Israel faces a dilemma with the Palestinians’ planned bid for recognition of statehood at the United Nations in New York this week. Israel’s claim to be a democratic state in isolation in the Middle East is seen as less firm with this year’s Arab uprisings.
After hesitating, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided he would go to New York to fight Israel’s corner: “I know that the General Assembly is not a place where Israel gets a fair hearing. I know that the automatic majorities there always rush to condemn Israel and twist truth beyond recognition, but I’ve decided to go there anyway.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s diplomatic preparations are expected to have rallied at least 120 countries out of the 193 UN member states to his people’s cause.
Global public opinion also seems to be swayed away from Israel as 49 percent of those questioned favour a recognition of an independent Palestinian state, while 21 percent do not, and 30 percent are undecided, according to a survey by the Globescan Institute.
Regionally, the context for Israel changed dramatically with the overthrow of discredited regimes by the peoples of Tunisia and Egypt earlier this year. Relations with key allies Egypt and Turkey were radically altered.
Israeli forces then killed several Egyptian soldiers by mistake in an operation against militants near the border and anti-Israel feeling swelled. Angry crowds attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. The Egyptian authorities reacted slowly. Turkey’s regional leadership ambitions continue to rise, meanwhile.
Its prime minister has repeatedly voiced his disgust at Israeli containment activity against the Palestinians. When a blockade-busting flotilla sailed from Istanbul with humanitarian credentials and Israeli commandos boarded one of the vessels, killing nine pro-Palestinian Turkish activists, Ankara was furious.
Israel refused to apologise, and now Turkey has downgraded diplomatic relations and suspended trade and defence dealings. Muslim Turkey has been reforming towards greater democracy for years and now Egypt is moving that way. This adds to the context of the Palestinians’ growing ambitions.