[…]

Who are Israel’s friends who worked to finally get Israel admitted to a regional group, even though it is not Israel’s proper geographical grouping?

Earlier this month, senior diplomats from the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany and France sent a letter to the UN’s institutions in Geneva and to the ambassador of Spain, who heads the WEOG, telling them to finally admit Israel into their circle, according to Haaretz.

[…]

Israel struck an agreement with most WEOG states about its inclusion in the group, yet the decision is only finalized once the group conducts a vote and officially invites Israel to join. Even Turkey — which could theoretically block Israel’s admission to the group, as the vote needs to be unanimous — indicated that it would not oppose a decision to include Israel if everyone else was in favor. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem declined to comment.

Of course the picture is not entirely rosy as indicated by the permanent Agenda Item 7 item (“the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories”) and as the final paragraph concludes:

On October 29, Israel participated in the council’s so called Universal Periodic Review, during which it was widely criticized for alleged human rights abuses.

But at least the civilized countries in the UN finally saw and admitted the injustice of keeping Israel isolated, and voted to admit Israel into their regional group so that it can take a fuller part in the UN’s proceedings and be more able to counter the inbuilt bias against Israel.

None of this is to say that Israel does not have its enemies and its detractors. How I wish it were so! But it is important to keep a sense of proportion, especially in these days of great tension with the United States, and to remember that we have many powerful and influential friends around the world.

Besides the Almighty One who dwells on High.

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16 Responses to Israel’s isolation is a myth

  1. There remains something to be said of retaining one’s dignity and propriety by abstaining from any association that represents bigotry, stupidity and ultimately genocidal intolerance. Israel’s acceptance of membership to such a group ultimately lends to it an undeserved legitimacy exposed more by Israel’s absence than by its participation

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree with you in principle, but so far Israel hasn’t actually joined the UNHRC. It has simply joined a regional grouping so that it can in theory take part in UNHRC discussions. I don’t hold out much hope for improvement but at least Israel might get the chance at a rebuttal. At the moment Israel is permanently in the dock without an option to even open its mouth. Joining WEOG gives it that option (if I’m not mistaken).

  2. Reality says:

    I agree with you Elliott.I wonder if there is any way that Israel could join temporarily in order to see what will happen over the first year. Perhaps Israel has been asked to join as the WEOG(I love these initialised groups’ names!) because they’ve seen that even with all their bias, Israel has been helping so many states through science & technology & they need Israel perhaps more than Israel needs them. Anyway Kol Hakavod to Steven Harper & all Canadians who voted for him & to the new Australian government for their continued support of Israel.
    Lovely news too about Mexican book fair. What warms me is that Israelis have been so fixated on the US, British, Russian ,EU stance that we forget that there are other countries around the world who are friendly to us & its worth our while to continue to cultivate their friendships. Who knows,with Obama heading the USA they may disappear soon into oblivion & we’ll hopefully be able to fend for ourselves. Its high time we stopped relying on the Americans for anything & everything.This is what our FM Avigdor Lieberman has been proposing for a while too.

    • What appears to be the most likely scenario involving an attack by Israel against Iran is that of a sustained and selectively intense missile assault on three critical nuclear facilities, Natanz, Esfahan and Arak, of which, only Natanz is a hardened site. (See Center for Strategic and International Studies: Israel Strike Iran; Abdoulah Toukan, pg. 72) Israel has substantially more than a minimal level of ballistic missile assets to completely obliterate these essential targets and eliminate any future Iranian capacity to develop either a civilian or military nuclear program. Iran has no defense systems against a ballistic missile attack. Therefore, the only restraining considerations are the political fallout, terrorist attacks on Israeli and Jewish assets, potential Hezbollah and Hamas responses and Iranian missile retaliation. The political ramifications are potentially long-term economic and considerable. Attacks on international Jewish and Israeli targets are always in jeopardy. Hezbollah and Hamas threats have been assessed and are likely to involve existential risks to both such that they would not likely survive if they make any sort of substantial response. Israel’s David Sling and Arrow anti-ballistic missile systems are operational and sufficient to protect against an Iranian response. Netanyahu is taking the necessary political precautions to acquire as much of the necessary international support for the inevitable military response such that when the terrorists react to the attack, there will be less blame on the Israelis than on the Iranians and the negative reaction against Israel will be considerably lessened. A necessary part of these precautions is participating and engaging in an interchange with international organizations. Obama’s stupidity has managed to force an unintended military response by a naïve and misguided deal, the inevitable violation of which will serve to increase the justification for Israel’s military reaction.

      • anneinpt says:

        I think your assessment of the potential fallout, political and physical, to Israel in the event of a strike is pretty accurate. In which case, do you really think Israel will actually attack? I still find it hard to imagine Bibi being so daring. He talks a good talk but until now he hasn’t walked the walk. He ought to have attacked a couple of years ago when the whole world was on board with him. Now, with this deal signed and sealed, however much it is being revealed to be full of holes, it is so much harder.

    • anneinpt says:

      What warms me is that Israelis have been so fixated on the US, British, Russian ,EU stance that we forget that there are other countries around the world who are friendly to us & its worth our while to continue to cultivate their friendships

      Exactly. That’s what I wanted to stress in this post.

      Its high time we stopped relying on the Americans for anything & everything.

      Absolutely. I’ll drink to that!

