American Interlude

Obama’s victory shouldn't impact Israeli policy.

Danny Hershtal

OpEds לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7

A few people have already asked me why I haven’t commented on the US elections yet. The short answer is that I don’t think it really matters.

Barack Obama in the White House and Democratic majorities on both sides of the Capitol do matter to many
Does Obama understand what is really going on here? I don’t know.
people: to the American taxpayer, to worldwide investors, certainly to Iraqi citizens who are yearning to breathe free, or are yearning to see more spilled blood, and to many others.

However, I don’t think Obama’s victory should have any impact on Israeli policy per se. Does Obama understand what is really going on here? I don’t know, but I wasn’t so sure about John McCain, either. Yes, both candidates spouted the platitudes to Jewish leaders, to AIPAC and to Protestant groups, but both candidates implied that, in the end, the basic State Department line would hold them to the same approach taken by the last three presidents.

It was folly for anyone in Israel to believe that George W. Bush or any American official could substitute his or her personal feelings toward Israel for Israel’s own conciliatory and self-abasing internal policies. The prevalent Israeli opinion that appeasement is more important than reciprocal alliance, that recognition is more important than respect, is the attitude that drove Israel to the Oslo Accords, the Gaza Disengagement and to various other strategic blunders.

November is the month to remember this crucial lesson. The month begins with the commemoration of the Balfour Declaration of Britain’s willingness to set up a Jewish homeland in the Palestine Mandate. The month concludes with the memorial for the UN General Assembly vote to partition the remnant of that mandate into Jewish and Arab states. Both these events condition Israel’s existence on international whim. And both, in the end were failures.

The Balfour Declaration indeed inspired a huge wave of Aliyah, but this only forced the British to curtail Jewish immigration to the Palestine Mandate significantly. The idea of a Jewish homeland faced the hard truth that most Jews would be kept out of it. UNGA Resolution 181 was completely stillborn. Arab refusal of the partition plan meant that the resolution would not be elevated to Security Council for ratification and was, therefore, a useless piece of paper.

Israel’s independence came about through those who disregarded the British Mandate restrictions: Aliyah Bet, the Palmach, and those who fought for independence regardless of international opinion: the Irgun and the Haganah.

Today, what Israel needs is not a sympathetic UN or a sympathetic American President. What Israel needs is confidence in its own right to exist; a right won through the strength and conviction of its settlers, its army and, if I may be so bold, its Rock and Redeemer.

I predict that as Israel’s campaign shifts into high gear, we will hear Israeli politicians, especially in the Labor
These ties must be built on reciprocity, on our allies treating us with the importance with which we treat them.
Party, claim that a vote for the Left will reduce the friction between Israel and America with its leftist President. This is not the message we have to hear. Harvard professor Ruth Wisse, in her study Jews and Power, poignantly indicates that this mentality was the most beneficial for the Jews in exile, who were dependent on the grace of their sovereign to survive. However, Wisse points out that this is the most dangerous attitude for a Jewish State to exhibit if that state truly wants to remain independent.

Alliances are important. There is a reason Israel should forge strong ties with America and with Egypt. However, these ties must be built on reciprocity, on our allies treating us with the importance with which we treat them; so that we not be seen "as crickets in their eyes," and that we not "seem as such in our own eyes."

The opportunity to effect this change in attitude and direction will be presented to Israel on the coming 16th of Shevat - February 10, 2009. This will be the chance for Israelis to vote for a more confident foreign policy and a confident step forward for our country.

Let us use this opportunity to create the country we feel we deserve, that we can shape in our image and whose destiny we control. To quote a certain American politician, “We are the change that we’ve been waiting for.”