The UN Court's decision adds to Israel's growing isolation

In 2011, a former Israeli prime minister, Ehud Barak, warned that Israel would face a “political-diplomatic tsunami” of censorship if its conflict with the Palestinians remained unresolved as peace talks faltered and the revolution spread across the country. the entire Middle East.

For Israeli foreign policy analysts, the tsunami has never seemed so close.

The International Court of Justice, an arm of the United Nations, on Friday ordered Israel to suspend its military campaign in Rafah, southern Gaza, adding to a growing list of diplomatic and legal moves against Israel that have undermined its position international.

The ruling came just days after prosecutors at the International Criminal Court, another international tribunal, called for the arrest of Israel's prime minister and defense minister, a move that was supported by some of Israel's longtime partners, including which France.

The order came the same week that three European countries took the coordinated step to recognize Palestine as a state. This also followed widespread protests on US university campuses against Israel's campaign in Gaza, as well as decisions by Turkey to suspend trade with Israel and by Belize, Bolivia and Colombia to sever diplomatic ties with Israel.

“This is not the level of isolation of North Korea, Belarus or Myanmar, but it is isolation,” said Alon Pinkas, a former Israeli consul general in New York. “It creates a tremendous sense of pressure.”

The ICJ's latest move may not have immediate practical effects: under the terms of the order, Israel has a month to demonstrate how it has complied with its instructions. Even if Israel ignored the order, the International Court of Justice would not have the means to enforce it. In theory, the United Nations Security Council can issue a resolution on the issue, but the United States, Israel's most powerful ally, has a permanent seat on the council, allowing it to veto any measures against Israel.

But taken together, the moves against Israel show not only the decline of Israel's international reputation but also the decline of American influence, said Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Washington, as the United States is increasingly unable to prevent the American allies and international institutions from targeting its main partner in the Middle East.

“There is a change in the rules of international politics,” Rabinovich said.

“The rest of the world is on track to overtake the United States,” Rabinovich said, adding: “They're saying, 'We can't beat you at the United Nations, but now we have two international tribunals and we're going to move on to those' places where we don't you have no control.'”

In this context, the United States and other staunch allies of Israel, such as Germany, have adopted a more critical tone towards the Israeli government, even as they seek to defend it from foreign condemnation.

In the second week of the war, President Biden flew to Israel with a clear message: “You are not alone.” But in recent months he has expressed growing concern about Israel's counterattack in Gaza, calling his strategy a “mistake” and some of his actions “outrageous.”

He also suspended sending bombs to Israel, signaling his opposition to Israeli plans to invade the urban center of Rafah.

Germany's position has also changed slightly, with Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, asking during a visit to Tel Aviv in March: “No matter how important the goal, can it justify such terribly high costs?”

However, Israel may feel able to continue the war as long as the United States maintains most of its financial and military aid. In April, Congress voted to provide Israel with another $15 billion in military aid, underscoring that Washington continues to act on Israel's behalf even as some American leaders express verbal reservations.

Biden will have to weigh any further moves against Israel with the political cost. While a stronger position could strengthen him in the eyes of his left-wing base, it could also allow Republicans to present themselves as better allies of Israel. President Mike Johnson has been signaling for weeks that he intends to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak before Congress.

Inside Israel, however, moves against his government could strengthen Netanyahu, analysts say. Days after his cabinet ministers spoke out against Netanyahu's leadership, the court decisions prompted those same ministers to close ranks and show a united front.

The rebukes from foreign governments and institutions also provide Netanyahu another chance to present himself as Israel's defender, bolstering his weak domestic support, said Pinkas, the former diplomat.

“It's part of his narrative that the world is against us and I stand tall,” he said.

However, Netanyahu's critics say Israel's standing would have been higher had it not squandered the outpouring of goodwill towards Israelis that followed the Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7.

Opposition to Israel's conduct of war was spurred in part by controversial comments by government ministers, who called for Israel to maintain permanent control over Gaza or even drop an atomic bomb on the territory. Israeli security services often failed to prevent Israeli civilians from obstructing humanitarian convoys and looting their cargo.

Yair Lapid, the Israeli opposition leader, criticized the court's ruling, stressing: “Israel was brutally attacked from Gaza and was forced to defend itself from a horrible terrorist organization.” But he also said the sentence could have been avoided if “a sane and professional government had prevented unhealthy statements by ministers, stopped criminals setting fire to aid trucks and carried out silent and effective political work”.

Israel's isolation has extended to the cultural and academic worlds, where decades-old calls to boycott Israeli artists and universities have gained momentum.

In recent months, universities in countries including Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia and Spain have announced that they have cut ties with their Israeli counterparts or are considering doing so.

“We want to send a clear message that the war that the State of Israel is waging in Gaza is unacceptable and undermines the democratic foundations on which all universities must build,” the University of Southeast Norway said in a statement released in February. finishing his exchange programs with two Israeli colleges.

Thousands of artists signed an open letter in February calling on the organizers of the Venice Biennale, one of the world's most important art festivals, to block Israel from participating in this year's event.

Although the festival ignored the petition, the Israeli team behind the country's entry chose to close its display to the public until a ceasefire was reached. But that failed to quell opposition to their presence, and more than 100 protesters – some of them artists involved in the Biennale – marched through the festival site in April, chanting “Viva Palestina”.

Johnatan Reiss contributed reports from Tel Aviv and Jonathan Rosen from Jerusalem.

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