      • It is always difficult to accurately select the right time to attack given the unknowns of who will and who will not support your decision. Bibi is suffering that dilemma now and is trying to deal with it. Nevertheless, there must be a time when attack is mandated because the Iranians are driven – not so much to achieve hegemony over the region, although that is an objective, but to achieve their fanatical theological imperative to bring the 12 caliphate within their lifetimes. What I failed to mention in the scenario above is that bombing their nuclear sites also presents a very grave potential of tens of thousands of Iranians and surrounding Arabs dying from nuclear radiation fallout from the targets because they have substantial amounts of lethal uranium – something rarely mentioned in the commentaries. This also plays into the equation of the consequences of a military attack. Nevertheless, given the ease of a missile attack and the likelihood of success, it is difficult to imagine a failure to attack considering the consequences to Israel if they do not.

        • anneinpt says:

          My theory (with zero military experience behind me so this is pure speculation) is that whatever Israel does, it would have to be a quick in-out affair. I don’t think we have the luxury of an extended bombing campaign. First of all the Iranians have air defences and probably anti-missile systems too. Secondly the political fallout would be so enormous, even given the danger of a nuclear Iran, that I don’t think Israel would be able to carry out extended bombing. So it’s more likely to be a stealth affair.

          If it wasn’t so deadly existentially serious it would be like reading an exciting thriller.

          • An attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities is basically a more complex exercise than those taken against the nuclear sites at Iraq and Syria – essentially, once the target is neutralized the objective then turns to dealing with the response, politically and militarily. There is no reason for Israel to “occupy” anything or any place. Iran’s anti-missile defenses are minimal and their offensive missile potential should be effectively dealt with by Israel’s defensive systems. Interesting to note at this point the absence of nuclear radiation from Israel’s previous attacks suggesting Israel has a way to deal with that danger. Although It is expected Iran will posture to claim the attack was “ineffective” there will be sufficient evidence to indicate otherwise. Moreover, it should be apparent that a limited attack covering only these three sites, Natanz, Ishfahan and Arak, (possibly four to include the Fordow) may not result in a substantial response, given Iran’s inability to successfully achieve any kind of military victory and could well expose itself to even greater damage given the substantially defenseless state of its naval bases and other commercial/industrial infrastructure. A wiser choice it may make is to “regroup” and try to fight another day – which, by then, hopefully there will be a regime change more western oriented.

            • anneinpt says:

              Interesting to note at this point the absence of nuclear radiation from Israel’s previous attacks suggesting Israel has a way to deal with that danger
              I would have thought that that was because both Osirak and the Syrian site were not yet operational, so there wasn’t any radiation to leak. Iran is a different matter.

              I sincerely hope that your estimate of Iran’s ineffective anti-missile defenses are accurate. I honestly do not know about these, so I hope and pray you are right!

              • It was reported that Israel targeted the Syrian nuclear site only after France reported it was about to be operational. (See also http://www.jpost.com/Iranian-Threat/News/Iran-strike-wont-lead-to-civilian-disaster-315107; discussing fallout controversy). Russia has offered to implement an air/missile defense system for Iran under some complex conditions that include Iran withdrawing a 4 billion dollar law suit against Russia, but that deal has yet to be negotiated. See: http://www.france24.com/en/20130911-russia-renew-offer-supply-300s-iran. The limited missile strike suggested serves as an offer that Iran limit its losses. Retaliating also insures sanctions will remain and even be increased – whereas, refusing to retaliate and recognizing the futility of continuing an expensive and fruitless nuclear weapons campaign could result in reducing sanctions and providing increased political stability and increasing its international influence. Bear in mind, the missile attack option keeps Israel’s 400 plus fighter aircraft available to deal with any Hezbollah/Hamas threat as well.

  3. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Should Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, and attack successfully, I’m sure she could live with being the world’s pariah state (doesn’t say much for all the other pariah state’s, does it?). Anyway, to paraphrase that Sondheim song, they’ll be able to sing that “and I’m still here”.
    You never know, a majority of the Senate and Representatives might just back Israel,leaving the Pres. looking pretty isolated and possibly silly.

    BTW, having been selected for his foreign policy nous, where’s the Veep in all this? Presumably being kept gagged.

    • anneinpt says:

      Israel is already practically a pariah state just for having the temerity to publicly criticise this deal, let alone for all the other alleged crimes it has committed. If Israel could get in and out quickly to Iran I think Israel’s standing will be OK, nothing worse than what we suffered after bombing Osirak. I’m pretty sure the Senate and Congress will indeed support Israel. Israel’s problem has never been with them. It’s with the Administration and the idiots at State.

      Interesting question about Biden. He’s fallen off the radar completely.

  4. It is helpful, although not very comforting to realize that the US is now in political free-fall. We are under the control of a totally dysfunctional administration, responding to the last and loudest call of the moment and whatever enters the vacuum between the ears of an ignorant, incompetent and utterly inexperienced president and his administration. Even if Biden were to be in this loop, his incompetence only complements that of his club – such that 0 plus 0 still equals 0. Actually, the sum of all these parts as less than the whole and much more dangerous.

    • anneinpt says:

      It’s most definitely NOT comforting to realize America’s political free-fall. It’s downright terrifying.

      But the Administration seems to have the support of large swathes of American society so anything Israel does is going to get a huge amount of bad PR. I doubt that will be enough to put Israel off an attack, at least a quick attack, but it can make life very uncomfortable. Let’s hope that Congress and the Senate have more sense and can out-veto the President.

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