If nature abhors a void, then radicalism exploits it. For example: Raed Salah — the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel claims that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is under threat. The Israeli government does not actively attempt to counter that perception and hence the void is exploited.
On the world stage, in local communities and on college campuses, Israel has been far too passive in countering its critics. The reasons for this passivity range from sharp internal differences of opinion, to a basic inability of Israeli leadership to put its differences aside for the greater good. During a radio interview, Shas leader Aryeh Mahlouf Deri said that the primary role of the opposition is to bring down the government. The notion of the greater good is not a belief which is widely held amongst Israeli politicians.
This internecine, petty politics is what currently characterizes our institutions of government, making them by and large ineffective, and leaving a huge void for anti-Zionist forces to exploit.
Israel has lost (some might say squandered) the legitimacy of its struggle and its foes have had a field day. Israel must recapture the initiative, but not by way of territorial concessions or with political treaties. These are results of negotiations, not a negotiation tactic.
Although Israel is forced to perform a daily balancing act between highly conflicting forces, it is doing an ineffective job of sharing that message with the world. The country struggles to find the appropriate balance between democracy, human rights and self-preservation. Israel is willing to make compromises, but not at the expense of its rights to self-determination and a national homeland. Israel requires reasonable safeguards because it rightly feels threated by an Arab world which, as the Economist stated, is in the midst of a “civilizational decline.”
Israel must help the world better understand the intricacies of life in the Middle East, and reverse the tide of negative public opinion. A few suggestions follow:
- Sponsor a mega sports team. Imagine the words ISRAEL — SEEKS PEACE AND PURSUES IT instead of QATAR AIRWAYS emblazoned on Messi’s chest. Such an undertaking would only cost $90M.
- Produce a 24 hour news channel, such as France24, providing what they call “a global public service and a common editorial stance.” The cost of such a venture would be approximately €100M per year.
- Use a development bank to acquire assets in the key areas of the developing world. Imagine if Israel owned significant assets in countries such as Argentina, Nigeria and South Africa. Capitalizing such a bank with $200M is a good start.
All of these ideas together sum to approximately $400M, which is roughly the budget for the Foreign Ministry. My feeling is that it would be money well spent.
P.S. Commenting on the failure of the peace talks at Camp David, Aaron Miller, a former adviser to Republican and Democratic Secretaries of State on Arab-Israeli negotiations said, “…what I didn’t understand then and do understand now, is that failure has costs and consequences. Trying and failing is an OK slogan for an Israeli football team, but it is not a substitute for a foreign policy.”