One of the responses received to my recent posting (Some ideas for my American friends) deserves a note of its own.
"I am still trying to understand why it is that Americans and Israelis both seem to believe that the US is responsible for Israel’s future (isn’t Israel a sovereign nation in its own right and therefore responsible for its own destiny and defense?) while at the same time the US is deemed a meddler in, and/or instigator of, conflicts in the MidEast that threaten the region. Frankly I’m tired of the Israeli lobby in Washington DC. Netanyahu is the Israeli version of Cheney, and the Israeli govt is about as effective as the US Congress. Obama may not be perfect for Israel –but we didn’t elect him to be the President of Israel."
I am not so much interested in the writer''s views about Netanyahu or Cheney as the topic of who is interfering where. In other words, does Israel demand too much of the United States? Or should Israel take more responsibility for its own destiny?
Where I appear to differ from the writer is in having an Israeli''s perception of the United States role in the world. If there is an imperial capital anywhere, it is Washington. America''s minions may not rule beyond their borders in the way of pre-World War II colonial poobahs, but they certainly weigh in with heavy aspirations to influence.
The "minions" are not only governmental. The American economy has its role, often in tangent with the American government, but sometimes in opposition to the American government.
Mexico is a case of conflict between the weight of America''s economy, shown in its demands for illegal drugs, and efforts of the American government to pressure Mexican authorities to stop the flow. The result is something that may be less than civil war, but nonetheless accounts for thousands of deaths in conflicts between gangs as well as between gangs and authorities.
Israel is a small economy that depends on trade with Europe and the United States in about equal measure, but whose dependence on political support from the United States is greater than shown by the balances of trade.
The writer of the comment noted above, along with many others, may view Israel as unduly concerned about American politics and improperly active via AIPAC, individual citizens, Members of Congress, and figures in the administration. However, Washington not only provides important assistance with its political support in the United Nations and elsewhere. It also works to push Israel toward or away from actions in keeping with an American agenda. There is no way of measuring the relative influence of Washington versus Israel''s own political choices in these matters. American officials have certainly worked to affect Israel''s actions under the headings of "settlements," as well as its response to Iran''s nuclear program and the repeated threats of Iranian leaders against Israel''s existence.
An extreme example of American pressure was the President''s insistence that Jews stop construction in neighborhoods that Israel has considered to be part of its capital city since 1967. Taking Barack Obama literally would mean that the Arab family living on the ground floor of this building could expand their living space out into their garden, while we could not put a gazebo on our balcony.
Given the weight of the United States in international politics, and its willingness to employ military power, Americans should not be surprised that countries seek to shape US policies. This is especially likely for countries that enjoy or suffer from a high profile on the US agenda. There should be no wonder that Israeli officials do what they can to affect American policy toward it, and about other issues that impinge on Israel.
While it appears that the United States has greater weight in Israeli policymaking than Israel has in American policymaking, the balance is closer to the mid-point than to an extreme of American dominance. Israel''s settlement activities are not as limited as Washington seems to demand (some of the language is fuzzy), yet they are more limited than preferred by partners in Israel''s governing coalition. We may not know the relative weights of Israel and the United States on a topic of special delicacy until we see if Israel attacks Iran before or after the American election, if it defers until an American attack, or--what would be preferable to both the US and Israel--Iran''s capitulation to economic sanctions.
My recollection from previous correspondence is that the author of the response that provoked this note is an American woman with a family history in the Philippines.
If that is correct, she should be aware of the United States'' heavy reach into the governing of the Philippines from the late 19th century onward, usually far more dominant than its influence on Israel.
She might also be interested in a result of globalization where the Philippines has shaped God''s own language, via the modern idiom created in Israel.
Such a disproportionate share of the care givers imported for the sake of Israel''s elderly and handicapped come from the Philippines that the Hebrew word for "care giver" has become "Filipino." It applies even to "Filipinos" we have encountered from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, and Bolivia.
In this note as in others, my emphasis is on what happens, rather than what should happen. The latter I leave to everyone else, along with the reservation that an understanding of what is--i.e., current realities with respect to American and Israeli influence on one another--may be essential to a wise choice as to which party should press more or less..