U.S. needs to sit down for punch and pie with other countries
Growing tensions between the U.S. and Israel were exacerbated Friday when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received the cold shoulder from President Barack Obama’s administration during a visit to Washington.
A headline on the front of UK newspaper The Times described Netanyahu as humiliated. Obama and Netanyahu didn’t pose for a photo-op, and after a fruitless meeting about Israel’s expanding settlements, Obama walked out on Netanyahu, telling the prime minister to let him know if he changed his mind.
This latest spat comes on the heels of Vice President Joe Biden’s embarrassing visit to Israel earlier this month. The Israeli government decided during Biden’s visit that it was the perfect time to announce its plan to build 1,600 new housing projects in East Jerusalem — an expansion opposed by the Obama administration.
Even if it was no more than a public rebuke, it’s about time the American government stood up to Israel. For inexplicable reasons, the U.S. has for years allowed Israel to act like the superpower in this relationship.
Foreign policy between the two nations is generally based on what Israel wants, and U.S. politicians and media almost always portray America and Israel’s interests as synonymous.
But that is not reality. In January, General David Petraeus — commander of all U.S. armed forces in the Middle East — sent a team of senior officers to brief Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In an article published March 13 by Foreign Policy magazine, writer Mark Perry said the brief reported that “Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region,” and that throughout the region America was increasingly seen as weak and unable to stand up to Israel.
After Israel’s announcement during Biden’s trip that it would expand settlements, the vice president confronted Netanyahu. According to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, Biden told the prime minister, “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us, and it endangers regional peace.”
Regardless of one’s personal opinions about Israel and Palestine and whether a lasting peace between the two is possible, it’s in everyone’s interests to work toward such a goal. Doing so would help the U.S.’s standing in the region, making it more likely that we would receive support from Middle Eastern governments in fighting terrorist; public opinion of the U.S. in that region would also be more favorable.
In other words, American troops would be safer and it would be much easier for the U.S. to achieve its long-term goals in the region.
None of this should be taken to say our government shouldn’t be friends with Israel. We frequently do share the same interests; they’re a democracy in an area with precious few and we share many great qualities with the Israeli people.
But an alliance should cut both ways. We directly fund a significant chunk of Israel’s military budget every year and we’re the only friends the country has.
It’s not too much to ask in return that the Israeli government not commit itself to policies that endanger our troops in the region, and Israel certainly should not be arrogant enough to expect us to subvert our foreign policy needs to its whims.
David Brooks is a communication senior and may be reached at [email protected]