Nearly every intelligent witness to the nearly seven decades of Israel’s alliance with the United States and Western Europe now understands that the affair is about to be over.
In 1948 and the years that immediately followed, the alliance was the salvation of Israel and an obligation upon Western Europe. This was because of what had been done to Europe’s Jews during the war, and not only by the Nazis.
The Arab nations’ attempt to destroy the U.N. creation of a Jewish national home at the expense of the Palestinians was also widely understood, and granted a certain international sympathy, but in 1948 the Arab states carried little political weight against the array of West European states and the United States, at a moment when the Cold War was beginning.
To American politicians and European ones as well, the support of mobilized Jewish national communities was an electoral force of consequence as well. The race between American and Soviet governments to be the first to recognize the new state was won by proclamation by Harry Truman, but Moscow was the first to grant formal diplomatic recognition to the new state of Israel, which it perceived as a possible ally in the Middle East. Popular sympathy for Israel was widest among liberals in the United States and the European Left—which today is no longer the case. Anti-Semitism was still a force of consequence: America before and during the Second World War had done little for Europe’s persecuted Jews.
Today in the United States the endorsement of Israel and financial support from the American Jewish community remain important but diminishing factors in American politics. Liberal sympathies have moved leftward, hostile to Israel, most significantly among younger Jews and the elites of the community, with growing sympathy for the Palestinian cause and the international divestment movement, which is hostile to the advance of Jewish colonization of what is legally Palestinian territory, and now, above all, in reaction to the ruthless methods of the Israeli government in suppressing Palestinian armed resistance in Gaza to the expropriation of Palestinian lands and property, and to demands for civil rights.
Internationally, the all but unlimited support given Israel in its foreign and domestic policies by the United States does growing, if as yet cautiously expressed, harm to the American reputation in Western Europe and virtually everywhere else in the world—the developing world in particular.
This alliance is taken as identifying the United States as an oppressor nation and “imperialist” state, the latter judgment reinforced by American policies nearly everywhere in the non-western world since the war in Vietnam, immensely reinforced by American Middle Eastern interventions and the disastrous invasion of Iraq, with its ruinous consequences for the Islamic world. America’s massive national as well as international clandestine intelligence and electronic interception activities now have given it the reputation of a quasi-totalitarian state.
The alliance of the United States with Israel has become internationally seen as an alliance of international lawbreakers, which literally is true because of the indifference both demonstrate to the established norms and conventions of international justice. The United States facilitates the continuing aggressive and illegal Israeli annexation of territories assigned to the Palestinian people by the 1948 United Nations ruling that established a Jewish National Home in the British mandated colony of Palestine.
For Israel it has become something more sinister, an inducement as well as license to international law-breaking. The war that has just taken place between Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israel began with deliberate provocation on both sides. Hamas activists contested Israel’s domination of Gaza, and invited military repression of a scale and degree of indiscriminate and illegal violence that would discredit Israel, and indirectly its American sponsor and arms supplier.
Israel’s response to this provocation was as Hamas expected, and for which it sacrificed (to date) over 2,000 Palestinian lives, mostly civilian, together with the destruction of a series of United Nations schools, hospitals and other installations, bringing upon Israel—and its American ally—the expected international ignominy Hamas wished to invoke.
It also produced still another blow to the conscience of those individual Israelis and friends of Israel who for more than 60 years have perceived that it has been a posthumous triumph of Nazism to turn the survivors of the Holocaust into persecutors of the Palestinians. It has also turned Americans into their accomplices.
It now is time to terminate the Israeli-American alliance. It has contributed to a profound corruption of both nations that in the end, when it comes to an end—and it will—may turn these allies into enemies, igniting in the United States an unforgiving anger at America’s exploitation, and against those responsible for the exploitation.
A former Israeli diplomat, Alon Pinkas, has recently written of the alliance that “there is some confusion in Israel borne of an exaggerated sense of self-importance.’ The strategic asset in this equation is the U.S. for Israel, not the other way around. Since the fall of the Soviet Union there has been no struggle of superpowers in the Middle East.
He goes on: “As of today the U.S. is in the midst of redefining its regional interests, taking a clear—if slow—direction towards disengagement. The reasons relate to energy independence, a disappointment with the Arab world, a public opinion hostile to America’s over-involvement in the world, and its attention and energy shifting to other corners of the globe. All of these have led the U.S. to reexamine its position, its role, and its interests in the Middle East.”
The time has arrived when the United States, in this administration (the better choice, since it has the freedom to act of a departing government) or the next, can and should say to Israel that the time is overdue for it to conclude with the Palestinians a two-state settlement, on the terms that have been long negotiated, and are well known to both parties and the international community.
Washington should say to Israel’s leaders that Israel has a limited time to accomplish this settlement. If it is not done, within that period, the United States will terminate its military and political alliance with Israel.
It will end its financial and material aid, and terminate the cooperation of its military services with Israel. It will no longer support Israel in the United Nations other than on occasions when that support is clearly merited.
Israel’s formal and informal agencies of influence and political action inside the United States will be allowed to function only if they are properly registered as the agencies of foreign governments, and their conduct made fully transparent. This should preclude illusions harbored by such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, who on several recent occasions has threatened the White House that he can make Congress override the presidency because he controls Congress, thus calling into question the patriotism of America’s legislators.
“The Irony of Manifest Destiny: The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy” (Walker & Co., $25), at www.williampfaff.com.