I listened to Hillary Clinton’s entire foreign policy speech. I wasn’t going to. I was just going to listen to a few minutes to get a feel for it, but it was so good that I got caught up in it. That was mostly because it was just a half hour long attack on Donald Trump. I’m far more interested in foreign affairs than most Americans, but that still allows me to be pretty disinterested in the subject. But listening to Clinton go point by point over Donald Trump’s ridiculous statements was great fun — except for the part about Israel.
Looking back on the last year, I have to say that I’m shocked that Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee. And I don’t say that in a political sense. I say it in a theatrical sense. If you’ve heard one Donald Trump speech, you’ve heard them all. I would have thought that the nation would have been bored by now. His answer to every problem is that he’s a great negotiator. Perhaps the best line in Hillary Clinton’s speech was, “He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors and other high officials, because he has — quote — ‘a very good brain.'”
But as much as I enjoyed the speech and agreed with her on most things, I was especially bothered by one line about Israel, “They’re our closest ally in the region, and we have a moral obligation to defend them.” I understand: this is just divine knowledge in modern America: Israel is such a good friend of America. It’s just that I’ve found the claim harder and harder to take. In what way is Israel our closest ally? As far as I can tell, only by grabbing hold of us and refusing to let go.
It certainly isn’t the case that Israel is our closest ally in the region because of all the great stuff they do for us. It’s quite the other way around. And at this point, I have little doubt that Israel would become a loose cannon in the region if we didn’t hold them in check. I remember during the Persian Gulf War, there was a great deal of diplomacy that went on to keep Israel out of the war. And why was that? I mean, Israel is a country that probably depends upon its very existence to the unwavering support that the United States gives to it — both militarily and in the United Nations. But we have to worry about them messing up our own foreign policy.
I realize that Hillary Clinton had to give a shout-out to Israel. That’s the American way of politics. But it is just a convention. Israel hasn’t earned all the babying that we give it. And things are changing in the United States. I used to be a big supporter of Zionism, and now I’m really not sure if it isn’t just a racist construct that makes things worse. And certainly as the Israeli government has gotten more and more conservative, apparently determined to destroy any possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, it becomes a harder and harder country to support.
I figure we are at most 20 years away from US support for Israel being very, very contingent. Hillary Clinton isn’t wrong to say that Israel is our closest ally in the region. But as an American, it doesn’t mean much to me. And if I were an Israeli, I’d be terrified about it.