More Than the Economy



Israel's acceptance into the prestigious Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a welcome development at a time of increasing international isolation of the Jewish state.

That the 31-member OECD — an association of mostly wealthy democracies that promotes international trade — put aside politics to recognize the extraordinary economic contributions of the "start-up nation" distinguishes the body from other world institutions, where politics often trumps policy.

And it did so despite lobbying by the Palestinians to block Israel's acceptance. Palestinian officials had urged the OECD to reject Israel's application, arguing that Jerusalem' s policies were at odds with the OECD's commitment to human rights.

Instead, the OECD accepted Israel, along with Estonia and Slovenia, capping a three-year application process. Highlighting the nations' strengths, the organization said in a statement last week that "Israel's scientific and technological policies have produced outstanding outcomes on a world scale."

Israeli officials touted the achievement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the acceptance as a "seal of approval," saying it would open doors and increase foreign investment.

But the recognition of Israel's economic achievements on the world stage shouldn't lull us into complacency. The signs are not good on many fronts when it comes to Israel's isolation. While our community is primarily focused on Israel's relations with Washington, it is important to keep our eye on diplomatic currents elsewhere on the map.

As JTA's Leslie Susser reports this week, the Israeli government is under fire in several capitals of Europe. Leaders in countries like Germany, France and Britain are seeking stronger signals that Israel is serious about its commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

In Britain, in particular, it's not clear how the new coalition between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will come down in the Middle East. The new Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, has been a strong supporter of Israel. But Nick Clegg, the head of the Liberal Democrats who last year called for a European arms boycott of Israel, is now Britain's deputy prime minister. And the new foreign minister is William Hague, the Conservative Party official who during the 2006 Lebanon war called Israel's military response to Hezbollah's attack "disproportionate."

Netanyahu has been conducting diplomatic outreach to his European allies because he recognizes the importance of European support. For their part, the Europeans need to engage with the Israelis while also pushing the Palestinians to be constructive. Trying to block Israel from the OECD is less than helpful. Fortunately, this time the Europeans and others weren't listening. 



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