In other times, Hearst Newspapers White House Correspondent Helen Thomas’s demand that the Jews “get the hell out of Palestine,” and go back to Poland, Germany and America would have been front page news in every newspaper in the US the day after the story broke.
In other times, had the dean of the White House Correspondents Association expressed such hatred for the Jews, the White House would have immediately removed her accreditation rather than wait three days to criticize her.
In other times, the White House Correspondents Association would have expelled her.
In other times, her employer – Hearst Newspapers – would have fired her.
But in our times, it took days for anyone other than Jews and conservatives to condemn Thomas’s vile statements to Rabbi David Nesenoff. And she was not fired. She was allowed to retire.
Our times are times of Jew hatred. Our times are times where hatred breeds strategic madness. Our times are times when we need to recall basic truths about Israel and the Jewish people. Specifically, we must remember that the US is privileged to count Israel as an ally – whether Americans like Jews and our state or hate us.
This week, Anthony Cordesman from respected Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies joined the bandwagon of Israel bashers. In an article titled, “Israel as a Strategic Liability?” Cordesman asserted that Israel “is a tertiary US strategic interest.” And given its alleged insignificance, Israel must “become far more careful about the extent to which it test the limits of US patience and exploits the support of American Jews.”
Cordesman argued that Israel is only an asset to the US when it is giving its land away to its neighbors. He called for Israel to constrain its military actions and demanded that Israel “not conduct a high-risk attack on Iran in the face of the clear US ‘red light’ from both the Bush and Obama administrations.”
The fact that Cordesman’s article reflects an increasingly popular school of thought in the US is not testimony to its accuracy. Indeed, his arguments are completely wrong.
The plain truth is that Israel is the US’s greatest strategic asset in the Middle East. Indeed, given the strategic importance of the Middle East to the US national security, Israel is arguably the US’s greatest strategic asset outside the US military.
Cordesman allows that “Israel is a democracy that shares virtually all of the same values as the United States.” But he fails to recognize the strategic implications of that statement. As a democracy, unlike every Arab state, the US does not need to worry a change in leadership in Jerusalem will cause Israel to abandon its alliance with the US. This of course is what happened in Iran – which until 1979, was the US’s most important ally in the Persian Gulf. As Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak ages, the US faces the prospect of a post-Mubarak Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood similarly abandoning its alliance with America.
The fact that the US and Israel share the same foundational values also guarantees that the alliance is stable. No government in Jerusalem will ever sway the Israeli people away from America as has happened in Turkey since the Islamist Erdogan government took office in 2002.
Cordesman grudgingly allowed that Israel provides intelligence to the US. But he refused to acknowledge how important Israel’s intelligence has been for the US. Since Sept. 11, 2001, US military and intelligence officials have repeatedly admitted that Israeli intelligence has been worth its weight in gold for US security operations in the region and around the world.
Cordesman also noted that Israeli technology has contributed to US defense, but again, he undervalued its significance. The very fact that pilotless aircraft – first developed by Israel – are the lead force in the US campaign in Afghanistan and Pakistan gives lie to his tepid admission of Israel’s technological contribution to US security.
Like many on the Left, Cordesman ignored the fact that Israel’s enemies are the US’s enemies. But his failure to note that the same people who call for Israel to be destroyed also call for the US to be destroyed does not make this fact any less true. And since the US and Israel share the same foes, when Israel is called on to fight its enemies, its successes redound to the US’s benefit.
In many ways, Israel – which has never asked the US to fight its wars — has been the catalyst for the US’s greatest triumphs. It was the Mossad that smuggled out Nikita Khrushchev’s secret speech acknowledging Stalin’s crimes at the Twentieth Communist Party Conference in 1956. The publication of Khrushchev’s speech in the West was the first turning point in the Cold War.
So too, Israel’s June 1982 destruction of Syria’s Soviet-made anti-aircraft batteries and the Syrian air force was the first clear demonstration of the absolute superiority of US military technology over Soviet military technology. Many have argued that it was this Israeli demonstration of Soviet technological inferiority that convinced the Reagan administration it was possible to win the Cold War.
Beyond politics and ideology, beyond friendship and values, the US has three permanent national security interests in the Middle East.
• Ensuring the smooth flow of affordable petroleum products from the region.
• Preventing the most radical regimes, sub-state and non-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.
• Maintaining its capacity to project its power in the region.
