Why Is Israel “Our Closest Ally in the Region”?

Hillary Clinton - Israel Our Closest Ally?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.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

16 thoughts on “Why Is Israel “Our Closest Ally in the Region”?

  1. Israeli policy is another example of false dichotomies in U.S. politics. Either you fully support everything that the most right-wing elements of the Israeli government want, or you don’t support Israel’s right to exist and think the Jewish people should return to a pure diaspora. I imagine most people could move to some sort of middle ground, but groups like AIPAC will pounce on anyone who strays even slightly from the party line.

    • That’s exactly what I think. I totally get the need for a Jewish state. But if they are going to be jerks about it… And personally, I’d be willing to just give them Florida. But I’ve been getting more and more anti-Israel because the government is doing nothing about the illegal settlements and I believe that behind the scenes, they are actually pushing them.

  2. What I always love is the fundamentalist schizophrenia on this. They believe the End Times (TM) will come as a result of some global war centered on Israel. So really we should be cutting all military support in order to hasten Armageddon! (Although I think what would really happen is Israel would tone down its belligerence a ton.) Instead they keep predicting that every Democratic president is the Antichrist who secretly plots with Muslim masters to betray Israel. Again, shouldn’t they vote Democratic, then? Speed up the Lord already!

    • There is probably some particular theory why that won’t work. I was listening to someone (Richard Carrier?) talk about how most believers don’t read the Bible. They just have decided that it is the word of God and are happy to have others read it for them. But it is frightening that there are millions of people who pray for a nuclear war, thinking that they will gone before the fireworks. These are very scare and immoral people.

      • It’s almost as if they worry that the Democrat won’t be “the” Antichrist, just a blight on the hearts of all God-fearing Americans. If you vote for the Democrat who isn’t “the” Antichrist, and they don’t bring on the Rapture, merely send black helicopters to take away your guns/Bibles and force your children to do gay stuff . . . well, you’ve just sent more people to Hell. The responsibility must be terrifying.

  3. The time for politicians to not suck up to Israel (and by extension AIPAC) is not here. But maybe it is coming.

  4. Well here is my take on another one of your comments.

    I am Jewish and my politics are fairly liberal. I understand your negative views, perception of Israel. Beyond the fact that Israel has never been good at projecting a positive image of itself in the media – it is surrounded by many who would prefer it did not exist as well as those worldwide with little sympathy for it.

    Israel is hardly perfect and does make mistakes like any country. What I find hard to swallow is the fact that there is unequal cricticism worldwide towards this tiny country and so very little comment towards very real injustices going on worldwide. There is a great hypocrisy actually.

    Furthermore if you truly are liberal in your views -Israel is the only game in town in the region by far. If you doubt my judgement- go visit Israel and see for yourself.

    One last thing. With regard to the Israeli Arab conflict and the Palestinian one in particular – my own view is that lack of any real progress in a peace deal lies more with Palestinian leadership than with Israel in general. And that is a tragedy for everyone there.

    • I think the argument is less about Israel and more about American policy. Which has been disastrous. You mention Israel’s liberalism when compared to regional states. Mossadegh in Iran was hugely liberal. We helped overthrow his government because BP wanted more profit. The results are horrendous.

      America has done too much to support the hard-right in Israel and hasn’t adequately supported liberal voices there. Like any powerful nation, we have a lot of blood on our hands and a lot to answer for.

      Thanks for being calm in the discussion. As you’re surely aware, many people throw around pretty inflammatory language on this debate!

    • We will have to disagree on the Israel-Palestine conflict. But the point of the article is that Israel really is dependent upon us and that they need to understand that. I used to be a strong Zionist — even before I knew what the word meant. Now? It gets harder and harder to justify it. And I’m not alone. So the question for Israel is whether allowing illegal settlements is a good long-term plan. I think it isn’t. I think they are heading toward a pyrrhic victory in Palestine.

  5. @James Filmore – Mossadegh happened back in 53 I believe. The religious leaders over in Iran have made the most of that (and continue to do so).

    If you get a chance – read Daniel Yergin’s book on the History of Oil. It describes the coup In detail ; and it was a much more complicated than most folks who use it as an excuse to critique US policy realize. For one thing Mossadegh was off his rocker – he was really quite mad.

    Secondly the Cold War, Soviet influence and oil and this unstable guy made it a really bizarre situation at the time. It is not quite as black and white a situation as some claim.

    Regarding left vs right in Israel or anywhere else for that matter – specific issues and the merits of any argument are the best way to resolve many problems in general and in that region no doubt as well.

    I tend to roll my eyes when people make general statements about liberals versus conservatives and vice versa. I leave that kind of talk for Rush Limbaugh.

    • I’ll have to check that book out sometime! My source on this story is Stephen Kinzer, and in his account, Mossadegh was no crazier than any other person who welcomes power.

      Naturally, the media at the time played up any story which could depict him as a madman needing to be stopped. They did the same with Arbenz, with Sukarno, with Allende. It’s what they do.

      Would your estimation be that American foreign policy has been more helpful than harmful to the world? I think there’s a solid argument for this, especially as regards the Marshall Plan. Since then, it’s trickier for me to see.

  6. @ James Filmore I think for me it is important not to blindly accept any historical narratives. I am much more skeptical than I used to be (which is a good thing) I tend to try to read original sources or at the very minimum history written by academics and avoid authors with agendas (even if I agree with their views).

    My very first major in college was History and even after changing majors I came to realize eventually that I still really enjoy meaty books on a variety of Historical topics. Though sometimes I must admit reading certain books / authors seems more like mental masterbation essentially – namely because so much of what is written is often just a matter of interpretation.

    With regard to American policy and influence let’s say let’s say over the last 150 years – it is obviously a mixed bag and depends on what particular episodes one is referring to. And moral judgements historically are often essentially relative judgements and subjective. Overall American policy has had a positive effect on democracy and human rights historically I guess.

    In terms of administrations I tend to be more critical of the GOP these days and the direction of the GOP in particular has forced me to reevaluate my past views on a variety of issues. I am appalled at the cynicism and greed and lack of a moral center in the Republican Party (even if I agree with some of their politics on individual issues).

    • @ Jon — Well said. I don’t think we agree on some of these matters, but who agrees on everything?

      I’m also a nut for historical books. The odd thing is I hated any book with endnotes when I was young. Now I rarely read anything without them. Life changes us, it’s a bizarre (but enjoyably unpredictable) process.

      Please continue being critical of both Democratic and Republican administrations! We need more engaged citizens like that!

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