The myth of Israel's isolation
One of the mainstream media's favorite doomsday scenarios for Israel is its supposed isolation on the world stage. According to this narrative, Israel is on a path to becoming the black sheep of the international community. The most common assumption is that Israel is turning itself into a pariah state, with fewer friends across the globe, because it somehow isn't willing to give Palestinians their due.
A closer look at Israel's interaction with countries near and far, as well as with international institutions, belies any such foreboding picture. Far from being isolated, Israel increasingly is acknowledged as a world player in view of its social, economic, financial and diplomatic achievements in the last 64 years.
Its latest integration (not isolation) in the company of other important global players is its newly won membership in the executive committee of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Yes, we all know about the anti-Israel bias of most UN institutions. Yet, with support from the Western bloc - the U.S., Australia, Japan, Holland, among others - Israel is now at the policy-making apex of one of the more credible UN branches, with its $1 billion budget to generate important health and welfare programs, as well as initiatives on empowerment of women, in the developing world.
UNDP has earned its credibility spurs in the last couple of decades with an annual report card on living standards among UN member nations - drafted without favoritism or bias.
In the latest UNDP report, Israel ranked 17th - ahead of Belgium, Austria and France. And Israel was 20 spots ahead of the first Arab country - oil-rich Qatar in 37th place. Saudi Arabia was a distant 56th.
In welcoming Israel into their executive committee, UNDP members pointed to its technological and agricultural know-how - a clear asset for UNDP's mission in the developing world. Israel also was recognized as a sterling model for empowerment of women - an agenda it expects to incorporate in its work for the UNDP.
Accession to the top policy-making rungs of the UNDP is not an isolated occurrence. Last year, Israel was elected to membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) - a Paris-based grouping of some of the world's most important financial heavy-hitters, like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Britain and the U.S.
With its OECD and UNDP memberships, Israel is hardly isolated. Nor can it be so categorized in view of its growing trade ties with India and China, or its robust $2 billion import-export relationship with Turkey - notwithstanding all the anti-Israel bluster of Prime Minister Erdogan. Under the media radar, Israel also retains close ties with Turkey's defense establishment, including weapons procurement.
Israel successfully overcame Erdogan's fulmination by developing new ties with nearby Greece and Cyprus - especially as partners in development and exploitation of recently discovered natural gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean.
And while Israel's relations with the U.S. have often been problematic under the Obama administration, both sides have nurtured a solid partnership on security matters.
Also, Israel has gained new respect on the world stage with its sterling economic performance during the worst financial downturn since the Great Depression. While much of Europe and the U.S. sank into a steep recession, Israel turned in solid economic growth, with a current 5.6 percent unemployment rate that is the envy of friends and foes alike.
All these developments underscore Israel's rising global integration. "Isolation" is a more apt description for its biggest enemies, like Syria or Iran. In the wake of the Arab Spring, some of the new revolutionary regimes - whether in Egypt or Tunisia - appear reluctant to engage in direct confrontations with the Jewish state. Their propaganda often belies their actions.
Yes, Israel is not without enemies, especially Iran with its nuclear weapons program and its outsourcing of terrorism to Hezbollah and Hamas, but isolated it isn't.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers