Western hostility is forcing Israel to make strange new friends
Activists celebrate “Israel Apartheid Week” by agitating against the Jewish state. Dore Gold, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, marked the occasion in March by visiting the government that replaced the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Here is a top diplomat from a country compared by its foes to the regime of P. W. Botha meeting in Pretoria with diplomats who helped bring that regime down. And yet many activists on both sides of this issue have been missing this point.
First there is the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, known as BDS. In the absence of a peace process, BDS appears to have momentum as more and more academic associations, student governments and churches sign on.
Then there is the counter-BDS movement. This month, Gov. Cuomo announced he would divest his state’s funds from businesses that engaged in the boycott of Israel, and even individuals who advocate for such boycotts.
Other states are now considering similar laws, and prominent Jewish philanthropists are funding efforts to BDS the BDS movement, so to speak.
Both sides of this fight give the impression that Israel is becoming a pariah. And yet BDS has failed as both an economic and diplomatic weapon. Consider that since 2006, when the movement began, Israel’s gross domestic product has nearly doubled, going from a little over $154 billion to $299 billion for 2015.
Israel is also warming ties with countries all over the world, even as Europe and the United States are increasing the pressure over Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Start with Africa. Next month, Benjamin Netanyahu will be the first Israeli prime minister since Yitzhak Rabin to travel to African capitals for meetings with the leaders of Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda.
Israel under Netanyahu is also expanding links with China, now the country’s third-largest trading partner. A similar story can be told about Israel’s relationship with India, whose Narendra Modi is expected to be the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel later this year. As the Israelis increase defense trade with India, it has also begun to end some of its historic support for the Palestinians at the United Nations.
Then there’s Russia. Netanyahu met with President Vladimir Putin four times in the last year. He also worked out a deal, according to senior officials who spoke on background, in which Russia will allow Israeli jets to target members of the terrorist group Hezbollah in Syria, where Russians now control the air space.
“The prime minister is cognitive of the fact that the United States is the No. 1 ally,” Gold told me. “But the relationship with Putin has vastly improved. Instead of being in conflict with him like we were, we are now making sure there is a line open to him.”
Finally, Israel is repairing and enhancing relationships in the Middle East. In 2011, Turkey downgraded its ties following Israel’s raid on a flotilla trying to breach the naval blockade of Gaza. This month, Turkey’s foreign
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