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November 28th, 2014
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When Good Friends Disagree

When Good Friends Disagree

We can only hope that the recent well publicized exchange of insults and apologies between the leaders of the United States and Israel will improve  the recent atmosphere between communications of the United States and Israel.

A clearing of the air might make it possible for the parties to face some fundamental truths which are rarely openly discussed.  The first and most important truth is that the relationship between the people of Israel and the United States remains solidly based on our mutual commitment to freedom and democracy as our guiding lights, and the common need to face the threats of Islamic radicals who seek the destruction of both the U.S. and Israel as the "Great Satan" and the "Little Satan".

The value of the bond between Israel and America has also most recently been reaffirmed in the successful role of Israel's Iron Dome missile defense against the savage and vicious attempt by Hamas to kill Israeli civilians without caring where their missiles landed.  The Iron Dome is a product of Israeli initiative and U.S. encouragement and financial support which will well serve the ability of each country to defend itself against the coming dangers of a wider outbreak of Islamic radical terror.  The recent mid-term U.S. elections should also play a role in President Obama's assessment of the public support he enjoys in his negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Those elections did not weaken in any way the bonds between the American and Israeli people.

The recent exchanging of sharp comments between the two nations should lead each to focus on the two realities which impact the strategic landscape.  For example, regarding the issue of a Palestinian state, it is clear that deep in the heart of Israel's leaders is a belief that the Palestinians and their Arab supporters are not prepared to accept the existence of a Jewish state in Dar al Islam (House of Islam) at this time.  Beyond that, although Israel has publicly accepted the principle and desirability of an independent Palestinian state, Israel simply cannot safely accept the security risks and border changes that are implicit in the proposals offered by third parties.  In addition, the wars and chaos on virtually all Israel borders today and the internecine conflicts in the world of Islam reinforce the reality that a Palestinian state right now is not now within the realm of practicality.  At the same time, as recently pointed out by Naftali Bennet, Israel's Minister of the Economy, in the New York Times, the changing governance, economic and security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinians in recent years have enhanced living conditions for the Palestinians in many areas.

The other major issue testing the relations between the two allies is the apparent U.S. willingness to accept containment as the answer to Iran's apparent quest for nuclear weapons.  Each of these issues, a Palestinian state and a nuclear Iran, present existential threats to Israel; neither of these issues presents an existential or even a serious threat to the U.S.  It is very difficult to see where any essential or strategic interest of the United States is impacted by either issue, which makes it even more difficult to appreciate why the U.S.  demands on Israel are so aggressive.  While a Palestinian state poses little threat to the U.S., it most certainly threatens Israel if that state is not limited to safe borders and has a future capacity to attack Israel.  While the U.S. may be willing to accept the risk of a nuclear Iran, Israel feels it cannot accept that risk.  The U.S. should not place the American people itself at increased risks and threats of a Nuclear Iran, especially if its ally Israel is unwilling to accept those risks.

Israel is an essential ally of the U.S. and its strategic importance to the U.S. has been shown in many ways , beyond the fact that both countries share an immutable commitment to democracy and freedom.  In the Middle East, Israel's strategic and military capacity are essential to assure that the U.S. can cope with threats that may come from Islamic terrorism especially if the U.S. becomes the target of Islamic missiles as it has been threatened.  It is therefore legitimate to ask whether the Obama administration has been acting the way a friend should act on either question.

The U.S. has unfortunately more consistently sympathized with the Palestinian narrative of the conflict than with Israel in favor of recognizing the long history of the Jewish People with the land of the Bible and their fervent dream to return.  Israel has never denied the right of the Palestinian people to seek a state but those claims should be more evenly balanced by appreciation of the threats Israel faces from an unfriendly world.

The major dangers affecting both Israel and the U.S. today derive from radical Islam and Islamic terrorism.  Israel stands as the most dependable ally of the U.S. in facing those threats.  In a sense, both are holding on to the same descending parachute and neither should do anything to upset that equilibrium.

 

Kenneth J. Bialkin is the Chairman of the American-Israel Friendship League

 

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