AMERICANS IF NOT OBAMA KNOW ISRAEL’S STRATEGIC VALUE: JUDITH APTER KLINGHOFFER
Judith Apter Klinghoffer
AMERICANS, IF NOT OBAMA, KNOW ISRAEL’S STRATEGIC VALUE
In a recent interview New York Senator Chuck SchumerÂ notedÂ that there is there is a battle going on inside the Obama administration about Israel and added correctly that such a battle is not unusual. The State Department tends to beÂ Arabistwhile the Defense Department and the military appreciate Israelâ€™s strategic value. The difference is that educated by the most radical leftist (hence anti-Israeli) professors he could find, Barack Obama came to power believing that Israel, like the US, is a bully that needs to be humbled and the way to sell that need to the American people is by convincing it that Israel is a strategic burden even if he hurts US interests in the process. The result is a transformation of US policy towards Israel radical enough to shock as savvy a foreign policy expert as Fareed Zakaria.
ZAKARIA: Rashid, what do you think? Does – does it strike you as a shift for the – the United States to be suggesting that this stalled peace process hurts America’s ability to pursue its interests? KHALIDI: What they’re saying is that Israel is a drag on the United States. It’s not a strategic asset, and this is a discursive shift of some significance.
I don’t think they’re saying, you know, remove Settlement X from Hilltop Y and the Arab will sing Hosannas to, you know, American power. What they are saying is that Israel is not the strategic asset it was touted as during the Cold War. . . .
ZAKARIA:Â Do you see the shift is as dramatic as – as you were just describing?Â Because what Obama has said and what Petraeus’ report says is not Israel is a strategic drag, it’s that the lack of progress in the peace process is the problem, you know, that – that we need this process to be energized. Otherwise, it is pointed to by the – by Jihadis, it is used as a recruiting tool. That’s a – that’s very different from saying Israel is a strategic drag.
KHALIDI: I think that discursively, if you sit down and parse what they’re saying, at – at base, at root, that is essentially the message. . . .
But is Khalidi right? Is Israel a strategic drag? Not if Defense Secretary Robert Gates is right and at a time the US feels overextended the American security lies inÂ â€œHelping Others Defend ThemselvesÂ instead of depending on the US. Gates writes:
In coming years, the greatest threats to the United States are likely to emanate from states that cannot adequately govern themselves or secure their own territory. The U.S. government must improve its ability to help its partners defend themselves or, if necessary, fight alongside U.S. troops.
Unlike her neighbors, Israel is a thriving democracy with a first rate military which has repeatedly proved its ability to defend itself under the most trying circumstances. Alexander Haig aptly called Israel Americaâ€™s â€œunsinkable battleship in the Middle East.â€œ Much of the leftâ€™s distaste for Israel is directly related the Jewish countryâ€™s usefulness as an American strategic ally. The Israeli military may not fight along side the American one as some NATO members do but it has done much, if not more than many NATO members, to enhance US military ability in theÂ post Cold WarÂ era.
Benjamin Netanyahu said as much when he remarked that Israel shared everything with the United States, everything. Danny ReshefÂ writesÂ that the time has come to tell the full story but to do so Israel will have to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding Israeli aid to the US:
When the US, for its own reasons, went to war against Muslim states, Israel possessed the most extensive knowledge base of the type of fighting involved as a consequence of her experience in Lebanon and in fighting Palestinian terror. Since 2003, the American army in Iraq made extensive use of Israeli technology in using and fortifying vehicles. Operational methods, defensive measures, identification and diffusion of mines as well as training methods were transferred from Israel to the American army and saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers. Israel has in its possession a wide array of correspondence from various American agencies gratefully acknowledging Israelâ€™s contribution and even estimating the number of lives it saved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel helped to militarize and make more precise American drones technology thereby improve the efficacy of its targeted assassinations.
Indeed, it was the use of Israeli methods which enabled the US to increase significantly its use of drones in the past year because those methods increased the number of enemy casualties while at the same time decreasing civilian casualties. Foreign sources estimate that up to 400 American military personnel went through Israeli training in real time intelligence gathering to identify and pin point military targets.
A recent Quinnipiac pollÂ showsÂ that Americans may not be aware of all the details of Israeli help to the US but they, if not their current president, understand Israelâ€™s strategic value and, hence, disagrees with the Barack Obamaâ€™s policy towards it. Most instructively, those who understand Israelâ€™s value most, support it most. Israel has no better allies than American military families whose lives are on the line. Asked in a recent poll â€œDo you think the President of the United States should be a strong supporter of Israel or not?â€ 66% of Americans answer â€œyesâ€ and 19% â€œno.â€Â The affirmative number amongst military families is 75%.
Similarly results can be found when asked whether â€œPresident Obama is a strong supporter of Israel or not?â€œ 34% of Americans believe he is a strong supporter and 42% think he is not.Â Amongst military families only 32% believe he is a strong supporter of Israel while 49% understand he is not.
These realities and not, as critics like to insinuate, a powerful Israeli lobby (headed at this moment by a staunch Obama supporter), is responsible for the fact that 2/3 of both houses of Congress sent President Obama a letter suggesting an end to his orchestrated attack on Israel. It is these realities that force the Presidential spokesman to deflect Senator Schumerâ€™s criticisms of Obamaâ€™s treatment of Israel by stating that the US has â€œan unwavering commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people.” The pertinent question is whether a commitment by an American administration, which believes Israel to be a strategic burden, is credible? The simple answer is no.
The last time an American president so believed was in 1967. Then, as now, Foggy Bottom argued that American-Israeli relations is a one way street and that Israel is a strategic burden. The president was Lyndon Johnson; and the result was the Six Day War. It was instigated by Egyptian president Gamal Abdâ€™l Nasser in the belief that he was strong enough to beat Israel provided Washington would do nothing to save the Jewish state. He was wrong about Egyptâ€™s military strength but right in doubting American interference.
Israel stood alone but her victory also helped save the American position in the Middle East at a time when the US was mired in the jungles of Vietnam. The role played then by Egypt is played today by Iran. The role played then by Nasser is played today by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That is the reason, Lebanese journalist Elias Bejjani has already concluded thatÂ Iran, not Israel, will start the warÂ Now, unlike then, US forces are stationed in the Middle East and the weapons involved are nuclear. Need I write more?!
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