Why Rejecting America’s Dictates is Crucial for Israel’s Security
In a telling follow-up to his now famous report on an Obama Administration official referring to Israel’s Prime Minister as a ‘chickenshit,’ The Altantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg makes a curious argument.
Goldberg points to an editorial in the New York Jewish Week entitled Bibi Takes on the World, which implies that the PM is “disconnected from reality” and is “Jeopardizing Israel’s relationship with its most important allies” due to his continued insistence on Israel’s right to build in all of Jerusalem.
The editorial, Goldberg claims, amounts to “More proof, if more proof were needed, that there is a crisis in US-Israel relations.”
“When future historians write about this period in US-Israel relations, this editorial will warrant serious mention,” Goldberg asserts. “The unease felt by some American Jews about Israel’s direction is moving into the mainstream.”
But what both Goldberg and the editorial’s author, Gary Rosenblatt, fail to appreciate is that the US-Israel relationship is neither dependent on the Obama Administration, nor is it reliant on having the support of a majority of America’s Jews. Netanyahu, of course, is acutely aware of this.
(In fact, it is precisely this line of reasoning, which pegs the US-Israel alliance on the outsized influence of American Jewry, which feeds all manner of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish power. It is for this reason that many will deem a reference to the “Jewish lobby” to be anti-Semitic, while the term “Israel lobby” is not considered offensive.)
It is true that Obama has done, and can continue to do, tremendous damage to the US-Israel relationship, and it is also true that many of the important pro-Israel groups are led by Jews. However, overall pro-Israel sentiment in the US remains in the mid 60s, and has not shown the slightest sign of slowing down according to major polls. Today the largest pro-Israel group in the country is Christians United for Israel. AIPAC, which is comprised of mostly Jewish members, is by far the best politically organized, but a politician’s primary goal remains getting re-elected and the extent of AIPAC’s influence is largely due to the fact that support for Israel in America is the popular position.
When Netanyahu addressed Congress in May 2011 it was for this reason, and the elected representatives of the American public reflected the majority opinion of their constituents in their multiple standing ovations.
In this context, the “chickenshit” comment will be seen by the general American public as yet another failure of American foreign policy under Obama. It will be seen as yet another instance of the Administration pushing away America’s closest allies and embracing the world’s most heinous regimes.
The Administration’s attitude towards Israel is an additional example of its willingness to act against what the American people want and has served as yet another straw on the camel’s back in the midterms this week that saw the president delivered a stunning rebuke.
As far as America’s Jews are concerned, it is true that the majority lean liberal by political affiliation. It is wrong, however, to characterize Israel’s actions as “illiberal” as Goldberg does based purely on its security policies. And, when it comes down to it, when the threats are real and imminent, American Jews flock to Israel’s corner.
One example is an August 1st Gallup poll taken during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge this summer which showed that a full 93% of American Jews supported Israel’s position in the conflict, despite repeated condemnations and calls for restraint by the Obama White House and State Department.
In addition, as a student of history, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows it is the dedication of the committed minority that guides the path of history. A small minority of Jews left slavery in Egypt, a minority returned to Israel from the first exile in Babylon to build the second temple, and the Zionist movement that pioneered the creation of the modern Jewish state was yet again a minority.
With the knowledge that Israel won’t “lose America” for sticking to its guns it becomes clearer why it is actually a security imperative for the Israeli government to reject the US demands.
Firstly, the US attacks must be viewed in their wider context. Namely that such harsh language is not used to address most any other country including such gross human rights violators and disturbers of international peace as Iran, Qatar, Turkey, Russia and, of course, the Palestinian Authority. There is no pointed condemnation of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas’s ongoing and broad incitement and his support for terror.
In rejecting the US criticism, Israel is refusing to accept its one sided nature.
More importantly is the need for Israel to vigorously maintain its right to independence of action on all fronts. It will be very dangerous for Israel if the Palestinians, or Israel’s other enemies, believe that the Jewish state is not prepared to act alone and against the dictates of even its closest allies.
Israel’s proven willingness to act alone, whether in its past wars, its strikes on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors, or its dogged insistence that a withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines will harm its security, serves as a supreme deterrent. It also serves as an antidote to Palestinian recalcitrance, demonstrating that there is no path to peace without engaging and recognizing the Jewish state.
If Israel is seen as being beholden to the Obama Administration’s bidding, its diplomatic currency will be weakened across the board. This is especially true at a time when American diplomatic influence is not what it once was.
Netanyahu knows that vigorously maintaining Israel’s independence even from allies like the US is crucial to secure the Jewish state’s future. Surely the current friction is a relatively small price to pay.