Jun 19th 2015

The US Must Stop Enabling Israel

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

No one can deny the close, abiding, and unparalleled friendship between the United States and Israel. This tight bond has served both countries well, especially Israel, which has benefitted politically, economically, and militarily from the US’s unwavering support, helping Israel to become a powerhouse second to none in the Middle East. It appears, though, that this unequivocal American support and friendship enabled Israel to become more entrenched in the West Bank by building and expanding the settlements and expropriating Palestinian land, thereby making the prospect of achieving peace ever more remote.

Regardless of the wars and violent conflicts sweeping the region since Israel’s inception, the US maintained a steady hand in its support of Israel, even at the expense of its own strategic interests in the area.

Friendship, after all, whether between countries or individuals, carries with it a moral responsibility and obligation to lend aid, advice, resources, and protection as the case may warrant. An ethical difficulty arises, however, when one realizes that instead of helping a friend, one is in fact allowing, or enabling, that friend to harm himself.

To use a simple analogy, if my friend is addicted to drugs, there quickly comes a point where readily giving him money (in the Israeli-US situation, providing Israel with military aid, economic assistance, and especially political cover) is directly contributing to the continuation of this devastating habit.

It is precisely in the name of friendship that I must refuse to give that which my friend so ardently desires. Such a policy of ‘tough love’ is never easy or pleasant, and certainly unpopular – as Nietzsche put it, “This is the hardest of all: to close the open hand out of love…”

US-Israel relations are presently at a historic low because Obama was willing to show a little tough love by exerting limited pressure on Israel to suspend settlement activity. The irony here is that while the US believes that Israeli-Arab peace will provide Israel with ultimate long-term security, it did not exert sufficient pressure on Israel to pursue peace, which of necessity requires significant concessions.

Every day that the US allows the continuation of the occupation, it is inadvertently compromising Israel’s national security, even though the US is committed to safeguard that very thing. Israel is digging itself deeper while the US remains its protector and the prospect for a two-state solution becomes dimmer, threatening Israel’s very existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

The US must no longer give Israel a blank check, hoping that it will use it wisely. Israel has failed that test and the US is becoming as a result complicit in Israel’s self-destructive policy. Given that the US has a moral and material stake in Israel’s wellbeing and is committed to its preservation, it must be in a position to shape and influence Israel’s conduct, particularly in relation to its conflict with the Palestinians.

There are those who argue that Israel is a sovereign state and no other country, including the US, can dictate what Israel can or cannot do. The problem is that Israel depends on the US politically, and to safeguard its national security, and cannot at the same time defy the US and continue to expect this unconditional support.

Other than the damage the US’s current policy has caused to Israel’s national security interests, the US has lost much of its credibility in the region. The Arab states accuse the US of lacking impartiality in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they go as far as suggesting that America is in Israel’s pocket.

As it is, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely difficult to resolve and is further burdened by differing historical and religious accounts and claims, and every day that passes without a solution makes the conflict ever more intractable.

Prime Minister Netanyahu believes he can defy the US with impunity; one can count on him (contrary to his public protestations) to make every effort to stymie the creation of a Palestinian state.

Only when the US changes its policy and is prepared to exert, in the main, political pressure on Israel, will the US be able to save Israel from its destructive path.

The US must now work closely with its European and Arab allies to come up with a binding UNSC resolution that will compel both Israelis and Palestinians to sit down and negotiate a peace agreement. If Israel refuses to abide by the resolution or negotiate in good faith, the US should withdraw its political cover, thereby exposing Israel to international censure.

Netanyahu, like most Israelis, simply takes American political support for granted. When he realizes he can no longer do so, he will have to heed the US’s advice and together develop new plans that will advance the peace process, or resign.

That said, the current extreme right-wing coalition government led by Netanyahu will under no circumstances accede to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and it will unravel under international, especially American, pressure.

Needless to say, this in no way exempts the Palestinians from fulfilling their own responsibility in negotiating in earnest and making the required concessions, however painful, with the objective of reaching an agreement.

Like all of his predecessors, having judiciously watched Israel’s back, Obama has the obligation and moral responsibility to demand that Israel resume the negotiations in earnest. Although Israel has enjoyed tremendous political support from both Congress and the American people, there is a definite shift among the public and leading politicians toward putting the onus on Israel.

This seven decades-old debilitating conflict that has destabilized the Middle East and continues to feed into the region’s sweeping violent frenzy must come to an end.

The US ought to be clear by explaining to the Israeli public in particular that time is running out. If Israel continues to build new and expand existing settlements, it will seriously and rapidly erode the prospect of a two-state solution.

Israel must choose now between a) remaining a Jewish and democratic state by ending the occupation and creating two states, b) becoming a one-state democracy (in which case the Palestinians will be the governing majority), or c) end up being an apartheid state subject to international condemnation, sanctions, and isolation.

