Malcom Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, spoke on Monday at the 2011 Herzliya Conference during a session entitled 'All the Eggs in One Basket? America's Place in Israel's Foreign Policy.'
Hoenlein said that the relationship between the United States and Israel is still an extremely important one.
“The fact is that the U.S.-Israel relationship is good,” he said. “We see it on a military level. We see it in other areas. Congress voted 90 percent for every resolution that dealt with Israel, whether it was support for the war in Gaza or sanctions on Iran.”
Hoenlein noted that the support for Israel goes beyond Congress. “The American people are supportive of Israel in record numbers,” he pointed out, but added that this should not be taken for granted.
“One of the issues we hear more and more is that the relationship with Israel costs American blood and treasure,” said Hoenlein. “We can’t take the American people’s support for granted. We have to emphasize the positives in the relationship.
“I think with the United States there has been an overriding fundamental commitment that has remained strong throughout,” he added. “One of the measures for the Arab countries is the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship. When they see that commitment’s strong then they have more confidence that their commitments from the United States will be honored as well.”
He pointed out that Europe is not an alternative for the U.S.-Israel relationship and added that “the United States is not giving up on the Middle East. You’d be surprised how many friends there are of Israel and the Jewish people, but they need to be reached out to. There are friends in the strangest of places but none as consistent as America.”
Also speaking at the session was Ambassador Zalman Shoval, Former Ambassador of Israel to the U.S.
Shoval noted that the recent events in Egypt are a game changer in the Middle East but added that it is too early to tell exactly how.
He pointed out that “the U.S. Middle East policy on the whole over the last few years cannot be considered a great success. In the last two years we saw the Obama Administration but there were repercussions from the Bush years with regards to Iraq, with regards to the much-wanted freedom agenda whose principal result seems to have been the Hamas victory in Gaza.”
Shoval noted that “In Israel there’s more than a bit of ambivalence in regards to the Obama administration, because this sometimes includes both official and unofficial Israel.” He explained this ambivalence as being rooted in the fact that on the one hand, Israelis are unhappy because of what they interpret as being Obama’s view of the world as he presented in his Cairo speech, and on the other hand they are aware of the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
“In general, most Israelis realize, both intellectually and viscerally, that Israel does not have an alternative to the U.S.,” said Shoval. “It’s not dependence. I think it’s interests.”
He noted that “the way the U.S. will deal with Iran may be a key factor, not only in re-asserting its leadership in the entire Middle East but also giving it a commanding voice in the peace process.”