Working pro bono for Israeli government agencies, the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute (RI) provides "real-time strategic decision-making" support in areas of national security and socioeconomic policy.
Saying global peace and justice groups threaten Israel's legitimacy, its recent series of articles, policy papers, and presentations counterattacked - a combination of damage control and rethink despite legitimate criticism showing Israel delegitimizes itself, and no amount of policy paper makeover will change it. Only Israel can do that, but in its 62 year existence never tried.
In a January 28 brief, RI said Israel:
"face(s) a dramatic assault on the very legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish and democratic state. While the ideological framework for this delegitimacy was solidified after the first Durban" World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, "the trend (got) a boost by the perceived lack of (political) progress, coupled with Operation Cast Lead in Gaza," followed by the damning Goldstone Report.
Groups "making the fundamental delegitimacy" claim want to internationally isolate Israel and ultimately turn it into a pariah state by:
- demonizing it in public protests, the media, on campuses, and through events like the annual Israel Apartheid Week and World Social Forum, asking its affiliates to excommunicate Israel;
- promoting the Global BDS Movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) in areas of the economy, academia, culture, sport, and security; at risk is it achieving equivalency between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa, yet legitimate critics, including Jimmy Carter, accuse Israel of being worse than apartheid; and
- targeting the state and its officials legally, including through the International Criminal Court (ICJ) and universal jurisdiction (UJ) to charge Israeli generals and politicians with war crimes.
On February 14, ahead of a detailed policy paper, RI issued an executive summary headlined, "The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall," saying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the "engine driving" world criticism of Israel, "resulting in an erosion of its international image, and exacting a tangible strategic price." Of special concern - the 2006 Lebanon War (officially called the Second Lebanon War) and Operation Cast Lead (December 2008 - January 2009), global grassroots condemnation during and after both, besides accusations of daily crimes against humanity throughout the Occupied Territories.
Then in March, RI issued Version A of a detailed final report titled, "Building a Political Firewall Against Israel's Delegitimization: Conceptual Framework," discussed below.
Its theme - poor Israel, victimized again, targeted by global justice, equality, and peace forces influential enough to become an "existential threat within a few years." Instead of acknowledging justifiable criticism and advising real change, RI recommends an aggressive counteroffensive to "sabotage network catalysts" then later softened language against global opposition forces to defuse and discredit them, rebrand Israel as a humanitarian nation, and build a network of strategic "elites (and) influentials."
Two groups are of particular concern:
The Middle East-based "Resistance Network," comprised of nations, organizations and individuals - ideological Islamists, groups representing them, and Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas that "reject Israel's right to exist." They advance an "implosion strategy" to precipitate Israel's collapse by undermining its control of the Palestinians, delegitimize it, and defeat it asymmetrically.
The Western-based "Delegitimization Network," consisting of organizations and individuals from the "radical European left, Arab and Islamic groups, and so-called post or anti-Zionist Jews and Israelis." Their aim - replace Zionism with a state based on "one person, one vote" by demonizing Israel and its moral legitimacy.
RI is alarmed, saying these forces have ideas that are "increasingly sophisticated, ripe, lucid, and coherent" enough to succeed if not stopped at a time "pro-Palestinian activity (has become) trendy." Thus far, Israel's diplomatic standing is strong, but it's eroded "among the general publics and elites," Israel rebranded as a pariah state, vilified for its Gaza siege, BDS grassroots momentum aiming "to correct Israel's ways."
As these forces mature and converge, they're "exacerbating Israel's predicament" by tarnishing its reputation, undermining its relations with Palestinians for a two-state solution in favor of one for all its people. Further, they seek no conflict resolution based on "co-existence or peace (embodying) an acceptance of Israel's existence." Any compromise will be only temporary, even placing the June 1967 borders at risk. "A tipping point would be a paradigm shift from a Two-State (to a) One-State Solution."
A comprehensive permanent status agreement establishing a Palestinian state would weaken Israeli delegitimization efforts, but the campaign will persist. Upcoming - mobilizing Israeli Arabs (20% of Israel's population), so far with limited success but they continue.
Israel's strategic challenge requires an effective counteroffensive against already urgent problems that include "international interference in Israel's domestic affairs;" limiting its military option; boycotts, divestment, and sanctions; and travel restrictions out of fear of criminal prosecutions abroad if travel.
Relying on military force against threats is "out of date." A new focus is needed, including effective PR, and a restructured, better financed/staffed foreign affairs establishment to "wage a global campaign on the non-governmental level." Other militarily powerful nations have been toppled by effectively mobilized "political, diplomatic, and economic dynamics...." Israel must avoid that fate.
As a result, its "diplomacy and foreign policy doctrine requires urgent overhaul." PR and policy changes aren't enough. "Clearly, a credible and persistent commitment (for) peace and ending control over the Palestinian population, as well as....full integration and equality of Israel's Arab citizens, are essential for effectively battling Israel's delegitimization" - or at least the appearance in this direction.
"Synchronized victories" are needed militarily, politically, diplomatically, and in the media. "It takes a network to fight a network," and intelligence sabotage abroad to do it.
Human network power stems from their "hubs (and) catalysts:" the former in key areas like London, Paris, Toronto, Madrid, and San Francisco; the latter comprised of mobilized global peace and justice groups.
Strategy requires rebranding Israel and its adversaries, winning elite hearts and minds, and building influential networks, especially in key hub areas. Also, "engage the critics; isolate the delegitimizers." Mobilize Israeli NGOs to engage global ones, and Jewish/Israeli diaspora communities to lead by dealing with their local dynamics and respond appropriately.
Instead of recommending an equitable end to a 62 year conflict, RI advises sabotage and subterfuge against growing global forces it fears, ones effectively undermining Israel's legitimacy, so to prevail they must be subverted and stopped.
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|William A. Cook|