Why do we care about America?

We could have survived without the US. But not prosper or flourish.

US israel 88 (photo credit: )
US israel 88
(photo credit: )
Is it possible that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire congregate this week to begin a process that will ultimately decide who will be Israel's de-facto President, no disrespect to either Shimon Peres or Ehud Olmert? Let's be open and honest about this. Israel is not the 51st state in the Union nor is it, despite what people like me would make you believe, New York City's 6th borough. Nor is Israel, as some people in New York would like us to think, a major Jewish organization located inconveniently east of the Hamptons. But could we have survived without the US? Without the inevitable (and numerous) US veto in the UN Security Council? The US military aid? The diplomatic umbrella? The cold war mentorship vis-à-vis the Soviet Union? The commitment to a military qualitative advantage? American Jews? The answer is a [very] qualified yes. We could have survived. But not prosper, flourish, develop and succeed the way we did. Just imagine President Nasser of Egypt being slightly wiser and accepting John F. Kennedy's advances in 1961-62. Our "Unshakeable Alliance" and "Strategic Cooperation" would be nothing more than bumper stickers expressing wishful thinking. We probably would have featured in National Geographic rather than Foreign Affairs and I, for one, prefer the latter publication to read about myself as a nation. Is it Zionist heresy to conclude that no matter what happens following the publication of the Winograd Commission Report on the 2006 war in Lebanon, and no matter what Ehud Olmert's survival chances resulting from what will predictably be a scathing and severe report are, and no matter if Ehud Barak or Benjamin Netanyahu is the next Prime Minister, elections in America are more important? It may be heresy, but that doesn't mean it's not true. We like to think that in Iowa, Americans will decide who will be the next "Greatest friend Israel ever had in the White House", a title usually invented by excited and excitable contemporaries only for historians to later dispute and refute. Thus, Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush were far greater friends of Israel than we admitted while they occupied (bad word) the White House. Reagan was less of a Zionist enthusiast than 1980's Israelis depicted him to be and who knows, perhaps a broader and critical analysis of George W. Bush's Middle East policy will brand him as someone who was not, after all, such a great friend. He may have meant well but perhaps put Israel in a serious predicament. Until then, he is "by far the greatest friend" we had, as was Bill Clinton before him. So why do we care, and why does it seem that we care more than the Italians, British, Chileans or Japanese? I'm willing to bet that more Israelis heard of The Des Moines Register than Swedes who have heard about The New York Times. We care because we like to think of ourselves as an extension of America. Two democracies, two self-proclaimed and self-designed "Shining Cities on the Hill", two immigrant-based societies that are more an idea, a manifest destiny of sorts, than just colored geographical units on the political globe. We like to think of Israel and the United States as entities formed and established for a reason and having a mission, even if they fall short of achieving those goals. Our shared values are real, not a pre-fabricated focus-group based political slogan. We care because we truly believe that with all its defects, blemishes, shortcomings, brutality, overpowering condescension and sometime arrogance, the US is indeed "The Indispensable Nation". We also think that the above applies to us (as well as to the New York Yankees or the New England Patriots). We want to believe that the President of the United States is really the leader of the free world, even if the record is imperfect. We see America as a reluctant empire that may sometimes behave inappropriately, but was never planned and was never intent on conquest and accumulation of power for the sake of power. But most of all, we care who the next President will be because we know the real game is not about the Mid-West, but about the Mid-East and we know that he is the only one who can and should make a difference, one way or another. After all, "Iowa" in Arabic means "yes". We care because we know that the friendship with the United States is not in the foreign policy domain, but a basic tenet, a pillar of Israel's national security. The coronation of a newly elected Israeli Prime Minister is not the next day's headlines or the Knesset swearing of his new government, but his first trip to the White House, and "The great chemistry" he had with the President unlike, naturally, his predecessor. True, Congress is the anchor of these relations and the American people are its foundations. But the President is the one the world listens to, and we want him, or her, to be on our side.