Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Independence Day

Mondoweiss has brought to my attention a BBC poll measuring attitudes within 28 countries towards the influence of other countries. Israel's influence is widely perceived to be negative, in some cases staggeringly so - just 9% support in Spain, 6% in Turkey (the Turks seems to dislike just about everyone), 13% in Germany, 17% in Australia, just 2% in Japan(!), which actually beat out Egypt at 3%.

On a positive note, opinion is very fluid:
Views improved but remained negative in several countries [from 2009]. Unfavourable ratings have dropped in Australia by 20 points (now 47%, down from 67%), in Canada by 14 points (now 38%, down from 52%), in China by 12 points (now 40%, down from 52%), in Japan by 11 points (now 52%, down from 63%), in Portugal by 22 points (now 46%, down from 68%), in Spain by 11 points (now 60%, down from 71%).
Israel has certainly taken a beating in global opinion this decade. Three wars and thousands of casualties will make anyone forget their gratitude for your having invented instant messaging. What is rather more devastating is the strategic malaise produced by a lack of victory in these wars; as everyone concedes, they have delayed more violence, for a time, but solved nothing. Our enemies are patient, persistent, and making fewer mistakes than they used to.

True, Israel is penned in diplomatically and harassed militarily, but what is more urgent is that its leadership seems wearied, unimaginative and looking for foreign-led salvation rather than risking Israeli-led initiative. A small nation, surrounded by enmity, must be relentlessly bold, perpetually clever.

The country has all the tools it needs to transform its environment. Ultimately, what is more important than how other nations perceive Israel is how the Israelis perceive themselves: A nation shell-shocked and marooned at sea, or a people in command of their destiny.

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