Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.
Critics of Israel often claim that Israel’s policies are causing it to become “isolated.” This is a tried-and-true pressure tactic. They hope that Israel and its supporters will become fearful and desperate, and make concessions in order to avoid “isolation.”
Biased news media outlets play on these fears. If some country temporarily withdraws its ambassador from Israel, or some American Jewish “leader” criticizes Israeli policies, it becomes front page news. We’ve seen plenty of that during the Gaza border conflict.
But a glance behind the headlines reveals developments that show Israel is not nearly as isolated as the critics claim.
In a recent story that was almost completely ignored outside the Israeli media, Israel’s Tourism Ministry announced that Ben Gurion Airport is beginning a $280-million expansion. The terminal for overseas travelers is going to be enlarged by 388,000 square feet. Eighty-eight new check-in counters are being added.
Why? Because of an enormous increase in tourism to Israel from around the world. The number of tourists visiting the Jewish state in April 2018 was 17% more than the number in April 2017—and 61% more than April 2016. Put another way, the number of tourists from January through April of this year was 1.36-million, which is an increase of 25% from the same period last year.
The impact is already being felt at the airport. Nearly 21 million people entered or left Israel in 2017, but that number will increase to more than 25 million during the year ahead. A number of low-cost European airlines that have not previously traveled to Israel are now planning to begin flights to Ben Gurion this summer. To handle the increased business, twenty-five temporary new service counters are already being set up in a building adjoining the main terminal.
The myth of “Israel’s isolation” is also obvious in the diplomatic realm. Israel today has relations with more countries around the world than at any time in its history. A number of them are majority-Muslim nations.
Governments that maintain normal relations with Israel do so for a variety of reasons. Some are focused on the threat of Iranian expansion and Islamist terrorism. For others, it simply makes economic sense to trade with a desirable hi-tech exporting country like Israel, regardless of political differences.
Israel’s many contributions to international science, medicine, and environmental welfare likely have played a part in improving relations around the world. Just last week, Hawaii’s state legislature banned a certain ingredient used in sunscreen after Israeli researchers found the chemical is causing damage to coral reefs in Hawaii and elsewhere.
And did you see the list of countries that participated in the Jerusalem Embassy relocation ceremony? It’s remarkable:
Albania, Angola, Austria, Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Kenya, Macedonia, Burma, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Serbia, South Sudan, Thailand, Ukraine, Vietnam, Paraguay, Tanzania and Zambia.
Just days after the ceremony, Guatemala and Paraguay moved their embassies to Jerusalem. The leaders of Honduras and the Czech Republic have said they intend to do likewise. Others are likely to eventually follow.
Of course there is a long way still to go in Israel’s struggle to be treated the same as any other country. But let’s not lose hope when people try to intimidate us with warnings about “isolation.” Remember that when he was secretary of state, John Kerry infamously warned that Israel would become a “pariah” state if it didn’t quickly give into Palestinian demands. Today, Israel is thriving and Kerry is a forgotten has-been. That speaks for itself