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The ‘war’ for legitimacy is a war Israel may never win

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While there is no doubt that Israel holds military superiority over any possible armed force it might go to war with, there is another threat that Israel appears to have no response for – moral outrage. The Jerusalem Post covers a new report which outlines Israel’s true Achilles heal. From the article "Hubs of delegitimization":

A new report by the Reut Institute, a Tel Aviv-based national security and socioeconomic policy think tank, maps out the "new battlefield" in which Israel finds the legitimacy of its very existence attacked by a wide array of organizations and individuals in global centers like London, Toronto, Brussels, Madrid and Berkeley.

The report, which also makes recommendations for possible remedies, is to be presented next week to Israeli diplomatic officials, and will also be presented at the Herzliya Conference in January. The report’s authors spent two weeks in London interviewing some 45 people, including members of Muslim groups and anti-Zionist Jewish organizations, and academics, journalists, pollsters, jurists, activists and politicians.

Beginning with Israel’s traditional strategic concept, conceived by David Ben-Gurion, which posits that to win its wars, the IDF would have to take the fight to its enemies, the Reut report posits that increasingly, Israel cannot "win" its wars in the traditional sense as it is not up against conventional Arab armies, and there is no decisive victory over an enemy army to be had.

While there is still a physical existential threat posed by certain enemies (including unconventional terrorism), the new front focuses its attack on Israel’s political legitimacy, painting Israel as a pariah state, exhausting Israeli society, burdening its economy, and mobilizing Israel’s Arab minority as an anchor in the struggle against the Jewish state.

The key concept for this "Resistance Network" is overstretching Israel along the fault lines of demography, democracy (binational state vs a state of the Jewish people), Jewish identity and territory.

What does it mean that Israel views challenges to racist demographic priorities and simple calls to democracy as an existential threat? It is also interesting to note that later in the article the think tank’s recommendations ape the Israel settler "price tag" strategy for dealing with opponents ("establish a ‘price tag’ for attacking Israel and punish boycotters").

At least this report seems honest about the near impossible task at hand – trying to sell Israel’s apartheid system to a liberal international public. Often times when Israel’s supporters try this it comes off looking like a sad joke. Like this op-ed in today’s Haaretz, where an Israeli settler compares herself to Rosa Parks:

Despite the fury and the insult, let’s not turn to violence. There is a simple, natural solution that is full of life – continuing to build. That will perhaps embarrass the prime minister in front of U.S. President Barack Obama, but that’s precisely the point. A person with a manual cement mixer in Samaria can change history. Sometimes the man in the field can be a lot stronger than the great leaders. Just like Rosa Parks.

Arguments like this are going to make the Reut Institute’s work much harder.

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of

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