“Which prosperous ally gets $3 billion a year in aid, and a veto power over America’s entire Mid-East foreign policy? Which ally refuses to cooperate with its military and political protector – even to the point of humiliating a duly elected American president? Which ally violates the Non-Proliferation treaty and manages to get its super-power protector to maintain total silence on this glaring fact? Which ally is threatening conventional warfare if its own nuclear monopoly in the region is in any way threatened?” asks Andrew Sullivan.
“Israel is the exception to every rule. And its intransigence is beginning to force the US toward a horrible choice between allying ourselves with the tectonic democratic forces in the region, or backing a fundamentalist-dominated state bent on expansion and war.”
Sullivan hasn’t turned into a fringe anti-Zionist blogger. He’s merely echoing views that are expressed much more freely in Washington than mainstream media reports generally reveal.
Robert Gates, having served as defense secretary for both presidents Bush and Obama, clearly wasn’t a political maverick when he ran the Pentagon, yet his assessment of Israel was no less blunt than Sullivan’s.
As Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg recounted last week:
In a meeting of the National Security Council Principals Committee held not long before his retirement this summer, Gates coldly laid out the many steps the administration has taken to guarantee Israel’s security — access to top- quality weapons, assistance developing missile-defense systems, high-level intelligence sharing — and then stated bluntly that the U.S. has received nothing in return, particularly with regard to the peace process.
Senior administration officials told me that Gates argued to the president directly that Netanyahu is not only ungrateful, but also endangering his country by refusing to grapple with Israel’s growing isolation and with the demographic challenges it faces if it keeps control of the West Bank. According to these sources, Gates’s analysis met with no resistance from other members of the committee.
Gates has expressed his frustration with Netanyahu’s government before. Last year, when Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel was marred by an announcement of plans to build new housing units for Jews in East Jerusalem, Gates told several people that if he had been Biden, he would have returned to Washington immediately and told the prime minister to call Obama when he was serious about negotiations.
Even so, having thoroughly alienated himself from the Obama administration, who does Netanyahu turn to in a desperate situation?
Former Director of the Mossad Efraim Halevy, speaking in New York on Monday night, described the predicament the Israeli prime minister found himself in on Friday as protesters in Cairo were storming the Israeli embassy and six Israelis remained trapped inside.
[Netanyahu] turned to one man, to the President of the United States, and he spoke to him. And the president of the United States, without having much time to consult with Congress, and with the media, and with the analysts and with all of the other people who have to be consulted on major and grave decisions. He took a decision to take up the telephone and get on the line with the powers that be in Egypt, and get them to order the release of these six people, and the detail of the Egyptian commando forces entered and saved them.
I think that this decision by President Obama was a unique decision in many ways. Because I don’t have to tell you, and this was just said time and time and over again this afternoon/this evening, that the United States is not in a position the way it was many years ago in the Middle East, it has its problems, it has its considerations, and rightly so. But I believe the leadership that the President of the United States showed on that night was a leadership of historic dimensions. It was he who took the ultimate decision that night which prevented what could have been a sad outcome—instead of six men coming home, the arrival in Israel of six body bags.
And I want to say to you very openly and very clearly that had there been six body bags, there would have been a much different Israel today than we have been used to seeing over recent years. This would not have been one more incident, one more operation, one event. And the man who brought this about was one man and that was President Barack Hussein Obama.
And I believe it is our duty as Israelis, as citizens of the free world, to say, not simply thank you President Obama, but also we respect you for the way and the manner in which you took this decision.
Note first the ominous way in which Halevy says that had these Israelis died this would not have been “one more incident” — unlike, say, the deaths of six Egyptian border guards shot by Israelis in late August, or the deaths of nine Turkish activists killed by Israeli commandos on board the Mavi Marmara just over a year ago.
But note also that Israel, while pursuing what a senior Israeli official describes as a “porcupine policy” to defend itself, when caught in this particular corner found its prickles of no use and instead was compelled to turn to its only reliable protector, the United States.
As Tzipi Livni, the head of the Kadima Party, told Goldberg: “For Israelis, when they wake up in the morning and ask themselves, what is the general situation today, the litmus test for them is the health of the relationship between Israel and the United States.”
And thus we see the contradiction which is Israel — forever pumping itself up, flexing its muscles and showing its neighbors that no one should risk messing with the mighty Zionist state, yet all the while knowing that without the protection of the United States, Israel’s survival would depend on a revolutionary transformation.
Absent American protection, Israel, for the first time, would have to seriously take on the challenge of getting along with its neighbors and not, as it has for the last two decades, simply use diplomacy as a facade behind which it can pursue its policies of territorial expansion.
Is the West’s spoiled child ready to grow up? And is the United States ready to see that its own patronage is what has allowed the Jewish state to trap itself in such a prolonged adolescence?