While Israel’s situation in the world arena can sometimes resemble the last moments of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, looking out at the hundreds of Bolivian soldiers, guns-a-ready, the fact is that things are looking up for the Jewish State.
A recent BBC poll measuring opinion in 27 countries, many of them officially hostile to Israel, found a two percent rise in Israel’s popularity since 2010.
Despite all the criticism heaped on Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and the idea that Israel has no friend other than the United States, this past week has illuminated two other relatively major points of friendship, most particularly in Greece and Canada. The two countries are standing by Israel on matters as serious as the flotilla to Gaza and the attempt by the Palestinians to unilaterally establish a Palestinian state via the United Nations.
Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper, perhaps the staunchest ally of Israel’s government in the free world, announced that Canada will oppose Palestinian statehood moves at the United Nations that are seen as circumventing direct negotiations with Israel.
And this week, during Greek President Karlos Papoulias’ state visit to Israel, he was thanked by Israeli leaders for helping to stop an anti-Israel flotilla bound for Gaza by placing legal and military obstacles in the flotilla’s way. Last year, of course, a flotilla sailing to Gaza from Turkey was only stopped by the IDF, and nine people were killed, leading to massive international condemnations and further Israeli isolation. This year, Israeli diplomacy and Greek politicians accomplished what the IDF last year could not: stopping the flotilla, without injuries, before it could even sail.
The United States remains Israel’s key alliance, but we’ve seen that U.S. support by itself, as massive as that assistance is, isn’t enough to assuage Israel’s sense of international isolation. It’s that fear of isolation, ironically, that prompts Israelis to fear and doubt international attempts to promote the peace process and other initiatives. Perhaps Canada and Greece can give Israel not only support of the moment but confidence, as well.
Jerusalem will be looking to key European states for support on the UN vote on Palestine in September, hoping democratic countries appreciate that peace can only be achieved through negotiations, and not unilaterally.