Marsha Cohen writes:
When, on September 11, 2001, two terrorist attacks occurred on U.S. soil, Israeli political figures anticipated that the Americans would now be better able to empathize with Israel’s vulnerability to its own random terror attacks. In the hours immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Israeli leaders envisioned a massive U.S. retaliation in which Israel was uniquely equipped to be a partner, even a mentor, of the U.S.
“The fight against terror is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and our way of life,” then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared in a televised statement just after midnight on September 12. “I believe that together we can defeat these forces of evil.”
But immediately, a spate of Israeli pronouncements proclaimed Israel’s own priorities. They drew upon a decade of Israeli assertions of Iranian complicity in terrorist attacks, and warnings of an imminent Iranian nuclear threat. A war of civilizations had begun. 9/11 was just the first strike of Islamic fundamentalists. The next might be a nuclear attack by Iran.
The pronouncements constituted the opening salvo in a months-long back-and-forth about how the U.S. would frame its new “global war on terror.” Would the U.S. choose the allegiance of regimes in Muslim majority countries — even enlisting hostile governments like Iran who might sympathize with the dangers of transnational Islamic fundamentalist terror — over Israel, which proclaimed itself a battle-hardened ally? Today, the outcome of those first months after September 11 speak for itself, but a review of the Israeli side of the wrangling may be instructive to how the U.S. arrived at its present positions.