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Israel’s Government is Joining the “Axis of Evil”

Hundreds protest outside United Nations during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address, Photo by Amnon Shemi
Hundreds protest outside United Nations during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address, Photo by Amnon Shemi

Israeli diplomacy has positioned itself very clearly in the camp of the enemies of democracy, and the leader of the free world must send the message that there is a price to pay.

There will be a meeting between President Biden and Prime Minister Netanyahu on the margins of the UN General Assembly, motivated by Biden’s political goal of promoting a deal with Saudi Arabia, in which Netanyahu could assist in obtaining Republican support for Senate approval of the agreement.

However, anyone who is still wondering why Prime Minister Netanyahu has not yet been invited to the White House received the answer last Wednesday in the form of images of Israel’s ambassador in Moscow and the Russian Minister of Culture, signing an agreement of cooperation in the field of cinema, this at a time when Israel claims to not have money to provide medical insurance to refugees from the Ukraine.

Films which result from this cooperation will show Israel as siding with the aggressors. At a time when Russia is subject to tough international sanctions, and when the Russian Minister of Culture, Olga Lyubimova herself, is subject to sanctions by the United States, the UK and the EU, Israel has no problem signing an agreement of cooperation with a country and a minister who are under sanction.

However, the diplomatic indifference plaguing Israeli diplomacy is not limited to Russia. In Romania, the Israeli ambassador Reuven Azar met with the leader of the far-right party AUR – an antisemitic party which denies the Holocaust – to which the Israeli Foreign Ministry is providing legitimacy in exchange for support on the settlements. In Hungary, the Israeli embassy offered a tardy and muted response to praise by a Hungarian minister of the country’s leader at the time of the Holocaust, Admiral Miklós Horthy, who lent an enthusiastic hand to the murder of his Jewish citizens. In Myanmar, Israeli companies are selling arms to the ruling military junta which is also under international sanction.

President Biden and the EU are not blind to the dangerous direction Israel is taking on the international stage. While at home the coalition is working to destroy the checks and balances that protect Israel’s democracy, Israel’s international diplomacy is siding with the belligerent, undemocratic world, who perceive Israel as an example of an ethnocracy, devoid of minority rights, and which is joining the populistic regimes that values a single leader above human rights, even of its citizens.

While security is always the convenient justification for this dangerous foreign policy, in reality it is the common interests of dictatorships – both current and emerging. When Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, accompanies the Israeli ambassador in Romania on a visit to a far-right, antisemitic leader, all pretense is dispelled. Yossi Dagan and his fellow settlers seek recognition of the settlements by international players – who will then serve as the vanguard for the support of an illegal and immoral de facto dictatorship – who are themselves dictatorships or share non-democratic ideologies, such as the antisemitic European right-wing parties.

This constitutes a corrupt reciprocity of recognition for the legitimacy of the settlements in exchange for the legitimacy of antisemitism and xenophobia – the mutual sanitization of evil. The Israeli Government is joining the international “axis of evil” that is indifferent to aggression, antisemitism and attacks on human rights – yet has no compunction about preaching to other governments about sanctions against Iran.

What Netanyahu fails to grasp – or at least pretends to – is that if the shared interests and values that form the basis of the pact with the United States are violated it is unrealistic to expect the continued support of the United States. Even American Jewry – which Israeli governments have taken for granted – are largely liberal/progressive and understand that the government of Israel is hostile to the values they hold dear, just as Trump was.

The United States will always stand alongside Israel in times of crisis, but supporting Israel at this time demands standing alongside the liberals who have taken to the streets, and not alongside a government that champions Jewish supremacy. President Biden would do well not to provide Netanyahu with the support he expects. “Don’t let Netanyahu make you his useful idiot” wrote New York Times commentator Tom Friedman, addressing President Biden regarding the promotion of normalization with Saudi Arabia. This same call must also apply to any meeting with Netanyahu.

It would be best for the United States Administration to continue to avoid a joint photo-op that could send the wrong message and lend a hand to Netanyahu’s manipulation, even if the message behind closed doors is harsh. It is important to convey a message that Netanyahu will pay a price for joining the axis of evil of dictators.


Nadav Tamir is the CEO in Israel of the American pro-Israeli lobby J Street, a former diplomat in the Israeli missions in Washington and Boston, and a past political adviser to the president of the country. He is also a contributor of USA for Israeli Democracy.


April 28, 2024

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