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Israel can no longer rely on an acquiescent international community

August 7, 2023 at 4:00 pm

Israeli protesters march ‘for judicial independence’ at the Kaplan street, after the coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu passed the controversial ‘judicial reform’ law in parliament in Tel Aviv, Israel on August 5, 2023 [Mostafa Alkharouf – Anadolu Agency]

The Zionist state of Israel has been receiving preferable treatment and support from an acquiescent international community, mainly countries in the West which dominate international bodies and other countries around the world, even before it was created in occupied Palestine in 1948. Despite never declaring where its borders lie (so that it can continue to expand on stolen Palestinian land) and not even fulfilling a major condition of its membership the UN — allowing the Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland — it is recognised as a full member of the international organisation. Most of its citizens are so uncertain about its viability that they maintain dual citizenship.

Meanwhile, most countries of the world do not recognise the State of Palestine and Palestinian sovereignty over the land occupied by the apartheid state. The Palestinian people, even those who are nominally Israeli citizens, have far fewer rights than Jewish citizens of the occupation state. Israel has dozens of discriminatory laws which favour Jews.

Israeli soldiers and gangs of illegal Jewish settlers continue to attack the Palestinians and their homes and land daily, but no one dares to stop them. The most courageous country can only condemn their illegal acts. Israel treats international law with contempt and is allowed to act with full impunity, while at the same time receiving the support of the international community which is duty bound to uphold international law and hold transgressors to account.

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Moreover, Israel receives billions of dollars a year in aid from the US, as well as full diplomatic, political and military protection. Whenever Israel carries out crimes against the Palestinians using the latest high-tech weapons and the Palestinians try to defend themselves, US aid to Israel increases.

The US Congressional Research Service said in 2021 that, “US foreign aid has been a major component in cementing and reinforcing” shared goals in the Middle East. “US officials and many lawmakers have long considered Israel to be a vital partner in the region.”

However, such unlimited support and aid may fall away due to Israel’s shift to the far-right. The extreme far right and its allies have been winning a majority in the Israeli Knesset for years. At long last, however, attacks on Palestinians — including the daily settler attacks and the confiscation or demolition of properties — are starting to be condemned. The far-right coalition’s plans to overhaul the judicial system in Israel has not only attracted a lot of criticism within Israel — tens of thousands of Israelis are suddenly concerned about “democracy” being eroded in the state, having previously not cared a jot for the undemocratic treatment of the Palestinians — but also internationally.

Demonstrations in support of the Palestinians are increasing in size and number across Europe and the US as they struggle against Israel’s brutal military occupation. Where once support for Israel was de rigueur in European capitals, criticism of the occupation state is no longer taboo.

Ben Samuels and Amir Tibon wrote in Haaretz on Sunday that criticising Israel inside the US Congress was once “fictional”, but no more. They cited a debate about halting military aid for Israel. “Facing each other were a former US ambassador to Israel and a former senior White House official, discussing whether it was time to stop America’s military support for Israel,” they wrote. “An issue once thought to be totally consensual in American politics has become a contentious subject, and one that’s increasingly discussed in Washington.”

Israelis have started to recognise this. Commenting on the US statements after the death of a young Palestinian on Friday and an Israeli on Saturday, Jacob Magid wrote in the Times of Israel that, “Statements from [the US] State Department appear to make a point of equating two deadly incidents.”

Indeed, unusually the State Department described the killing of a 19-year-old Palestinian by Israeli settlers as a “terror attack by extremist settlers”. It extended “deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones… we urge full accountability and justice.” This was unprecedented. The US normally tries to justify whatever Israel and Israelis do, no matter how much it is in violation of international law.

When the Israeli government faced harsh criticism from its allies recently regarding repeated military incursions in Jenin and Nablus, it put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to step in and fight the Palestinian resistance on its behalf.

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Even the US administration has asked Netanyahu to take certain measures to bolster the PA in order to be more qualified in its battle against the Palestinian resistance. This will shift the international criticism from Israel to the PA, resulting in a decline in direct international criticism of the occupation state.

In the past, Israel used social media to spread its twisted narrative which was read as gospel by the international community. Today, it has to recruit thousands of people to work on social media to defend its narrative and justify what it does.

Prior to the Israeli election last year, President Isaac Herzog pleaded with the US administration and Jewish American community leaders to continue supporting Israel if far-right extremists Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich joined the coalition government.

“You have elections and midterms, we have elections in Israel next week,” said Herzog. “I think one thing should transcend both — the friendship and close bond between Israel and the United States is unbreakable and it is a value that we must all cherish and work for. May I also add we must respect each other’s democracies.”

In the US, criticism of Israel once confined mainly to the Democratic Party has now reached the core of the Republican party, meaning that, today, Israel is treading carefully. It used to act belligerently because it knew that no one would dare question its actions. That is longer the case, and now it seeks to avoid criticism and international pressure. The international community is not the rubber stamp for Israeli lawbreaking that it once was. This has to be a good thing for the credibility of international law and the organisations that are supposed to uphold it.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.