Will America forsake Israel, again?
America’s interest in Israel’s strategic value has always been the primary motivation for US support.
Interior of Bushehr nuclear plant Photo: REUTERS/Stringer Iran
The Israel-Iran countdown has begun, and with regard to Teheran’s nuclear race
we are witnessing a great crisis in US-Israel relations.
help the tiny Jewish state? Can Israel trust the word of a US administration
which treated Jerusalem like a banana republic? A few days ago, Israeli
officials told Yediot Aharonot newspaper that “the US’ stance is pushing the
Iranians to become a country at the brink of nuclear capability.”
few people in Israel believe that the US will ever launch another preemptive war
against the ayatollahs. The US, especially if Barack Obama is re-elected, will
be tempted to reach a compromise with the Iranians.
Israel is dependent
on the US for economic, military and diplomatic support.
taxpayers fund 20%-25% of Israel’s defense budget, with the Jewish state being
the largest recipient by far of American aid since World War II. Israel is
required to use a portion of US aid to buy from the US defense establishment,
but no other country – certainly not any European one – provides the weapons
needed to protect Israeli lives. Moreover, the United States has cast 40 vetoes
to protect Israel in the UN Security Council.
There is a quid pro quo for
such support, but also a limit to what even that degree of dependence can buy.
The current Iranian nuclear race made this very clear, just as it made clear
that the US has, again, forsaken the Israelis.
Washington doesn’t support
Israel because of the Jewish state’s democracy, because of the Holocaust or out
of respect for human rights. America’s interest in Israel’s strategic value has
always been the primary motivation for US support.
But that could change
tomorrow, especially if Israel’s survival becomes a burden for Washington
(France was Israel’s most important ally after the war, but Paris suddenly
abandoned the Jews for the Arab world). Israel must remember that she is
America’s ally and client, not its “friend.”
The first US presidents
after Israel was established – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson – gave
nothing to the Jewish state. And we were in a time when the ashes of Auschwitz
were still warm, while today the memory of the Holocaust is fading. Truman
maintained a US embargo against arms sales to the Israeli and Arabs, which was
effective only against Israel. In 1948, it was US pressure which forced Israel
to withdraw from Sinai where Israeli forces were pursuing the defeated
In 1960 the Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann was apprehended by
Israeli agents in Argentina and flown to Jerusalem for trial. Argentina turned
to the UN Security Council, asking it to condemn Israel and order Eichmann’s
return. Washington intended to support the Argentinean complaint and only the
furious reaction of Israel’s foreign minister Golda Meir dissuaded
Prior to the Six Day War, Abba Eban approached Lyndon Johnson
and all he got was an arms embargo on the Middle East. In 1970, at the height of
the War of Attrition, the US turned down an urgent Israeli request for security
In 1992 the Bush-Baker administration humiliated the Israelis
with an ultimatum: “Settlements or loan guarantees.”
(The later Israeli
general and minister Rehavam Ze’evi dismissed Bush senior as “anti-Semitic”).
The US post-Gulf War settlement included American efforts to dislodge Israel
from the territories by endangering Israel’s security. The former editor of The
New York Times, A.M. Rosenthal, wrote that “the Bush administration has a
spiritual affinity for Arab rulers and oilmen, but bares its teeth when
Jerusalem shows independence.”
Bill Clinton’s appeasement has been a
tragedy for the Jewish people, since he pushed the Oslo process along and
encouraged its implementation, bearing a historic responsibility for the
intifada’s bloodshed, in which 2,000 Israelis paid with their lives.
1981 the Jewish state bombed the Iraqi Osirak reactor. Recent files released by
the UK National Archives show that Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Sir
Nicholas Henderson, was with US defense secretary Caspar Weinberger as the news
“Weinberger says that he thinks Begin must have taken leave of
his senses. He is much disturbed by the Israeli reaction and possible
consequences,” Nicholas cabled London. Alexander Haig was secretary of state
then. “I argued,” he recalled, “that while some action must be taken to show
American disapproval, our strategic interests would not be served by policies
that humiliated and weakened Israel.”
Those who remember Ronald Reagan as
friendly to Israel may be startled to recall the vehemence of his reaction
against Israel. His administration’s immediate response was to impose sanctions
on the Jewish state, and he suspended the delivery of F-16 fighter jets, doing
something even Jimmy Carter refused to do: use arms supplies as leverage against
Washington has also armed Israel’s western neighbor to the teeth.
The Egyptian army today is infinitely more modern and lethal then when the
Egyptians carried out their successful attack against Israel in the Yom Kippur
And can we forget the US treatment of Jonathan Pollard, the only
American to receive a life sentence for spying for an ally? Despite the fact
that nobody has given a single specific example of how Pollard’s actions harmed
the US, Pollard is still being held in solitary confinement in an underground
Pollard has been in prison longer than anyone ever sentenced in the
US for passing classified materials to a friendly foreign power (the median
sentence for someone spying for a non-Soviet power has been less than three
years). For his contribution to Israel’s security and for his long suffering in
prison, Pollard is an Israeli hero.
He is the source of the Israeli
preparedness for the Iraqi missile attacks during the Gulf War, when Saddam’s
rockets began to rain down on Tel Aviv, and Israelis wore gas masks. Pollard
warned Israel of Iraq’s bellicose intentions, and that Syria’s Assad was
amassing quantities of chemical weapons.
By its own agreement with
Israel, the US should have given this information to Jerusalem. But it was
deliberately blocked by Weinberger.
Today Israel can stand tall in the
face of its important ally because it never asked American soldiers to spill
their blood in its defense. It’s Washington that must beg for Israel’s alliance
and protect the Jews, as it cannot afford disengagement from the only democracy
in a region dominated by Islam. But will the US eventually be compelled to
sacrifice Israel on the altar of “realism” and oil price, at which time Iran’s
knife will descend on the Jews? And will the Jewish state’s leadership dutifully
bind Israel on the altar? As Charles Krauthammer put it: “for Israel the stakes
are somewhat higher: the very existence of a vibrant nation and its 6 million
Jews.” If Israel is unable to change the US’ red line on Iran and Jerusalem
capitulates to Washington’s appeasement, Iran will be soon armed with atomic
And the Jews? They will be psychologically weaker and totally
dependent on others’ help. Like it was during the Holocaust. Does someone need
to be reminded how Washington refused to help the Jews while they were entering
into the gas chambers?
The writer is an Italian author.