Israeli-US ties must be safeguarded - editorial

The relationship between Israel and the US is based on more than business ties, intelligence sharing and military cooperation.

 US SECRETARY of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan walk along the Colonnade of the White House, last week. They’ve hinted at the possibility of not working with Itamar Ben-Gvir (photo credit: Andrew Harnik/Reuters)
US SECRETARY of State Antony Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan walk along the Colonnade of the White House, last week. They’ve hinted at the possibility of not working with Itamar Ben-Gvir
(photo credit: Andrew Harnik/Reuters)

United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was in Israel on Thursday underscoring the deep and intimate relationship between the two countries.

Sullivan’s visit comes ahead of a planned trip to Israel by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and a visit next month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Washington for talks with President Joe Biden at the White House.
Such high-level talks so soon after the establishment of a new government shows how valuable the relations are for both countries and are further evidence of the importance of the US-Israel alliance – which is why it was not surprising to learn that Sullivan brought up the coalition’s planned judicial reforms with Netanyahu during their meeting.
The judicial reforms, which are sweeping and unprecedented in Israel, will alter the balance of power between the different branches of government and are designed to give the coalition and ruling government freedom to do what it wants in terms of legislation, including passing controversial laws that will harm basic civil rights.
This will be done by weakening the High Court of Justice, politicizing its appointment process and granting the Knesset the unchallenged ability and authority to bypass and overrule High Court decisions.

 STANDING TOGETHER at the US Capitol in support of Israel, in 2002. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS) STANDING TOGETHER at the US Capitol in support of Israel, in 2002. (credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)
Netanyahu should not be surprised that Sullivan brought this up. As the protests in Tel Aviv have shown over the last two weeks, a significant number of Israelis are unequivocally opposed to the planned reforms – which they view as a “revolution” and a slide towards totalitarianism.
The relationship between Israel and the US is based on more than business ties, intelligence sharing and military cooperation. Both countries are strong democracies – which until now have jointly upheld human rights, share similar values like freedom of speech, rights for minorities and an open and diverse society.
The tune coming from this government though is starkly different. The makeup of the coalition – far Right policies regarding the Palestinians, as well as a bloc of MKs who are openly opposed to religious pluralism and the LGBTQ+ community – is a recipe for a very quick and hard collision with the Biden administration.

Avoiding confrontations

The visit by Sullivan and the upcoming visit by Blinken show how the Americans would like to avoid these confrontations. They want to reach agreements and understandings with Israel that will allow for a smooth relationship and good working conditions moving forward.

After decades of working with various administrations behind him, Netanyahu knows that achieving this will not be easy. It is for this reason, for example, why he is consolidating the US portfolio within his office.

In addition, unlike some of his coalition partners, he knows that radical moves will undermine the relationship, and the Americans will not just stand by and continue to work with Israel at any cost.

Due to the challenges that Israel faces – from Iran, to Hezbollah, to Palestinian terrorism in the Gaza Strip, as well as the fallout from the war in Ukraine – it is important that Israel not allow what is happening domestically to undermine and weaken the important relationship that it has with the United States.

 HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS hold flags during a rally marking the annual Hezbollah Martyrs’ Day, in Beirut’s southern suburbs, last month (credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS) HEZBOLLAH MEMBERS hold flags during a rally marking the annual Hezbollah Martyrs’ Day, in Beirut’s southern suburbs, last month (credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)
If anyone thinks that the US will continue to blindly provide aid and intelligence, as well as diplomatic support in international institutions like the United Nations when Israel slides away from being a liberal democracy, they are wrong.

The US will put the US first and it will even find support for taking steps to downgrade ties from some of the major Jewish groups in the US – many of which are struggling right now with how they should continue to support Israel when its government is moving in a direction they diametrically oppose.

This is a very delicate and complicated time for the US-Israel relationship.
As we approach Israel’s 75th anniversary as an independent state, we need to keep an eye on what is important, and remember how valuable this relationship is for the Jewish state. This does not mean that Israel cannot implement domestic reforms. It can.
It just needs to keep in mind that there might be a price to pay, whose complete scope it does not yet see.