What Israel Needs Is More International Isolation

First Benjamin Netanyahu helps secure his election by relying on the racialist Avigdor Lieberman, who becomes foreign minister. Then Michael Oren, his ambassador to the U.S., inexplicably decides to attack progressive Jews for insufficient loyalty to Israel. Now relations with Turkey, once a bright spot for Israel in the Muslim world, are deteriorating rapidly.

Ostensibly, Israel had a quite legitimate problem with a Turkish TV show that portrayed the Shin Bet kidnapping babies. The Israeli response was to summon the Turkish ambassador to meet with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, and to televise Ayalon bragging in Hebrew about how the Turkish envoy was seated in a lower chair, with no Turkish flag displayed for the cameras. It’s insult diplomacy, apparently, and unsurprisingly, the Turks are demanding an apology. For good measure, Netanyahu added that the real problem Israel has with Turkey is its increasing closeness with Iran and Syria. Since that isn’t a problem for Turkey, the Turks have absolutely no reason to take that remark seriously, and focus instead on the Israeli insult.

There’s a juvenile strain of conservatism that sees international isolation as a mark of virtue. Since the world is an evil place, a world that rejects Israel just speaks to Israeli goodness, the fairytale goes. But Israel has to live in that world. A good relationship with a Muslim country that clearly accepts Israel’s right to exist is an unqualified diplomatic asset. To squander it through churlishness reflects a foreign policy run by a Moldovan bouncer. It’s like we’re living through the vulgar sequel of the Bush administration. Only Israelis are supposed to be more realistic.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman