Israel is no longer viewed as a thriving, high tech superpower or even as a brutal occupation power. It is viewed in a completely different light:
It's seen as a declining and dysfunctional country whose president is about to face charges of rape, whose prime minister will be interrogated on suspicion of advancing his associates' interests, whose finance minister will be ousted from his post due to an affair involving finances and non-profit organizations, whose army chief already resigned due to the failures of the war, and whose defense minister will soon be forced to follow suit.
This is the sate of affairs in Israel in the winter of 2007 as seen by the world's surprised economic, political and academic elites, arriving in Davos for four days of sessions focusing on the fate of humanity.
Israel's image is at an all-time low. On Wednesday, when the conference's participants arrive at the local congress center to attend lectures, sessions, workshops and symposiums, they will be carrying European newspapers on whose front pages Israel will be prominently featured. And what kind of Israel emanates from these pages? The picture they will get is of a country of rapists and corruption at high levels, a country that is falling into moral decline.
'What happened to you Israelis?'
Reports of the indictment against the president open every news broadcast in Europe, and the presenters sound as though they find it difficult to read the text in front of them: The State of Israel and sex scandals at the top? Jews and rape? Jews and corruption.
A dark shadow has fallen on Israel's image worldwide. Until we remove it, these honorable people will hesitate to shake our hands, identify with us and invest in Israel. They are already hesitating.
Our long term friends, veterans of the Davos conferences, are pulling me aside and asking me in an embarrassing whisper: "What's happened to you Israelis? How did you get this way? Are you a country full of rapists and corrupt people?"
The International Monetary Funds' rosy reviews and the positive quotes forced out of some polite and stammering international CEO, or some Arab-Muslim statesman who didn't understand the question, will be of no avail.
The bitter and embarrassing truth of the matter is that Israel's image in Davos – a prism of the world's elite – has reached its nadir.
It's very unpleasant being an Israeli at Davos 2007; it's unpleasant but we deserve it.