Amb. Yoram Ettinger
Amb. Yoram Ettinger ILTV

The Ben Gurion role model

In 2021, Secretary of State Blinken pressures Israel to refrain from unilateral military actions against the rogue Iranian regime, to halt construction in Judea and Samaria (West Bank) and East Jerusalem (while tolerating and encouraging expanded Arab construction), to re-divide Jerusalem, and to retreat to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines, which were termed "Auschwitz Lines" by Abba Eban, Israel's dovish Foreign Minister.

-Defiance of US and global pressure was a critical attribute of Israel's pro-US Founding Fathers – from David Ben Gurion in 1948 through Yitzhak Shamir in 1992 – which triggered a series of short term US-Israel frictions, but earned long term respect for Israel, while providing the US with a unique force-multiplier in the Middle East.

-On a rainy day, the US prefers a principle-driven ally, which does not retreat in the face of US and global pressure and refuses to sacrifice its own independent national security action on the altar diplomatic and economic convenience.

-In 1948/49, the US, UN and Britain threatened Israel with economic and diplomatic sanctions, unless the newly-born Jewish State ended "occupation" of areas in the Galilee, coastal plain, the Negev and West Jerusalem, and absorbed Palestinian refugees. Prime Minister Ben Gurion rejected each of these demands, stating (with a meager population of 650,000 Jews and insignificant economic and military infrastructure):

-Much as Israel desired friendship with the United States and full cooperation with it and the UN, there were limits beyond which it could not go. Israel could not yield at any point which, in its judgment, would threaten its independence or its security. The very fact that Israel was a small state made more necessary the scrupulous defense of its own interests; otherwise, it would be lost (My Mission in Israel 1948-1951, James McDonald, 1st US Ambassador to Israel, p. 49) ….

-The United States is a powerful country; Israel is a small and weak one. We can be crushed, but we will not commit suicide…. (ibid, p. 182)'

-Ben Gurion warned President Truman and the Department of State through me [US Ambassador McDonald] that they would be gravely mistaken if they assumed that the threat or even the use of UN sanctions would force Israel to yield on issues considered vital to its independence and security….(ibid, p. 55)

-The more I studied and observed the manner in which he met the burdens placed upon him, the more convinced I became that he was one of the few great statesmen of our day…. The comparison [to Winston Churchill] did not exaggerate the Israel Prime Minister's natural qualities of leadership…. Small in stature [5 feet], he was big in spirit…. He had unfaltering faith in the future of Israel…. The Prime Minister had no fear (ibid, pp. 241, 242, 247) ….

It was Ben Gurion's defiance of pressure, which laid the foundations of Israel as an independent force-multiplier for the US, rather than a compliant ally, whose survival depends upon the presence of US soldiers.

US pressure assessed by conviction-driven Israeli Prime Ministers

-Irrespective of US pressure, US-Israel strategic cooperation has expanded dramatically as a result of Israel's unique qualities (technologically, scientifically, militarily, agriculturally and medically), Israel's unique contributions to the US economy and national security and Israel's conviction-driven Prime Ministers.

-Israel's pro-US conviction-driven Prime Ministers demonstrated that neither the US, nor the UN, nor Europe could force Israel's hand when it came to Israel's deep roots in the Land of Israel and critical national security issues.

-They were aware of the crucial difference between the easily attained short-term popularity and the tough and costly challenge of earning long-term strategic respect.

-They recognized that US pressure is an integral feature of the bilateral relations, testing Israel's resolve and reliability as an ally in the face of mutual threats. They knew that there were no "free lunches"; that bowing to pressure would yield rougher pressure, undermining Israel's posture of deterrence and stature as a worthy strategic ally; would embolden Israel's enemies and severely injure its national security.

-They were aware that simultaneously with pressure by the US Executive, there was systematic support (since 1948) by the co-equal Legislature and most of the American people (which persists until today); and, that submission to pressure undermines the position of Israel's supporters on Capitol Hill and in the US at-large.

-They concluded that principle-driven defiance of pressure bolstered Israel's standing as a reliable and effective ally of the US; upgraded Israel's posture of deterrence in the Middle East in the face of rogue regimes and Islamic terrorists; and enhanced Israel's national security.

US pressure – track record

-The documentation of US pressure on Israel from 1948-2017, demonstrates that it was driven by the worldview of the State Department, which has systematically misread the Middle East (e.g., opposing Israel's establishment, as well as embracing Ayatollah Khomeini, Saddam Hussein, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and the PA, while pressuring Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE).

-Moreover, Israel's destruction of Iraq's and Syria's nuclear reactors in 1981 and 2007 – in defiance of US pressure - spared the US and the world a potential nuclear confrontation in 1991 and a potential nuclearized civil war in Syria.

-From 1961-1969, Prime Ministers Ben Gurion, Eshkol and Golda Meir rebuffed severe US pressure to allow inspection of Israel's nuclear installations. Israel's steadfastness has dramatically bolstered its posture of deterrence, which plays a key role in minimizing regional instability and alleviating lethal threats to every pro-US Arab regime.

-In response to the September 1982 Reagan Plan, which pressured Israel to withdraw to the pre-1967 ceasefire lines – which would have transformed Israel into a 9-15-mile sliver along the Mediterranean, denying the US a proven ally – Prime Minister Begin wrote the US President:

"What some call the 'West Bank', Mr. President, is Judea and Samaria, and this simple historic truth will never change…. Geography and history have ordained that Judea and Samaria be a mountainous country and that 2/3 of our population dwell in the coastal plain, dominated by those mountains…. Such being the case, a friend does not weaken a friend, an ally does not put his ally in jeopardy. This would be the inevitable consequence were [the Reagan Plan] to become reality. I believe it will not…."

As evidenced by additional examples on October 27, 2021, Israel's defiance of US pressure advanced US national security interests, bolstered Israel's posture of deterrence, enhanced its role as a unique force-multiplier for the US, constrained the capabilities of anti-US Sunni and Shite Islamic terrorists, and therefore, reduced the scope of war and terrorism in the stormy Middle East.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger,is author ot "Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative"
and can be reached at, https://bit.ly/3pbPKaDYoram will be available for speaking engagements in the US during Feb. 7 - Mar. 7, 2022:.

Sent to Arutz Sheva by the writer.