Accords will be as dust without Israeli good will

Palestinian laborers head to work in Israel through a checkpoint amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Hebron in the West Bank May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma 
 (Via Jewish News)
Palestinian laborers head to work in Israel through a checkpoint amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), near Hebron in the West Bank May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma (Via Jewish News)

Nothing more infuriates the British Jewish community than perceived media bias against Israel. It is seen as feeding the anti-Israel of social media, affecting the views of young people and fuelling the hatred of the agitprop left.

Matters were not helped by seeming indifference of successive Benjamin Netanyahu governments to UK media in general and the Jewish media in particular. That is why Naftali Bennett’s opinion article in last week’s Jewish News, on his first visit to the UK as prime minister, was so significant. His praise for the inspiration of British Jews was hugely welcome and he knew how important it was to say so.

There has been recognition in the UK over the past year of Israel’s amazing achievements in science, technology and the creative industries. This after years of largely being ignored amid the geopolitical eruptions in its noisy neighbourhood.

The pace, skill and sensitivity with which Jerusalem embraced Covid-19 vaccination was seen as the gold standard amid the hesitation of some western nations. Its data was espoused by health professionals across the globe. Not only that because it was ahead of the pack it was also embraced by the IMF and central banks to provide economic guidance when policy, at times, seemed to flying blind.

But in June, the clumsy handling of a damaging property dispute in East Jerusalem provided the ammunition to Hamas to launch unprovoked rocket attacks on Israeli citizens and yet another Gaza war. The outcomes of such conflicts are generally predictable; Israel is accused of using overwhelming force, pictures of maimed Palestinian citizens are beamed across the world, Egypt sponsors a peace and Israel’s reputation is left in tatters.

What made the 2021 conflict so unconscionable was the havoc it caused in Israel’s mixed cities where Arab and Jewish neighbours came to blows. Flare-ups among Israel’s two million Arab minority – partly provoked by right-wing vigilante groups – threatened the very internal stability of the state. This after some heroic action by Israeli Jews and Israeli Palestinians during the pandemic when they worked shoulder to shoulder saving lives.

The Bennett-Lapid coalition has managed to heal that hurt. Israeli-Arabs find themselves in government. A budget has passed by the Knesset and record sums have been allocated to Arab mayors in search of a fairer society.

The government has recognised the value of propagating a more positive international image. With the assistance of Bicom in the UK and similar organisations across Europe, working with influential journalists, the dialogue is being changed. I was particularly struck by an op-ed by the Financial Times strategic commentator Gideon Rachman. He pointed to Israel’s well known achievements in high-tech but also argued compellingly that the often ignored Abraham Accords has changed Israel’s self-image.  The Gulf nations increasingly have become a safe space for Israeli business and diplomacy.

Public global acceptance has long been a struggle for Israel, often the pariah state at the UN. But it will remain elusive unless it can carve out a better relationship with Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The apartheid and persecution charge made by Human Rights Watch for its treatment of Palestinians in April was a wounding blow. Israel’s efforts to isolate Palestinians through security barriers, separate road systems has made its citizens more secure. But only some kind of economic, social and political parity will heal the wounds and end the allegations of human rights abuses.

The Abraham Accords  have helped heal the global divide. They will be as dust unless the current coalition can find ways of carving out a better deal with their immediate Abrahamic neighbours. Isn’t that what Abraham himself did more than five millennia ago?

About the Author
Alex Brummer is the Daily Mail's City Editor
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