Lonely, vulnerable, affection-craving Israel always yearned for friends. It always also liked to kid itself that it has friends. Hence, at a ceremony half-a-century ago, standing alongside Charles de Gaulle, David Ben-Gurion extolled French friendship for little, renascent, plucky Israel. With no compunctions, haughty de Gaulle doused BG’s warm sentiments. “In international affairs,” he intoned superciliously, “there are no friends, only interests.”
Though unpleasant and untactful, de Gaulle was at least honest, which is more than can be said for Barack Obama.
It doesn’t take a paranoid conspiracy-theory promoter to speculate that the pressure brought to bear by the US president on Israel has little to do with furthering the peace process. Obama’s pressure in fact contradicts the cause of peace. It’s no conjecture to argue that it has everything to do with attempting to diminish Israel, shoving it into a corner, intensifying the ostracism to which it’s subjected and making it more of an international pariah than it already is.
Because that would weaken and demoralize Israel to such an extent that it would become putty in Obama’s hands. He could then appease the Arab world at its expense.
Along that line too we may conclude that Obama, having wasted more than a year’s worth of invaluable time, doesn’t really intend to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. He certainly doesn’t want Israel to preempt that probability either. He prefers it helpless, threatened and frightened.
Because then it would be putty in his hands and he’d presumably earn the undying gratitude of the Arab/Muslim world.
That’s why, rather than engage in dialogue, Obama spoils for a fight – all the while professing to be our best friend. And we credulously repeat his assurance and use it as a cogent rationalization for why we mustn’t displease him. Who can afford to upset a devoted friend? Especially when friends are so rare.
IT ALL calls to mind an old Plains Indian admonition that “what looks true by the glow of the camp fire isn’t always true in sunlight.”
Native Americans, after all, learned from bitter experience to mistrust the compassionate posture of the Great Father in Washington and his treaty promises.
Our own tribal myth, often repeated around our proverbial camp fire, persistently portrays various White House residents as trusted friends, who presume to know better than we what’s best for us. Thus Obama presses for benevolent eugenics – needless to say for our own good – when insisting we forthwith freeze all construction and effectively end natural growth in what he calls settlements, including significant swaths of Jerusalem. No greater problems plague the world than Jewish babies.
This hardly began with the 1,600 Ramat Shlomo apartments. Already months ago, Obama’s radical ideologues looked exceeding askance on blueprints for a new hotel and shopping center near the Old City. They’re into the nitty-gritty of daily metropolitan minutiae. They know the devil is in the details and no detail, no matter how outwardly trivial, escapes their scrupulous attention. They’ll relentlessly breathe down our supposedly sovereign neck and show us who’s boss – friendly like.
But who are we to quibble and second-guess? Our best friends may indeed be shrewd beyond our inferior comprehension. Or it might be that what looks like friendship isn’t what it seems.
If we examine the history of Israeli-American relations in the non-distorting sunlight, we may conclude that the US consistently deprived Israel of victory, indirectly encouraged Arab attacks, instigated terrorism and gave incentive to Arab intransigence. What’s euphemistically labeled a “peace process” was always the process to divest Israel of vital strategic assets. Israeli governments in effect never negotiated with Arab interlocutors without intervention by America.
Way back in 1948, despite Harry Truman’s hesitant de facto recognition of newborn Israel, America’s arms embargo emboldened Arab invaders. When Dwight Eisenhower forced Israel out of the Sinai in 1957, he promised to keep the Tiran Straits open. Gamal Abdel Nasser blockaded them a decade later, but America reneged on its assurances, signaling Egypt that its aggression would be tolerated. Had the US honored its undertaking, there would have been no Six Day War and no “occupation” for Washington to urgently seek to end.
The US-brokered 1970 Israeli-Egyptian truce hinged on American guarantees that no heavy weaponry would be advanced. On the cease-fire’s first night, however, the Egyptians moved dozens of anti-aircraft missiles to the Suez Canal’s bank, facilitating the eventual launch of the Yom Kippur War. American silence was deafening. At the end of the 1973 war, the US saved the surrounded Egyptian Third Army from surrender, thereby robbing Israel of incontestable triumph.
Recurrently imposed cease-fires – whenever Israel begins inflicting pain on the terrorists – fit the above pattern.
Ronald Reagan frequently noted that without Israel the Soviets would have occupied Saudi oil fields. This, though, never prevented Washington from trying to squeeze Israel back into the precarious June 4, 1967, lines.
But what about American assistance? Contrary to popular lore, the equivalent of what Israel contributed to the US immeasurably surpasses, even in monetary terms, the sum total of what America gave Israel from the 1970s on (prior to that we got nothing, yet miraculously managed to thrive). America enjoyed access to Israeli intelligence, including information on Soviet weaponry, battlefield tryouts for American military hardware, their innovative improvement, etc.
Moreover, American aid costs us big time and 75 percent of it must be spent stateside. It coerces Israel to consume American-manufactured goods – from arms to uniforms. These can be produced locally. The fact that they aren’t contributes to unemployment here and stunts research and development. America’s new-generation fighter planes are so exorbitantly priced that it’s no longer prudent to buy them. Yet what’s the alternative? Our reduction to vassal-state status was completed when the US vetoed the Israeli-made Lavi and exports by our defense and aviation industries.
LAST SUMMER the Pentagon nixed Israel Aerospace Industries participation in a tender to supply military aircraft to India. Israel is essentially ordered to withdraw from whichever tender US firms also compete in or face the consequences of jeopardizing the “special bond.” Israel was forced to prefer Boeing to Airbus and retract higher import tariffs on large cars. Hillary even badgered Bibi to allow seven containers of American carp into Israel customs-free. Our gefilte fish is Washington’s business.
America has its own interests, however misguided, and Obama takes to extremes the underlying premise that Israel is a pain in the backside. When Israeli leaders obsequiously suck up, they allow dim and flaring camp fire illumination to obstruct this reality. They duplicate their predecessors’ flagrant fundamental misconceptions to Israel’s detriment.
It’s not that we have better friends than America. We don’t. In fact,
we have no friends. De Gaulle’s harsh truth should guide our
policymakers and be enunciated loudly and fearlessly. Pseudo-friends
can be only comforting and useful occasionally, on condition that we
maintain suspicious vigilance, as another bit of Native American folk
It enjoins: “Beware the friend who covers you with his wings, only to injure you with his beak.”
The writer was
The Jerusalem Post’s long-time political correspondent (as well as for years of the now-defunct
Davar). She headed the
Tel Aviv bureau, wrote daily analyses of the political scene as well as
in-depth features. See her personal blog at http://www.sarahhonig.com