Israel Is Losing Its Greatest Asset: Acceptance

I’ve spent the past few days traveling from New Delhi to Dubai and Amman, and I have an urgent message to deliver to President Biden and the Israeli people: I am seeing the increasingly rapid erosion of Israel’s standing among friendly nations — a level of acceptance and legitimacy that was painstakingly built up over decades. And if Biden is not careful, America’s global standing will plummet right along with Israel’s.

I don’t think Israelis or the Biden administration fully appreciate the rage that is bubbling up around the world, fueled by social media and TV footage, over the deaths of so many thousands of Palestinian civilians, particularly children, with U.S.-supplied weapons in Israel’s war in Gaza. Hamas has much to answer for in triggering this human tragedy, but Israel and the U.S. are seen as driving events now and getting most of the blame.

That such anger is boiling over in the Arab world is obvious, but I heard it over and over again in conversations in India during the past week — from friends, business leaders, an official and journalists both young and old. That is even more telling because the Hindu-dominated government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the only major power in the global south that has supported Israel and consistently blamed Hamas for inviting the massive Israeli retaliation and the deaths of an estimated 30,000 people, according to Gazan health officials, the majority of them civilians.

That many civilian deaths in a relatively short war would be problematic in any context. But when so many civilians die in a retaliatory invasion that was launched by an Israeli government without any political horizon for the morning after — and then, when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, finally offers a morning-after plan that essentially says to the world that Israel now intends to occupy both the West Bank and Gaza indefinitely —it is no surprise that Israel’s friends will edge away and the Biden team will start to look hapless.

As Shekhar Gupta, the veteran editor of the Indian newspaper ThePrint, put it to me: “There’s enormous love and admiration for Israel in India. But a war with no end will strain it. Initial shock and awe apart, Netanyahu’s war is damaging Israel’s greatest asset: the widely held belief in the invincibility of its army, the infallibility of its intelligence services and the justness of its mission.”

Each day brings new calls for Israel to be banned from international academic, artistic and athletic competitions or events. That so much of it is hypocritical in singling out Israel for censure — while ignoring the excesses of Iran, Russia, Syria and China, not to mention Hamas — is true. But this Israeli government is doing things that make it too easy. Many of Israel’s friends are now just praying for a cease-fire so that they don’t have to be asked by their citizens or voters — especially their youth —how they can be indifferent to so many mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

Back to top button