The world turned upside down

Israeli list and rankings fans can take pride in the recently released US News and World Report ranking of the 80 top countries in the world. In the category of power, Israel ranked eighth.

The reality of this power ranking it is somewhat staggering. Here we are, a country of fewer than nine million people (a bit more than one 10th of 1% of the world’s population), with a military, and the ability to project the power that comes from military might, consistent with the great powers of the world.

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Of course, there is a quantum leap from the US and the rest, and then from China and to a lesser extent Russia on down. But Israel is basically a peer, power-wise, with each of the individual leading countries of Europe, and more powerful than all but a handful of them.

What is most intriguing about this report is not the bragging rights it conveys, but the insight it helps to provide as to our relationship with Europe.

There has always been and continues to be a certain unmistakable condescension, arrogance and sufferance in the European attitude towards Israel. From the European perspective, particularly the “Great Powers” perspective, Israel is the product of a decades-long begging campaign, culminating in the morally undeniable claims of sovereign need in the aftermath of the Holocaust.
Once established, and having shocked the world by not succumbing to our surrounding enemies, Israel became a strategic thorn in Europe’s side, as an impediment to having better (read, more lucrative) relationships with the Arabs.

For European elites, Israel has always been a vassal state, one whose existence continues at the sufferance of the rest of the world, particularly the European world which had so much to do with its birthing.

Israel’s continued existence is somehow always conditional and contingent. Contingent upon good behavior to the Palestinians, and, above all, to the direction provided by Europeans.

Part of what continues to rankle Europeans about Israel is our unremorseful nationalism. Israel is not about open borders and universalism, nor an identity-deadening search for a transnational way of life. Israel is retrograde, particular, parochial and hopelessly 20th century.

All of these attitudes underly the willingness of Europeans to meddle in, to interfere with and to delegitimize Israeli internal affairs as they see fit. Whether it is in the rampant funding of anti-Zionist NGOs or the ex-cathedra remarks about anything and everything proposed or actual concerning our domestic policies, there is a decided disrespect for our sovereignty, especially when it runs afoul of European sensibilities.

So given all of this, how must it feel to see this insufferable pipsqueak stand toe to toe with any of the countries of Europe when it comes to muscle flexing? Where is the servility that underlies all of this, that ineradicable image of the simpering, hook-nosed Jew with his head down?

There is another truly galling aspect to this ranking, which is that Europeans themselves know how unfit militarily they are. The ranking doesn’t capture one great unquantifiable factor: motivation, resolve and dedication.

Our soldiers are defenders of home, family, community and people. They are defenders, not seeking to project arbitrary power into remote corners of the world. And yes, in part thanks to Europeans, they also know that we have no place to go. This is both the Homeland and the home for the Jewish People.

So our power is probably even greater, perhaps much greater relatively, than countries that, with all the best equipment, are chockablock with soldiers who no longer know what they are fighting for.

Money has become the new European form of power, and they are happy to project power economically, which often takes the form of paying extortion to would-be terrorists or countries that are prepared to use real military power.

Increasingly, it is clear that Europe has become a gilded paper tiger, and its threats are all the more shrill and hollow.

The more Israel demonstrates both its power and its independent discretion in its use, the louder and the shriller will the European demands be for toeing the line.

Israel has done a masterful job of pivoting to the East, to countries that have no disdainful attitudes towards Jews, that merely have national interests. To these countries Israel is a remarkable success story, and a vital source for a great many of their needs.

Having made this important transition, Israel should engage Europe solely on its own terms. We need to demand a hands-off-our-sovereignty posture as price for our engaging in any meaningful dialogues about the Palestinians, or other geo-political issues of burning concern to Europeans.

Israel is no longer the little kid who should be seen and not heard. Israel is the child who has matched and is about to surpass the adult. We need to internalize that state of affairs in order to make sure that Europeans come to the same understanding.

The world has indeed been turned upside down, and in this regard, we should be thankful for it.

The writer is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a board member of the Israel Independence Fund.