Israel's siege mentality will cost it dearly

As the Palestinians' plight is recognised globally, the damage to Israel's political and diplomatic relationships may take years to make right

The gathering global criticism of the chaos in Gaza means Israel’s isolation leaves the US and its President, Joe Biden, increasingly exposed. Getty
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The regional anguish caused by Israel’s war on Gaza, and ongoing assault on Rafah in particular, could be heard loud and clear in Dubai yesterday.

“We have a firm belief in the justice of the Palestinian cause, which we absorbed from our upbringing and from our Arab conscience,” Dr Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to the UAE President, told the audience at the Arab Media Forum, adding that the “heinous attack in Gaza and Rafah cannot be overlooked by the world”. Recent diplomatic developments show that the world is indeed looking very closely at this grisly spectacle. The forum discussed at length the need for an end to the war in Gaza and the role of media outlets in raising awareness at this crucial time.

This week alone, the UN Security Council is preparing for another emergency session – having already called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza earlier this year. Ireland, Norway and Spain have formally recognised Palestine as a state, with more EU members reportedly set to follow. Yesterday, this new relationship proceeded apace with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa visiting Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in Madrid.

Yet the continuing obstinacy of leading Israeli politicians and commanders suggests either a profound misreading of the turning diplomatic tide or an all-eggs-in-one-basket approach in which the US is depended upon for cover.

Indeed, the fraying relationship with Europe is indicative of the siege mentality that appears to have taken hold of Israel’s establishment. Arguably, the country has more to lose given that the EU is Israel’s largest trading partner. The response to three European countries recognising Palestine has been instructive: Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem was ordered to stop providing consular services for Palestinians, and the country’s three ambassadors were summoned to watch a Hamas attack video.

Elsewhere, Israel’s relationships with other countries are deteriorating. In addition to more EU members expected to support Palestinian statehood, Mexico wants to join the ICJ genocide case against Israel and – more dangerously – tensions on the ground with Egypt have boiled over into gunfire. Meanwhile, fighting across the Lebanese border continues as civilians on both sides of the frontier are displaced.

As international court cases gather steam and EU criticism mounts, Israel is increasingly dependent upon the US for support. But the gathering global criticism of the chaos in Gaza means Israel’s isolation leaves the US and its President, Joe Biden, increasingly exposed for the incoherence of their position. The chasm between the American approach to Gaza and Russia’s war on Ukraine is clear; in February 2022, Mr Biden and the US government backed a similar call for Moscow’s forces to immediately end their attack and withdraw from Ukraine.

Israel’s establishment may be playing for time in the hope that a change in government in the US come November will deliver an administration less concerned about being shown up on the global stage. This week’s scene of former Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Hayley signing Israeli artillery shells with the ghoulish message “finish them” might reassure more hawkish Israeli leaders, but it bodes ill for the country’s wider relationships and doesn’t deliver long-term solutions.

The fact is the approach Israel’s current leadership is taking is not only running out of road; it is sowing the seeds of future discord wither otherwise friendly countries. More importantly, despite the bitterly heavy price Palestinians are paying, their plight is now recognised globally. However, in the end, the interests of all sides, particularly Palestinians and Israelis, lie in a political solution for both peoples to live in peace.

Published: May 30, 2024, 3:00 AM