The truth is there are no significant moves afoot anywhere on Earth to delegitimize Israel. There are small, marginal groups, primarily among extreme left wing academics, that are nourished in part by Arab propaganda and cast doubt on Israel’s right to exist. But no country that maintains diplomatic relations with Israel has ever made any claim against its legitimate existence, and Israel’s membership in the UN is the best possible proof of this.
Israel’s government has turned delegitimization – an issue located on the vocal but ephemeral margins of international political discourse – into a problem that must be dealt with. It has thereby granted a marginal, unimportant position a status out of all proportion to its true dimensions.
It’s clear why right wing political figures have an interest in inflating every criticism of Israel and raising it to the level of delegitimization: Most criticism of Israel relates to its settlement policy, which is a cornerstone of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, but is far from being accepted by the entire Israeli political spectrum.
Since it is hard to defend this policy overseas, partly because there is so much domestic criticism of it, nothing could be more convenient than mobilizing a consensus for the battle against delegitimization instead. But this effort is foolish, cynical and dangerous for Israel. For we thereby confer legitimacy on the very discourse that doubts the Jewish nation-state’s right to exist.
There is criticism of Israel’s control of Palestinian territory and its settlement policy. But that is what the argument is about, not Israel’s legitimacy. No one is seriously questioning the latter.