The past week has been a throwback to the height of the Cold War. Our news feeds are filled with stories about Russia and Israel. In a Twilight Zone twist though, we staunch Republicans taking the side Russia, and the US government NOT taking the side of Israel. That does not mean they are aligning themselves with Palestine. It seems that finally, for the next few weeks anyway, the US is going back to its original stance in regards to Israel. Keeping out of the mess and following the UN’s lead. The really out there factor comes in when you know the history between the US, Israel, and Russia.
How did it all begin? Well, I am glad you asked.
Way back in 1948 the State Department had come to the conclusion that support for the Zionist platform of creating a Jewish state in the Palestinian Mandate would be detrimental to US relations with Middle Eastern countries. President Truman, who had evangelical leanings, wanted to not only acknowledge Israel, he wanted to throw the support of the US behind Israel. The career diplomats in the State Department realized this to be a huge mistake, so they undermined the efforts of the President and forced the hands off approach. Subsequent Presidents felt that this was great policy, simply supported whatever decisions the United Nations made regarding Israel and Palestine. This slowly began to change under the Kennedy Administration.
Despite his personal feelings about the Israeli-Arab conflict, he understood the power of the pro-Israel lobby. He began walking a razor edge between giving just enough support to Israel to placate that lobby, and just enough support to Arab countries to placate them. It was delicate political dance, but it gave more support to Israel than the American government had ever given Israel. This paved the way for the special relationship that the US has with Israel. After Johnson became president, the Soviets began making more headway in the Middle East and began to court Israel. Since there was sever tension between Israel and the Arab states, Israel decided to blackmail the US. Israel wanted to shift the power balance by acquiring more modern weapons that its Arab neighbors. To obtain those weapons, Israeli leaders informed Johnson that either the US could sell modern weapons and weapon systems to Israel, or they could buy them from Russia.
Obviously, the US could not allow the spread of Communism. So, they sold military hardware to the Israelis, and provided the training to use the new hardware. Israel immediately turned around and used the new hardware to bomb an Arab civil project. To be fair, the project was to divert some of the headwaters of the River. It was a joint project between Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan with Syria taking the lead. It would have lessened the amount of flow of the river that Israel received, so they destroyed it project before it really got off the ground. Both sides have valid arguments for and against the project, but Israel did invade sovereign land, eventually leading to the Six Day War.
Back on topic.
From then on, the relationship between the US and Israel grew closer and closer. They quickly became our only ally in the Middle East against the USSR. They were pivotal for the shadow war that was fought in the region. We began ignoring the human rights abuses committed by Israel. We ignored their continued occupation of the Palestinian territory following Six Day War. In a tragic twist, Palestinians had nothing to do with the Six Day War. Since 1948, Israel and its Arab neighbors ignored and marginalized the Palestinian people. They were caught in a bloody tug of war between states that could careless about them. How the Arab states treated the Palestinians gave voice to the lie of Pan-Arab-ism long before Nasser made a separate peace with Israel.
As the relationship between the two countries grew, the power of the pro-Israel lobby also grew. Many politicians began to cater to this group because of the money they are able to raise, and the large blocs of voters they are able to influence. This is disturbing because we now have a lobby that can effectively influence law makers on both sides to put the interests of a foreign power above the interests of the United States. While many believe the pro-Israel lobby is a Jewish lobby, which is a bit true in the Northeast, it is dominated by evangelical Christians. Who are actively rooting for the end of the world.
Then at the end of the Reagan presidency, the Soviet Union collapsed. It provided a chance to start back away from the blind, unquestioning support that we provided to Israel. Yes, we did condemn Israeli actions over the years, but we never cut funding or military supplies, in fact we increased them. Things looked bright after the Oslo Accords. For the first time, Israelis and Palestinians were talking one on one. The Palestinians finally shook off the patrimonial “leadership” of the other Arab nations. Peace looked like it was on the horizon. They had reached agreements on ending the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories and laid out a framework to work out the the most difficult issues, those of the Right of Return and the final disposition of Jerusalem, after the occupation had ended. Tragically, the Israeli author of the peace agreement, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated.
After the assassination of Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu became the Israeli Prime Minister. It can be argued that Netanyahu was responsible for the collapse of the peace process. He supported the building of new settlements, which he still does, and he unilaterally put new conditions on the agreement that was already in place. The US President at the time, Bill Clinton, did nothing to hold Netanyahu accountable for his systematic dismantling of the Oslo Accords. At the end of Clinton’s time in office the Camp David Accords were held. This marked the official end of the process that seemed so hopeful a decade earlier. While the Western media loves to blame the Palestinians for the failure of the negotiations, it was actually a failure on three parts. The Israelis and Palestinians each had publicly said that there were issues they would not budge. Because of their proclamations, neither side was able to change their stance on the Right of Return and Jerusalem. They would have lost face. The third failure was that of Clinton’s. He was not a neutral party.
George W. Bush was actually a faint glimmer of hope for renewing the peace process. He had hinted at not being 100% support of Israeli actions in the occupied territories. Then 9/11 happened and the US and Israel grew closer than ever. It has remained close since then. Aid to Israeli has not decreased, the US has not held Israel accountable for settlement building and human rights abuses against the Palestinians, and the status quo has been left in place. Until this past week. The US abstained from a vote in the UN against Israel and the Secretary of State publicly condemned Israel for the building of new settlements, and publicly stated what many foreign affairs experts have been saying for decades. That Israel has to choose what type of state they want to be. Jewish or Democratic. It is impossible for them to be both. Either they have equity for all of their citizens, or they become a theocracy. That is not hyperbole. The reproduction rates of the non-Jewish minority of Israel is much greater than the reproduction rate of the Jewish population of Israel. Even if the region remains as two states, the Jewish majority of Israel is threatened by its non-Jewish population. Should they actually become a single state the threat increases much more rapidly, and would be vastly outnumbered the the Palestinian Diaspora is allowed to return.
This position of the United States is very likely going to change come January 20th. Trump has already announced his unwavering support of Israel. He also supports Russia and the Syrian government, but he hates Iran. The contradictions are staggering. Then when you think of all the conservatives that support this exact position. I can understand them supporting Israel without a thought, but Russia? To me that seems that they believe that their political party, is more important than our actual country.
Can anyone explain this to me?