Despite the tensions on the Gaza border, Israel has won some notable diplomatic victories in recent days, few of them more dramatic or gratifying than the twin victories scored last week. On June 21, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies voted overwhelmingly to admit Israel to membership, after decades of exclusion. A day later, the Presbyterian Church (USA) overturned its 2004 decision to divest from certain companies doing business with Israel. Both victories came largely as a result of intensive diplomatic efforts by American Jewish organizations, which used every political, philanthropic and interfaith-dialogue tool at their collective disposal to overcome these gratuitous assaults on Israel’s legitimacy.
The Presbyterian vote resulted from intensive contacts both at the national leadership level and in local and even congregational forums, through channels that had been built up over years of ongoing interfaith dialogue. Those who question the value of such dialogue got a useful lesson last week.
As for the Red Cross vote, it is partly a product of new winds blowing through the global community. Israel has gained considerably in the diplomatic arena as a result of its decision to withdraw from Gaza. Simultaneously, tensions between the Islamic world and the West have reduced the instinctive tendency of Europeans and others to side with the Palestinians. Both those tendencies contributed to the lopsided Red Cross vote. It’s worrisome that Arab and Islamic nations remain so committed to Israel’s exclusion and delegitimization, despite all their talk of reconciliation. It’s good to know that when there’s a showdown, Israel can occasionally win the day.