ABSTRACT

Israel’s power status: statics and dynamics By any dispassionate standard, Israel attracts a wholly inordinate degree of global interest. Unlike others often considered to be regional powers, Israel is a small country (about 20,000 square kilometres) with a small population (slightly over seven million).1 Its economy is quite advanced and sustains a standard of living high enough to qualify it for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), but in absolute terms, it is altogether too small to have any effect on global economic or financial trends. It has virtually no impact on emerging global concerns, such as environment degradation (its carbon footprint is imperceptible). It does not export natural resources, terror or people in any significant numbers to places where their integration is problematic. In short, it has none of the characteristics normally associated with standing as a regional, much less emerging, global power. Notwithstanding all these shortfalls, Israel hosts the second-largest foreign press corps in the world (trailing only the United States)2 and constitutes a hugely disproportionate focus of activity and concern for international institutions (especially the United Nations), national governments, and Non-Government Organizations that deal in human rights – for Israel – and developmental aid – for its adversaries. The reasons for this anomalous situation are a matter of some controversy. Part of it can be attributed simply to the fascination of the Western World with the Jewish people for several millennia. Part of it has to do with the perhaps outsized achievements and international presence of Israel in areas as diverse as science and technology, agriculture, medicine, scholarly output and arms exports (all activities sometimes perceived as instruments of national power and influence). But a major factor is undeniably connected not with Israel per se, but rather with its ongoing conflict with the Palestinians and, by extension, with the Arab/Muslim world, which forms such a prominent and vocal element in the so-called ‘international community’. It is this extensive and intensive attention that creates at least the appearance, if not the illusion, of Israel as a regional and/or sub-global power. And it is political linkage, or at least theories of linkage, that seem to make Israeli action (or inaction) drive entire regional political-security agendas and, by extension, the agendas of true global powers and multinational institutions.