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Why Israel's "Splendid Isolation" Is Doomed To Fail

The Israeli army's operation last week in the Jenin camp was particularly striking in its scale and violence, further undermining any hope of appeasement in the region or the newfound alliance with Arab countries, or even among American Jews. What if Israeli politics, instead, was inspired by the nation's Netflix series scriptwriters?

Image of A Palestinian holding a national flag amidst burning tires near the border fence with Israel

A Palestinian holds a national flag amidst burning tires near the border fence with Israel

Dominique Moïsi


PARIS — On television screens around the world, the images appear in a steady chain, one after another — and they start to blend together.

There are endless divides between Ukraine and the West Bank: geography, history, geopolitical stakes. Everything except the most fundamental point: civilian victims. By intervening as they did in Jenin a few days ago, the Israeli armed forces were targeting an operational command center of the "Jenin Brigades."

But this intervention, the largest since 2005 (counting between 500 and 1,000 men, accompanied by armored vehicles, under the protection of the air force and drones) took place in the heart of a refugee camp of 14,000 people. Refugees who are often the children and grandchildren of Palestinians who have been – or are still – living in camps since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

This escalating violence is unlikely to lead to a third intifada, but it does make any hope of a political solution even more far-off and abstract. Was the Zionist ideal embodied by Theodor Herzl and David Ben-Gurion to impose survival of the fittest on its neighbors? Could that somehow erase from memory the Jews' own tragic history, in which they found themselves in the position of the weakest? Do children who've been abused tend to reproduce, as adults, the abuses of which they were the victims?

Isolated from the world

Over the past week, Israel has not only "neutralized terrorists," but has destroyed the infrastructure of a city within the city: deepening the gap between Israelis and Palestinians for generations to come. The day will come when this accumulation of tactical victories will turn against the Jewish state, when the young Israeli elites – no longer recognizing themselves in the choices and practices of their government, so profoundly far removed from Jewish values – will deliberately withdraw from a project that is no longer theirs.

The Palestinian demography no longer represents the main long-term threat to the State of Israel, but the behavior of its political leaders.

The first line of defense is no longer Israel, it's Ukraine.

To return to power, if not to escape justice, Benyamin Netanyahu has joined forces with "the devil": extreme nationalists who've made religion their clay, the alpha and omega of their politics. They flirt with overt racism, when they don't dive straight into it instead. They are unaware that the world has profoundly changed. Blinded by passion, intolerance and even hatred, they are witnessing changes that will ultimately render such off-the-rails behavior suicidal in the long-term.

Not so long ago, Israel could present itself as the Western world's first line of defense against Islamic fundamentalism. And this argument still holds true for those who see Islam as the main threat to our societies. But the reality is quite different. In the age of the Russian threat, the first line of defense is no longer Israel, it's Ukraine.

Far from strengthening Europe and the West as a whole, the behavior of Israel's current leaders is weakening Jewish communities around the world. It is even isolating Israel from the Jewish diaspora, which has long been among Jerusalem's strongest supporters.

The example of the U.S. is revealing. The majority (more than 70%) of American Jews are behind the Democratic Party and President Joe Biden, despite its growing criticism of Israeli policy. The problem of dual allegiance no longer arises. "To be virtuous, one is no less a man," said French playwright and poet Molière in Tartuffe. To feel close to the Zionist ideal is no less a belief in universal values: from the demand for justice to respect for others.

Image of a burnt and destroyed car in the Jenin refugee camp

A burnt and destroyed car in the Jenin refugee camp

Nasser Ishtayeh / ZUMA

Extremism feeds extremism

By giving in to pressure from the far right, and especially from settler lobbies, Israel is contradicting its own objectives, and gradually undoing the Abraham Accords signed with a number of Arab countries. If the main threat to Israel is Iran and its nuclear ambitions, why risk isolating itself from its main supporters in the world, by adopting a policy towards the Palestinians that swings between disdainful neglect and excessive violence?

The stronger party always bears greater responsibility.

The restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, sealed in Beijing thanks to Chinese mediation, is both a success for Beijing and a diplomatic setback for Israel. Is anyone in Jerusalem unaware that without significant progress on the Palestinian issue, relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia can never truly be normalized?

Of course, the Palestinian authorities share some of the responsibility for the worsening relations between the two peoples. Weak and corrupt, the Palestinian Authority has left the way open for extremist organizations that may or may not depend on Iran. But the extremism of some feeds the extremism of others, and the stronger party always bears greater responsibility, especially when the gap in power, wealth (and trust) is so wide.

In the region, there is "too much" Israel and "not enough" Palestine. But on a global scale, with less than ten million inhabitants, Israel doesn't even represent the statistical margin of error when calculating the populations of China and India!

"Splendid isolation" doesn't work for a state that needs strong friends and allies to survive in the long term.

Fauda and Teheran soft power

Unlike the political leaders in Jerusalem, the screenwriters in Tel Aviv who produce successful series such as "Fauda" and "Teheran" seem to have fully understood this strategic necessity, and strive in spite of everything to preserve and develop Israel's soft power.

In both the above-mentioned series, protagonists, whether Arab or Persian, are treated with nuance, vulnerability and humanity. In the Teheran series, one of Iran's secret service chiefs is portrayed as a deeply human man, as concerned with his wife's health as he is with eliminating Mossad agents.

If only Israeli politics could draw even just a whiff of inspiration from the talent of TV series scriptwriters, we wouldn't be where we are today.

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How The War Is Squeezing Egypt From All Sides

The closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egpty, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, pose urgent and complex questions for decision-makers in Egypt. There are also wider regional questions that can no longer be swept aside.

photo of a baby in a stroller and his mother with a suitcase

A Palestinian mother and her son wait on the Gaza side of the Rafah Crossing, hoping to cross into Egypt.

Abed Rahim Khatib/dpa via ZUMA
Mada Masr


CAIRO — The Rafah border crossing, the only passage in or out of the besieged Gaza Strip from Egypt, was closed indefinitely on Tuesday following three Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian side of the crossing in less than 24 hours.

The first airstrike came late on Monday night, causing the temporary suspension of work at the crossing. The second strike came on Tuesday, leading the Egyptian side to halt all work until further notice and a third strike followed later on Tuesday afternoon.

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The crossing was the only exit route that Palestinians could use to leave the densely populated Gaza Strip, which has been under intense Israeli bombing since the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, launched an unprecedented attack in Israel-held territory to the north of Gaza on Saturday morning. About 1,000 Israelis were killed in the offensive and another 150 were taken as prisoners. In retaliation, Israel has launched the largest bombing campaign it has undertaken on the strip in years, killing 830 Palestinians, and has cut off water, electricity and fuel supplies to Gaza.

The closure of the crossing and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza pose urgent and complex questions for decision-makers in Egypt regarding their role in the conflict and the repercussions of the deteriorating situation in Gaza amid a critical and sensitive political and economic situation in Egypt.

Five high-ranking Egyptian political and diplomatic sources, all speaking to Mada Masr on condition anonymity over the past two days, unpacked these questions and the difficulty entailed in responding to them in a fast-changing and volatile moment that demands decisive and prompt action.

The sources identified several main questions facing Egypt right now. The first relates to the possibility that tens of thousands of refugees of Gaza’s 2-million-person population could head toward Egypt’s eastern borders attempting to escape from Gaza to Sinai. The second question is how far is Egypt able to contain the situation through mediation initiatives amid its concerns that its historical regional role in managing Palestinian affairs could be further sidelined. According to the sources, these questions are linked to the challenges of the domestic situation and the fear that the current crisis could be used to exert pressure on the Egyptian regime to extract various concessions.

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