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Building a Political Firewall Against Israel's Delegitimization

Executive Summary

Background and Introduction

  1. In the past few years, Israel has been subjected to increasingly harsh criticism around the world, resulting in an erosion of its international image, and exacting a tangible strategic price. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as the 'engine' driving this criticism, which peaked with and around the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead. In some places, criticism has stretched beyond legitimate discourse regarding Israeli policy to a fundamental challenge to the country’s right to exist.

  2. Two forces and dynamics link these phenomena and the frustrating outcomes of the Second Lebanon War (07/06) and Operation Cast Lead (01/09):

  • The Resistance Network, based in the Middle East – and comprising nations, organizations, and individuals – rejects Israel's right to exist on the basis of Islamist or Arab-nationalist ideology under the leadership of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas;

  • The Delegitimization Network, primarily comprising organizations and individuals in the West – mostly elements of the radical European left, Arab and Islamic groups, and so-called post or anti-Zionist Jews and Israelis –negate Israel's right to exist based on a variety of political and philosophical arguments.

Both groups derive their inspiration from the collapse of the Soviet Union, East Germany, or apartheid South Africa.

Diagnosis: Systemic and Systematic Assault on Israel's Political Model

  1. Israel’s recent diplomatic and military frustrations are driven by the maturation of two parallel processes:​ 

    • The Resistance Network advances the 'implosion strategy' that aims to precipitate Israel’s collapse based on three principles: 'Overstretching' Israel by undermining attempts to end its control over the Palestinian population; delegitimizing Israel; and conducting asymmetric warfare in the battlefield and against Israel’s civilian population to counter IDF military superiority;

    • The Delegitimization Network that aims to supersede the Zionist model with a state that is based on the ‘one person, one vote’ principle by turning Israel into a pariah state and by challenging the moral legitimacy of its authorities and existence.

  2. The dynamics of each of these processes derive from a set of ideas that are increasingly sophisticated, ripe, lucid, and coherent, even if inconsistencies persist and debates continue, and notwithstanding that the above-mentioned logic has not matured into a 'strategy' that has operational objectives, timelines, or milestones.

  3. Asymmetrical approaches of Israel and its delegitimizers to Israel’s fundamental legitimacy:​​

    • Israel tends to work 'from the center to the periphery' or 'top-down,' emphasizing formal relations with political and business elites; focusing on mainstream media; and often being guided by the mindset that "if you are not with me you are against me"; meanwhile

    • Israel's delegitimizers work 'from the periphery to the center' and 'bottom-up,' focusing on non-governmental organizations, academia, grassroots movements, and the general public; using social networks over the internet; and being guided by the mindset that "if you are not against me, you are with me."

  4. Hence, while Israel’s formal diplomatic position remains relatively strong and solid, its standing among the general publics and elites is eroded.

  5. The effectiveness of Israel's delegitimizers, who represent a relatively marginal political and societal force in Europe and North America, stems from their ability to engage and mobilize others by blurring the lines with Israel's critics. They do so by branding Israel as a pariah and 'apartheid' state; rallying coalitions around 'outstanding issues' such as the 'Gaza blockade'; making pro-Palestinian activity trendy; and promoting grassroots activities such as boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) as a way to 'correct Israel's ways.'

  6. The maturation and convergence of these two processes is exacerbating Israel's predicament in the Palestinian arena​​

    • While the Resistance Network undermines the separation between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the Two-State Solution;

    • The Delegitimization Network tarnishes Israel's reputation, constrains its military capabilities, and advances the One-State Solution.

  7. The Resistance Network and Israel's delegitimizers leverage the Palestinian condition to advance their cause, yet they do not seek its resolution or accept ideas such as 'co-existence' or 'peace' that embody an acceptance of Israel's existence. Their objectives dictate that any compromise with Israel should be temporary, and even borders that are based on the June 4, 1967 lines would only be provisional.

  8. A tipping point in this context would be a paradigm shift from the Two-State Solution to the One-State Solution as the consensual framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  9. Clearly, an Israeli and Palestinian comprehensive Permanent Status Agreement that establishes a Palestinian state and brings about an 'end of conflict' or 'finality of claims’ would weaken the grounds of Israel's delegitimization. However, even given such an agreement, the logic of the delegitimization campaign would persist.

  10. The issue of Israel's Arab citizens may become the next ‘outstanding issue’ driving delegitimization in the event that an Israeli-Palestinian Permanent Status Agreement is secured. In fact, the Resistance Network has already attempted to mobilize this community albeit with very limited success.

  11. Here too, credible and persistent commitment for full integration and equality of Israel's Arab citizens would weaken the grounds of Israel's delegitimizers, but will not end their campaign, whose logic is rooted in challenging Israel's existence and not its policies. 

  12. Similarly, while public relations (Hasbara) are critically important, they cannot and will not neutralize the delegitimizers.

  13. Therefore, Israel is likely to experience setbacks in its attempts to ensure its security and identity, which merges its Jewish and democratic character, unless it is able to meet the challenge of Israel’s fundamental delegitimization effectively.

Building a Political Firewall  Against Israel's Delegitimization


Conceptual Framework

National Security

Delegitimization of Israel

These two dynamics combine to create a predicament for Israel in the Palestinian arena: While the Resistance Network sabotages every move aimed at separating Israel from the Palestinians on the basis of a Two-State Solution; the Delegitimization Network demonizes Israel while calling for a One-State Solution.

קראו את הגרסה בעברית

Two State Solution, Diaspora Relations, Delegitimization, Partner for Peace, Zionism

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