The erosion of Israel’s image is also inextricably linked to its emergence as a regional power with a vibrant economy, a dynamic high-tech sector, and a powerful military. The images in Leon Uris’s classic book Exodus and the Hollywood movie version with Paul Newman leading a ragtag Israeli militia against a sea of hostile Arabs have now been reversed. David has become Goliath.
In the eyes of the world, Israel has shed its image of a small state struggling against impossible odds. Israel now has “security needs” and “requirements” rather than existential fears; its power obligates it to be more magnanimous and forthcoming on peace issues; its strength should produce restraint, not excess.
Indeed much of the erosion of Israel’s image is driven by the realities and perceptions of an asymmetry of power that now pits the nation with a per capita GDP of $31,000, 100 companies on the NYSE, and nukes in triple digits against a weak Palestinian quasi-state and an Arab world that’s dysfunctional and imploding.
There’s much truth in this image of Israeli might, and anyone who denies that capacity trivializes what the Israelis have accomplished and does them a grave disservice by portraying them as victims.