Israel has an obligation to defend itself - opinion

Of course Israel has a right to defend itself. Why wouldn’t it? By even mentioning the “right,” you are welcoming a debate whether Israel does or does not have a “right” to defend itself.

Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, May 12. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)
Streaks of light are seen as Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept rockets launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, May 12.
(photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

In the race to the bottom, it will be difficult to beat The Squad.

This week, with the Democrats knowing that they would have a party-line vote to pass a continuing resolution – which is important to continue to push the Democratic agenda forward – The Squad told the Democratic leadership that if the Continuing Resolution contained the $1 billion set aside to help Israel replenish the Iron Dome, they wouldn’t vote for it, and therefore have the important (for the Democrats) resolution fail.

The Democratic leadership removed the allocation for the Iron Dome ammunition and the Continuing Resolution passed along party lines.

Immediately, pro-Israel Democrats took to Twitter to condemn their colleagues, and promised to bring up Iron Dome replenishment to a new independent vote ASAP (which they will, and it should pass by a large margin). One of their most prominent justifications was that the Iron Dome is only a defensive weapon, so by implication it is justifiable to make sure Israel won’t have offensive weapons.

Their crocodile tears should be treated the same way senator after senator showed up to vote for the Iran deal and then in their speeches to the Senate explained why the deal was terrible, but that they had no choice. Now within a decade, the Iran deal has become part and parcel of the Democratic platform, even though it is now proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iran cheated before the deal, and during the deal as well.

US REPS. (from left) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, four members of ‘the Squad,’ have made a name for themselves in their bashing of Israel over the last few years.  (credit: ERIN SCOTT/REUTERS)US REPS. (from left) Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, four members of ‘the Squad,’ have made a name for themselves in their bashing of Israel over the last few years. (credit: ERIN SCOTT/REUTERS)

Indeed, no matter what happens this week, the battle has already been lost. The pro-Israel Democrats had the same leverage as The Squad. They too could have said that they will not vote for a Continuing Resolution unless it included the funding for the Iron Dome. They did not, and instead folded.

This is more tragic, because the narrative has shifted, and it is the pro-Israel community’s fault. As recently as the last Gaza war in May, when Hamas indiscriminately fired over 4,000 rockets from civilian areas aimed at civilians in Israel – thereby committing over 4,000 war crimes – support for Israel’s right to defend itself came from many corners of the world, but as we all witnessed, the narrative was lost nearly immediately.

Enormous marches took place throughout the world’s capitals condemning Israel, and in their wake, antisemitic attacks increased.

The most common refrain from strong Israel supporters was: “Israel has a right to defend itself.” The people making those statements thought they were helping Israel, but they were not.

Of course Israel has a right to defend itself. Why wouldn’t it? By even mentioning the “right,” you are welcoming a debate whether Israel does or does not have a “right” to defend itself.

It is time for the pro-Israel and I daresay pro-America crowd to permanently change the lexicon. “Israel has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens.”

The most basic expectation that a citizen of any country has is the expectation to safety and security. This is an obligation of the state to its citizens, not a right, not an option. It is a non-negotiable obligation.

When a nation does not fulfill its obligation, it questions its ability to succeed as a state. To win a war, you must choose the correct battlefield.

This week it became clear that the Democratic Party is currently negotiating Israel’s surrender as their very right to exist has been called into question, and those willing to fight to extinguish it cared more than those who purport to defend it.

The cause is not lost, and strong bipartisan support for Israel is important to Israel, but it is even more important to America.

Combine this week’s capitulation with America’s disastrous retreat from Afghanistan – with Americans and allies left behind with zero repercussions for anyone in the administration or Congress – and we have a glaring lack of understanding of a country’s obligations to its citizens.

The writer is a former senior advisor to ambassador David Friedman and special envoy for economic normalization for the Abraham Accords.