A strong Israel is the best guarantor of all of these interests. Indeed, the stronger Israel is, the more secure these primary American interests are. Three permanent and unique aspects to Israel’s regional position dictate this state of affairs.
First, as the first target of the most radical regimes and radical sub-state actors in the region, Israel has a permanent, existential interest in preventing these regimes and sub-state actors from acquiring the means to cause catastrophic harm.
Israel’s 1981 airstrike that destroyed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor prevented Iraq from acquiring nuclear weapons. Despite US condemnation at the time, the US later acknowledged that the strike was a necessary precondition to the success of Operation Desert Storm ten years later. As Richard Cheney has noted, if Iraq had been a nuclear power in 1991, the US would have been hard pressed to eject Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait and so block his regime from asserting control over oil supplies in the Persian Gulf.
Second, Israel is a non-expansionist state and its neighbors know it. In its 62 year history, Israel has only controlled territory vital for its national security and territory that was legally allotted to it in the 1922 League of Nations Mandate which has never been abrogated or superseded.
Israel’s strength, which it has used only in self-defense, is inherently non-threatening. Far from destabilizing the region, a strong Israel stabilizes the Middle East by deterring the most radical actors from attacking.
In 1970, Israel blocked Syria’s bid to use the PLO to overthrow the Hashemite regime in Jordan. Israel’s threat to attack Syria not only saved the Hashemites then, it has deterred Syria from attempting to overthrow the Jordanian regime ever since.
Similarly, Israel’s neighbors understand that its purported nuclear arsenal is a weapon of national survival and hence they view it as non-threatening. This is the reason Israel’s alleged nuclear arsenal has never spurred a regional nuclear arms race.
In stark contrast, if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, a regional nuclear arms race will ensue immediately. Indeed, it has already begun. Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other states have all signed contracts to develop nuclear installations.
Although they will never admit it, Israel’s non-radical neighbors feel more secure when Israel is strong. On the other hand, the region’s most radical regimes and non-state actors will always seek to emasculate Israel.
Finally, since as the Jewish state Israel is the regional bogeyman, no Arab state will agree to form an open alliance with it. Hence, Israel will never be in a position to join forces with another nation against a third nation.
In contrast, the Egyptian-Syrian United Arab Republic of the 1960s was formed to attack Israel. Today, the Syrian-Iranian-Turkish alliance is an inherently aggressive alliance against Israel and the non-radical Arab states in the region. Recognizing the stabilizing force of a strong Israel, the moderate states of the region prefer for Israel to remain strong.
From the US’s perspective, far from impairing its alliance-making capabilities in the region, by providing military assistance to Israel, America isn’t just strengthening the most stabilizing force in the region. It is showing all states and non-state actors in the greater Middle East it is trustworthy.
But every time the US seeks to attenuate its ties with Israel, it is viewed as an untrustworthy ally by the nations of the Middle East. US hostility towards Israel causes Israel’s neighbors to hedge their bets by distancing themselves from the US lest America abandon them to their neighboring adversaries.
The Obama administration’s willingness to effectively back Turkey and Hamas against Israel at the UN Security Council last week forced Vice President Joseph Biden to drop everything and fly to Egypt this week. Watching the US abandon Israel and strengthen the most radical actors in the region, the Egyptians are terrified that they can no longer believe in US security guarantees.
A strong Israel empowers the relatively moderate actors in the region to stand up to the radical actors in the region because they trust Israel to keep the radicals in check. When Israel is weakened the radical forces are emboldened. Regional stability is thrown asunder. Wars become more likely. Attacks on oil resources increase. The most radical sub-state actors and regimes are encouraged to strike.
Cordesman claims that Israel only advances US strategic interest when it works towards the creation of a Palestinian state. But this is wrong. To the extent that the two-state solution assumes that Israel must contract itself to within the indefensible 1949 ceasefire lines and allow a hostile Palestinian state allied with terrorist organizations to take power in the areas it vacates, the two-state solution is predicated on making Israel weak and empowering radicals. In light of this, the two-state solution as presently constituted is antithetical to America’s most vital strategic interests in the Middle East.
In our times, when Jew hatred has become acceptable and strategic blindness and madness are presented as nuanced sophistication, it is essential to maintain a firm grip on the truth. And that truth is that love the Jews or hate us, the US’s alliance with Israel has been and remains America’s most cost-effective national security investment since World War II.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.