A change in American policy toward Israel in no way suggests that the US is less committed to Israel’s national security. On the contrary, because of the US’s unwavering commitment, it becomes incumbent upon it morally and materially to end its enablement of Israel’s addiction to building more settlements, expropriating more land, and maintaining the occupation, which will destroy Israel as we know it.

By demonstrating tough love, the US can fulfill its moral obligation to best serve Israel’s national security and preserve it as an independent Jewish and democratic state, which for nearly all Israelis is their most cherished dream.




To follow what's new on Facts & Arts,
 please click here.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Dec 13th 2019
EXTRACT: "In previous British elections, to say that trust was the main issue would have meant simply that trust is the trump card – whichever leader or party could secure most trust would win. Now, the emerging question about trust is whether it even matters anymore."
Dec 5th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe must fend for itself for the first time since the end of World War II. Yet after so many years of strategic dependence the US, Europe is unprepared – not just materially but psychologically – for today’s harsh geopolitical realities. Nowhere is this truer than in Germany."
Nov 23rd 2019
Extdact: "The kind of gratitude expressed by Vindman and my grandfather is not something that would naturally occur to a person who can take his or her nationality for granted, or whose nationality is beyond questioning by others. Some who have never felt the sharp end of discrimination might even find it mildly offensive. Why should anyone be grateful for belonging to a particular nation? Pride, perhaps, but gratitude? In fact, patriotism based on gratitude might be the strongest form there is."
Nov 20th 2019
Extract: "Moody’s, one of the big three credit rating agencies, is not upbeat about the prospects for the world’s debt in 2020 – to put it mildly. If we were to try to capture the agency’s view of where we are heading on a palette of colours, we would be pointing at black – pitch black."
Nov 17th 2019
Extract: "Digital money is already a key battleground in finance, with technology firms, payment processing companies, and banks all vying to become the gateway into the burgeoning platform-based economy. The prizes that await the winners could be huge. In China, Alipay and WeChat Pay already control more than 90% of all mobile payments. And in the last three years, the four largest listed payment firms – Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and PayPal – have increased in value by more than the FAANGs (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google)."
Nov 14th 2019
Extract: "Trump, who understands almost nothing about governing, made a major mistake in attacking career public officials from the outset of his presidency. He underestimated – or just couldn’t fathom – the honor of people who could earn more in the private sector but believe in public service. And he made matters worse for himself as well as for the government by creating a shadow group – headed by the strangely out-of-control Rudy Giuliani, once a much-admired mayor of New York City, and now a freelance troublemaker serving as Trump’s personal attorney – to impose the president’s Ukraine policy over that of “the bureaucrats.” "
Nov 4th 2019
Extract: "Trump displays repeated and persistent behaviours consistent with narcissistic personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. These behaviours include craving for adulation, lack of empathy, aggression and vindictiveness towards opponents, addiction to lying, and blatant disregard for rules and conventions, among others." The concern is that leaders with these two disorders may be incapable of putting the interests of the country ahead of their own personal interests. Their compulsive lying may make rational action impossible and their impulsiveness may make them incapable of the forethought and planning necessary to lead the country. They lack empathy and are often motivated by rage and revenge, and could make quick decisions that could have profoundly dangerous consequences for democracy.
Oct 31st 2019
EXTRACT: "......let’s see what happens when we have less money for all the things we want to do as a country and as individuals. Promises and predictions regarding Brexit will soon be tested against reality. When they are, I wouldn’t want to be one of Johnson’s Brexiteers."
Oct 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "Were Israel to be attacked with the same precision and sophistication as the strike on Saudi Arabia, the Middle East would be plunged into war on a scale beyond anything it has experienced so far. Sadly (but happily for Russian President Vladimir Putin), that is the reality of a world in which the US has abandoned any pretense of global leadership."
Oct 20th 2019
EXTRACT: "Europe also stands to lose from Trump’s abandonment of the Kurds. If, in the ongoing chaos, the thousands of ISIS prisoners held by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces escape – as some already have – America’s estranged European allies will suffer. Yet Trump is unconcerned. “Well, they are going to be escaping to Europe, that’s where they want to go,” he remarked casually at a press conference. “They want to go back to their homes." "
Oct 15th 2019
EXTRACT: "Assuming the House ultimately votes to impeach Trump, the fact remains that there are far fewer votes in the Senate than will be needed to convict him and remove him from office. But the willingness of Congress – including the Senate – to continue tolerating his dangerous conduct in office, including threats to US national security, is now truly in question."
Oct 7th 2019
