05/14/2024, 18.57
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Israel: Isolation is not independence

by Giorgio Bernardelli

The day that marks the birth of the modern State of Israel falls this year against the backdrop of the tragedy of 7 October and the war in Gaza. The risk of a political defeat is even greater than a military debacle. As Israel’s Declaration of Independence says, the challenge is "playing one's part in a common effort for the progress of the Middle East.”

Against a background of ongoing trauma, Israel celebrates its Independence Day. On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion read a solemn declaration, marking the beginning of the country’s modern history. Six months earlier, in November 1947, the UN General Assembly had adopted Resolution 181, which ended the British mandate in Palestine to be replaced by “Independent Arab and Jewish States”.

The next day, 15 May, the armies of the surrounding Arab countries launched an attack against the newly established State of Israel, the first act in a well-known tragedy that has reached unprecedented levels of violence in the past seven months in southern Israel and in Gaza, from which it is still hard to see any way out.

Israel celebrates its independence like every country in the world. But as never before, it now faces a question that obviously applies to every country: Can it really rely on its own strength alone to safeguard its independence? In Israel this has an even greater significance in the wake of the Shoah.

In a very provocative book a few years ago, Avraham Burg – former speaker of the Israeli parliament (Knesset) and secretary of the Jewish Agency, spoke of the need to “finally defeat Hitler", showing Israel the way to redefine its collective identity, beyond mere nationalist exaltation to recover instead the universal gaze the original Zionism had in its DNA.

This is the opposite of the path taken by Israel in the last 20 years. By bringing to power extreme right-wing nationalists like Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, heirs to Kach, a movement Yitzhak Rabin called "a shame on to Zionism" in 1994, Benjamin Netanyahu closed the circle of theorising a Jewish state set to go "against everything and everyone" to assert a single identity.

Hamas’s murderous terrorism only hastened this process, resulting in today's scenario, which sees Israel isolated to an unprecedented extent in the international community, since even its great ally in Washington hesitates from showing its support.

With each passing day, it becomes clearer that the outcome of the current war will not be military but political. By continuing to rely only on its own power, Israel is deepening its crisis, risking losing everything it has built over the past 76 years.

It is no coincidence that while past conflicts always united Israel, this time the country is deeply divided, as evinced by street demonstrations with the relatives of the hostages held by Hamas playing a leading role.

Merely reiterating the mantra of the right to "defend itself”, Israel is not showing its independence but following a path towards a precipice.

Many countries have shown willingness to defend Israel; even some Arab states did so on the night of Iran’s drone and missile attack.

But it can only happen again within the limits of same international community that today is asking Israel to take responsibility for the unresolved Palestinian issue, like last week at the UN General Assembly.

This is not a "prize" for terrorism, but the only way to truly defeat Hamas and eradicate the anti-Semitism that is once again rising.

In the 1948 Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers of the State of Israel wrote: “We extend our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

They did so well-aware that war was about to break out, while still pointing to the future. Perhaps it is time for those who care about the fate of Israel to have the courage to start again from there.

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