Across Israel, Meir Panim responds to the growing needs of the country’s 1.75 million impoverished residents through various food and social service programs.
Ask the average Jew on the street and he’ll tell you: Israel needs America in order to survive. Indeed, this view is so entrenched in the Jewish community that few dare question it. Just as a baby needs his mother and an injured person needs his crutches, it seems obvious to many that Israel needs America.
But is this widely-held view true? What would happen if, as a result of Israel’s refusal to acquiesce in American demands for a Palestinian state and West Bank settlement freeze, America terminated its special relationship with Israel and cut off all monetary aid?
To be sure, this scenario is highly unlikely as America would be loath to end its friendship with the only democracy, and the most powerful country, in the Middle East. In addition to being America’s sole dependable ally in the region, Israel also provides the U.S. with vital and reliable intelligence information as well as the expertise of its advanced technology sector, among other benefits.
Supposing, however, America disregarded these concerns and “dropped” Israel – what would happen then?
Let’s review the facts: America provides approximately three billion dollars to Israel annually while Israeli government revenues amount to roughly 60 billion dollars. In other words, American aid to Israel represents five percent of its revenue. That’s it – just five percent. Why most Jews assume Israel would collapse with a five percent loss in revenue is beyond me.
Next fact: Believe it or not, Israel actually survived its first 25 years of independence and won its two greatest wars – the War of Independence and Six-Day War – without America’s help. Israel only started receiving significant American funding after the Yom Kippur War. If a fledgling Israel survived from 1948-1973 without American aid, it can surely do so in 2009 with a military that ranks among the world’s best.
Next fact: Contrary to what some people assume, countries can and do survive without American aid, or even friendship. Iran carries on. So does North Korea. It’s hard to imagine that the Jewish state – home to a people that has won 25 percent of all Nobel Prizes ever awarded – could not survive without America’s assistance.
Even if one argues that Israel requires powerful allies in these dangerous times, America is not the only formidable global player. China is an emerging military world power, India contains one of the fastest growing economies, and Russia still retains some of its Cold War prowess.
Alliances with China, India, and Russia would arguably be just as advantageous, if not more so, to Israel’s strategic needs as its alliance with America. (Incidentally, the very possibility of Israeli cooperation with countries like China and Russia would worry America sufficiently enough to cause it to think twice before cutting its ties with Israel.)
To be sure, China and Russia are not the “nicest” or most enlightened countries, but allies needn’t be best friends; history records more than one instance where strange bedfellows found common cause.
For example, in 1948, as Israel fought for its survival, the state that came to its aid and helped it prevail over attacking Arab armies was the Soviet Union under the leadership of that great humanitarian Joseph Stalin. Yes, for reasons of his own, Stalin allowed Israel to purchase vital weaponry from Czechoslovakia, which was a Soviet satellite state. Many years later Yitzhak Rabin said, “Without the arms from Czechoslovakia … it is very doubtful whether we would have been able to conduct the war.”
Last fact: As anyone who takes the Bible seriously knows, the fates of peoples and countries do not ultimately rest on political realities alone. Rather they rest on God Himself, who rewards countries that do his will and punishes those that don’t. Countries may place much stock in alliances, but God has a master plan of His own and it behooves people – especially the nation of Israel – to keep this basic religious concept in mind.
I love America. I love American ideals, I love American history. But if America demands that Israel relinquish biblical territory, refrain from responding to the murder of its citizens, or cease building in the West Bank, Israel’s reply should be “No.” And if aid is thereby cut off (unlikely but possible), so be it. Protecting its people and borders is Israel’s moral obligation. Maintaining close relations with America is not.
About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and holds a Masters degree from Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel School of Jewish Studies.
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