In a county where reality stars are idealized, crime in major cities is rampant, inflation has gone through the roof, illegal immigration is booming – and I could list so much more. Let’s leave aside America’s failing foreign policies when it comes to Russia, the Middle East, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
On the Republican side you have Qanon – and people like Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Georgia Congressman who media has reported believes Democrats kill Republicans and other conspiracy theories. On the Democrat side you have people who urge the police to be defunded and advocate for socialism. Across the Republican and Democrat spectrums anyone can agree there’s a lot to be improved and worked on.
Today, there are media reports of American elected officials – and American Jews – setting conditions for the State of Israel regarding government configuration. Can it be?
Conditioning support for a vibrant liberal Middle East democracy? As Prime Minister Menachem Begin once asked, are we a banana republic? America, a country with gun issues, racism, inflation, imperfect politicians and the like shouldn’t be setting conditions for Israel.
Israel, a 74-year-old vibrant, working democracy in the Middle East has done wonderfully. Yes, it can do better, but it is special and doing great, despite the enemies that threaten it non-stop.
And like many other things in the world, Israel’s political system is far from perfect. In November, Israelis are heading back to the polls for the fifth time in under four years. Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister and now the leader of the opposition has the chance for a comeback. Against that backdrop, there are media reports that senior American politicians “warned” Netanyahu that certain lawmakers in a potential government would “harm” US-Israel relations. And American Jewish “leaders” are clamoring about what seems to them possible radical elements in a government.
Meanwhile, Israelis are happily living their lives.
Said world leaders, and said American Jews were silent as Netanyahu remarked about “….a government that depends on the Muslim Brotherhood who support terrorism and Ahmed Tibi and Ayman Odeh. Odeh said that Nasrallah is a hero…”
Yes, naturally there are elements that are concerning. Are Democrats worried about extreme socialism and calls to defund the police? Are Republicans worried about lawmakers who believe abortion shouldn’t be allowed in case of rape or incest, or about rampant school shootings? Every political system – every politician has flaws. Why should Israel be any different?
And no matter how these elections turn out, America and Israel have and will have strong disagreements.
On June 22, 1982, Joe Biden while a Senator from Delaware, confronted then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony, threatening to cut off aid to Israel. Begin forcefully responded, “Don’t threaten us with cutting off your aid. It will not work. I am not a Jew with trembling knees. I am a proud Jew with 3,700 years of civilized history. Nobody came to our aid when we were dying in the gas chambers and ovens. Nobody came to our aid when we were striving to create our country. We paid for it. We fought for it. We died for it. We will stand by our principles. We will defend them. And, when necessary, we will die for them again, with or without your aid.”
Senator Biden reportedly banged the table with his fist, and Begin retorted, “This desk is designed for writing, not for fists. Don’t threaten us with slashing aid. Do you think that because the US lends us money it is entitled to impose on us what we must do? We are grateful for the assistance we have received, but we are not to be threatened. I am a proud Jew. Three thousand years of culture are behind me, and you will not frighten me with threats. Take note: we do not want a single soldier of yours to die for us.”
Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the leader of the Revisionist movement, which both Begin and Netanyahu emanate from noted in 1940 that, “We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmed agree with it or not.”
Americans – including American Jews – and world leaders would be apt to remember these words and times. Don’t tell Israel what to do. Nothing is perfect. Not Israel – and not America.