EXTRACT: "The problem didn't start with the election of Donald Trump. Nor did it begin with the Democrats launching an impeachment inquiry against Trump. This is a developing crisis that has been growing like a cancer within our polity for at least the past 25 years. Its main symptoms are a lack of civility in our political discourse, a "take no prisoners" mindset, and a denial of the very legitimacy of "the other side." Trump didn't create this crisis; he was the result of it.   When Newt Gingrich took the helm of Congress in 1995, unlike previous Republican leaders, he embarked on a campaign not only to obstruct the efforts of then President Clinton, but to destroy him. Congress launched a series of investigations accusing Clinton of everything from corruption to obstruction of justice – with hints of even more nefarious plots to assassinate those who might pose a problem to his presidency.  "
Oct 4th 2019
EXTRACT: "As the story spreads, it grows darker. Meanwhile, Trump is trying to learn the identity of the whistleblower (who is protected by law), which could expose that person to great danger. And he is accusing some people – including Adam Schiff, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee – of treason. My sense is that Trump fears the tough, focused Schiff. Trump has ominously noted that traitors used to be shot or hanged. And he hasn’t helped himself with members of either party by declaring, in one of his hundreds of febrile tweets, that forcing him from office could lead to a “civil war.” Trump has taken the United States somewhere it’s never been before. His presidency may not survive it."
Sep 24th 2019
EXTRACT: "But regardless of whether the Ukraine scandal remains front-page news, it will haunt the US intelligence community, which has been Trump’s bête noire since the day he took office. Trump has relentlessly attacked US intelligence agencies, cozied up to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and divulged secrets to foreign officials, potentially burning high-value sources. This behavior had already raised serious concerns about whether Trump can be trusted to receive sensitive intelligence at all. Now, intelligence leaders must ask themselves how far they are willing to go in toeing the White House line."
Sep 21st 2019
EXTRACT: "As Lobaczewski pointed out, pathological leaders tend to attract other people with psychological disorders. At the same time, empathetic and fair-minded people gradually fall away. They are either ostracised or step aside voluntarily, appalled by the growing pathology around them.......As a result, over time pathocracies become more entrenched and extreme. You can see this process in the Nazi takeover of the German government in the 1930s, when Germany moved from democracy to pathocracy in less than two years.......In the US, there has clearly been a movement towards pathocracy under Trump. As Lobaczewski’s theory predicts, the old guard of more moderate White House officials – the “adults in the room” – has fallen away. The president is now surrounded by individuals who share his authoritarian tendencies and lack of empathy and morality. Fortunately, to some extent, the democratic institutions of the US have managed to provide some push back."
Sep 16th 2019
EXTRACT: "If the Supreme Court does agree with the Divisional Court that the question is political rather than legal, it will take the UK constitution into quite peculiar territory. Prime ministers will be the new kings and queens. They will be free to suspend parliament at will, and for as long as they wish, without any judicial interference. Parliament will meet not out of constitutional necessity but in the service of the government’s interests – namely, to pass its legislation and to maintain appearances, rather than to hold it to account."
Sep 12th 2019
Extract: "The Republican Party has lashed its fate to an increasingly unhinged leader. Though three other presidential hopefuls for 2020 now stand in Trump’s way, none can defeat him. But they can damage his reelection effort, which is why the Republican Party has been scrapping some primaries and caucuses. How well Trump does in November next year may well depend on how his fragile ego withstands the coming months."
Sep 2nd 2019
EXTRACTS: "Most people think of revolutions as sudden earthquakes or volcanic eruptions that come without warning and sweep away an entire political system. But historians, political scientists, and even the odd politician know that the reality is very different: revolutions happen when systems hollow themselves out, or simply rot from within. Revolutionaries can then brush aside established norms of behavior, or even of truth, as trivialities that should not impede the popular will............ Only time will tell whether we are currently witnessing the hollowing out of British democracy. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson may well have crossed some invisible Rubicon by.......... Whatever happens now, British parliamentary democracy may never be the same again. It will certainly never again be the model that so many people around the world once admired."
Aug 29th 2019
EXTRACT: "Events such as prorogations and dissolutions happen when countries face difficult times. Therefore, because of the disastrous effects of Brexit: sterling in freefall; a recession looming on the horizon and Britain’s international standing at its lowest ebb since Suez, it is no surprise that the country is in this position now. The worrying thing is that using the monarchical power of prorogation does not solve problems – it has a history of turning them into frightening and often violent crises. There is a worrying relationship between the use of such powers and a complete breakdown in government."
Aug 28th 2019
EXTRACT: "Reminiscent of Don Quixote, Trump is tilting at windmills. His administration is flailing at antiquated perceptions of the Old China that only compound the problems it claims to be addressing. Financial markets are starting to get a sense that something is awry. So, too, is the Federal Reserve. Meanwhile, the global economy is fraying at the edges. The US has never been an oasis in such treacherous periods. I doubt if this time is any different.