Netanyahu Is Doing Exactly What Is Right for His Country

Current Israeli politics in relation to the U.S. appear to be impulsive and unwise, but they aren’t: Israel’s independence is the most important condition for its safety.

Following Benjamin Netanyahu’s election victory, American-Israeli relations have reached a historical low. On this point at least, commentators from the left and the right are united. However, as is most often the case when everyone is united, the finding is false.

The relationship between Israel and the U.S. has been problematic from the outset; it has repeatedly reached a crisis point. After all, the interests of the U.S. and the interests of the Jewish state don’t really happen to be the same. The belief that the U.S. is Israel’s natural ally is an illusion.

“I am Cyrus!” U.S. President Harry Truman said once, and with it inserted himself into the line of succession of the Persian king who in the 6th century B.C. helped the Jews get their own state following their Babylonian exile, and was therefore labelled as “messiah” in the Bible.

Although, in 1948, under Truman, the U.S. was the first state to acknowledge Israel’s provisional government (followed by Iran), the president was neither a philo-Semite like Winston Churchill nor a Christian Zionist like Arthur Balfour who, in 1917, announced the British Empire’s support for the creation of a Jewish homestead in Palestine. He was the opposite.

Truman’s Mild Anti-Semitism

Throughout their entire existence, the small towns in the Midwest have maintained a mild anti-Semitism. For them, New York was “Kike Town,” which could perhaps be roughly translated as Yiddish-Town. As an American, he had an instinctive aversion to the European idea that states should be founded on the basis of ethnic or religious affiliation.

That’s why he supported the plan that was submitted in 1946 by an Anglo-American commission to create a binational Palestinian state, which would be divided between Arab and Jewish areas and completed under the observation of the United Nations.

Whether the plan ever had a chance of being realized remains to be seen. In the end, it didn’t fail because of opposition from Jews and Arabs in and around Palestine, but because of the fact that neither the war-weary Brits nor the U.S. were prepared to take on the human and material costs of an occupation, which would have been necessary to prevent a civil war in the new state.

Even on the day of Israel’s recognition, Truman still lamented this solution in hindsight. “We had solved the problem,”* he complained to the future secretary of state, Dean Acheson, but “the emotional Jews in the United States and the emotional Arabs in Egypt and Syria”* had apparently impeded it. A second Cyrus? Not really.

America Was Observant of Israel

Even in the years following the state’s founding, the American attitude toward Israel was, if anything, observant. The Jews got the weapons for their War of Independence from Czechoslovakia, with silent support from the Soviet Union. The weapons, which Israel deployed in its war from 1956 to 1967, mostly came from France, which has long been counted as Israel’s most reliable ally.

When Britain, France and Israel attacked Egypt in order to bring the Suez Canal, which had been nationalized by Gamal Abd al-Nasser, once again under French-British control and to overturn Egypt’s terrorist attacks against Israel and Nasser, the Republican U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, under pressure from the oil lobby, supported sanctions against Israel and stopped help for the Jewish state’s development. The U.S. agreed with the Soviet Union in the United Nations Security Council’s call for a resolution, which called for the withdrawal of Israeli, British and French troops.

With the threat of liquidating the British money reserves in American possession and of therefore causing the pound sterling to crash, Eisenhower ultimately forced the breakup of the successful military campaign and therefore secured Nasser’s political survival.

Among the few supporters of the Israeli-French-British military campaign was German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who interpreted Eisenhower’s association with Chruschtschow as an attempt to “divide up the world.” Eisenhower himself later called his attitude to the Suez crisis the biggest foreign policy error of his administration.

Israel Builds Its Own Atom Bomb

The eventual USA-forced retreat of the European powers from the Arab regions and Eisenhower’s strategic decision to support Arab nationalism is attested to by David Ben Gurion’s assessment that Israel needed to have its own atom bomb as the ultimate deterrent.

Already by 1956, Shimon Peres was negotiating with France on the shipment of a reactor and an enrichment facility as well as missilery and a trainee workforce. One year after Suez, the secret deal was signed. Ten years later, Israel was an atomic power.

The reactor in Dimona was “France’s biggest gesture towards Israel,” wrote Ari Shavit, “a declining colonial power’s leaving gift to the young frontier nation that the West had erected in the Orient and then left alone.”* This development didn’t suit the U.S. at all. President John F. Kennedy forced the Israelis in 1962 to let American inspectors into Dimona, but they were still successfully given the runaround until 1969; that way the French could continue the collaboration.

In September 1969, Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir revealed the Israeli atom bomb to newly elected U.S. President Richard Nixon. The U.S. decided to acknowledge the fait accompli silently. In 1973, Israel’s near-defeat in the Yom Kippur War proved how important the weapons that Israel had developed in resistance to the U.S. were.

The USA’s National Interests

Even since 1967, when the U.S. became Israel’s most important arms dealer and ally, there has not been a lack of crises in the relationship between Jerusalem and Washington. A powerful, unbroken oil lobby in the Arab region as well as in the U.S. administration and community shares Stephen Walt and John J. Mearsheimer’s opinion:

The close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, according to the (often conservative) political scientists, endangers the national interests of the USA, which is supposedly in the region as an honest mediator and promoter of a balance of power: in a word, back to Eisenhower, who was quoted by Obama’s new defense minister, Chuck Hagel, as a role model.

For every Israeli politician who knows the history of his country, the following applies: Israel needs to be ready and in position to act alone, following its own assessment of the danger. It should never be in the position it was in in 1956; it should never be completely dependent on its allies.

Its friendship with the U.S. is clearly important. Israel’s independence is crucial to its survival. Those who can’t comprehend this history lesson won’t comprehend Netanyahu either or understand why the majority of Israelis want to have him as their prime minister.

*Editor’s note: Correctly translated, these quotes could not be verified.

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