Israel in a Changing World

Israel must sober up from the illusion that it can keep up a long-term policy that ignores most of the world.

Turkey's increasing involvement in the Israeli-Arab conflict, whether in its interest in mediating between Damascus and Jerusalem or in an aggressive way as in the Gaza flotilla affair, reflects a phenomenon that is not unique to the Middle East: the rise of powers seeking to exercise their increasing diplomatic and economic strength in the international arena. Usually these powers have no strong sentiments, positive or negative, about Israel.

A clear manifestation of this phenomenon occurred last month in the visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to Tehran in the hope of obtaining an agreement to transfer enriched uranium from Iran to Turkey. This would thwart the American initiative to impose sanctions on Iran, which is fast at work on its nuclear program.

That initiative rests on cooperation among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and a sixth power, Germany, which is not a member of the prestigious club. The Security Council's makeup is a consequence of the establishment of the United Nations by the powers that won World War II. This is why powers weaker than Germany today - Britain and France - have veto power as permanent members of the Security Council.

The international reality indicates that Germany, Japan, India, Turkey, Brazil (the world's eighth largest economy and soon to be the fifth ) and perhaps also Australia, South Korea and other countries are chipping away at the countries previously considered the great powers. The middling powers are demanding a seat of honor at the international table. This picture is complicated by international diplomatic and security organizations such as the European Union, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and NATO, but overall the picture is clear: The world has changed.

This doesn't mean Israel should abandon its reliance on its greatest friend, the United States. Israel must understand, however, that in the global balance of power, it must give greater consideration to the wishes of the middling powers. It would be pointless for Jerusalem to refuse to do this, because Washington and other capitals are adjusting their policies to this reality. Israel must sober up from the illusion that it can keep up a long-term policy that ignores most of the world.