Israel’s Second Declaration of Independence
Make no mistake about it, Israel’s election last Tuesday amounted to a second declaration of independence for the modern Jewish State.
To begin with, the election results were an anomaly. Netanyahu was right when he said upon winning that his party’s victory was “against all odds.”
As has come to light in recent days, the effort to oust Netanyahu extended far beyond Israel’s borders. According to the Prime Minister, this drive involved tens of millions of dollars in foreign funding directed towards groups working to promote his opponents. One Israeli official even alleged that the Obama Administration was directly involved in the effort to defeat the PM.
Additionally, throughout the election season there was an interesting imbalance between Netanyahu’s popularity and his electability. The latter figure consistently ranked significantly higher.
But most interesting was the impact that his testy relations with President Obama had on the elections. Historically, strained ties with the US have never benefited an Israeli PM’s reelection campaign.
But this time, the friction catapulted him to victory and in the process reminded Israelis of why the project of Zionism is one they are willing to make sacrifices for.
The modern Jewish state was founded on the principle that without self-determination the Jewish people would always be at risk of genocide and persecution, as their bloody and tragic experiences of the past two thousand years had shown. “The hope of two thousand years,” says Israel’s national anthem, was “To be a free nation in our land.”
But the closer that Netanyahu’s chief opponent Isaac Herzog aligned himself with the Obama Administration’s criticisms of Israel’s PM, the more it became apparent to the Israeli majority that with Herzog’s election, Israelis would remain in their land, at least for now, but would not be free. The very soul of the Zionist vision was in jeopardy. Herzog became an extension of Obama and therefore with his election, Israel would lose its raison d’être.
Polls taken after Netanyahu’s controversial speech to Congress on the Iranian nuclear threat two weeks before the election initially indicated that the gamble didn’t pay off for him electorally.
But I would venture that one point he made in the speech underlined why Israel was unprepared to let him go, despite the avalanche of opposition to his leadership.
“For the first time in 100 generations, we, the Jewish people, can defend ourselves,” Netanayhu thundered from the historic lectern. “This is why, as a prime minister of Israel, I can promise you one more thing: Even if Israel has to stand alone, Israel will stand.”
And on Election Day, Israelis demanded the right to stand alone. Israel declared its independence a second time.
Now, with the election behind us, we have also seen just how determined President Obama is to undermine Israel’s independence of action and impose his will on the Jewish State. Obama has proceeded to punish the people for their democratic choice and has shown not a morsel of respect for the voice of the Israeli public, spoken with clarity in Netanyahu’s reelection.
His effective goal now seems to be the isolation of the Jewish state from its allies both internationally and within the US. If he allows Israel to be fed to the wolves at the United Nations, as he has implied he will, it will be a major setback for Israel’s ability to act as an independent sovereign nation.
Within the US, where Israel’s position is strongest due to overwhelming public support for the Jewish state, the White House has apparently set about on a campaign to undermine Israel’s standing.
The first sally was a Wall Street Journal article citing former and current US officials who alleged unprecedented spying on the US by Israel. Of course the American public will not look favorably on this reported act of disloyalty.
Faced with such trying circumstances, Israel must fight back. It must sharply challenge the accusations leveled against it, and vociferously continue to make its case on Iran and the Palestinian situation. It must look beyond the US, and work aggressively to diversify its diplomatic ties with nations around the world. And most importantly it must not shy away from taking the actions it deems necessary to secure its borders and Jewish sovereignty.
In the words of the Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens, “The Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance.”
After all, this is why modern Israel was founded and it is also why Netanyahu was reelected.