The United States, our great friend and ally, continues to cross every line in compromising Israel's independence.
After it blatantly interfered in our election campaign, it became clear that despite priding itself as being the greatest democracy in the world, the American administration has found it difficult to internalize and accept the democratic choice of the people of Israel.
The United States is continuing the campaign to demonize Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir that it initiated in the weeks prior to election day. Now its ambassador to Israel, Thomas Nides, has gone even farther, in seeking to prevent application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
We all remember quite well the extensive efforts of the Biden administration to intervene in Israeli policy and promote establishment of a consulate for the Arabs of the Palestinian Authority, in the heart of Jerusalem, in violation of Israeli and American law. Now it appears that there is an American emphasis on a new objective, preventing the application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria.
Last Thursday, Channel 11 reported about a warning issued by Ambassador Nides to the next Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, regarding the possibility that his government would seek to “annex,” in their terminology, the territories of Judea and Samaria. Member of Knesset Yariv Levin, who is expected to be appointed a senior minister in the next government, is, as we recall, considered one of those consistently acting to promote application of sovereignty. Levin said: “We were one step away from application of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and I hope that we will spend less time making statements and more time making progress through action.” This statement was enough to elicit a strong reaction from the American ambassador who immediately declared that “the United States and most Arab countries oppose annexation.”
The sense of American patronage and authority vis-à-vis Israel and the corresponding sense of “we were like grasshoppers in our eyes” of the outgoing Israeli government vis-à-vis the American administration led Defense Minister Benny Gantz to suspend all meetings of the Supreme Planning Council, which is tasked with ratifying all Jewish construction plans in Judea and Samaria. These feelings also led to the opening of the Allenby Bridge to an Arab influx and absolute Israeli indifference toward accelerated Arab construction in Area C.
Now, based on that sense of American control over Israel and its policies, intimations have ensued seeking to intimidate Israeli society, world leadership, and the leadership of Israel's next government to reject Knesset members Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. “Biden will not work with Ben-Gvir if he is appointed minister,” read the headline on the Walla website. “Biden views the appointment of Smotrich as Defense Minister with severity.” The warnings and panic continue.
For some reason, American intervention in Israeli policy is greeted with equanimity, indifference and perhaps a sense of dependence and helplessness in the face of those who, ostensibly, provide us with political protection in the United Nations, security funding, and weapons so critical to our security. But, is the relationship between Israel and the United States really one-sided? Is it one that requires us to bow our heads and submissively accept the demands of the great benefactor? Are we, indeed, the recipient and the United States the giver?
For years, former Israeli envoy to Washington, Yoram Ettinger, has been citing facts of which our leaders are not always cognizant. Israel, Ettinger claims and elaborates, gives the United States more than it receives. Could that be? How is it that a minuscule country in the Middle East contributes to the only world empire in existence today more than it receives?
Although Israel receives from the United States fighter jets and defense systems crucial for its security and its existence in an environment teeming with enemies, Israel serves as the largest combat laboratory for the United States. The experience gained by Israel against its enemies in actual battles saves the United States many years of research and development valued in the billions of dollars. The lessons learned by the Israeli Air Force are conveyed to the manufacturers of American weapons and they enhance, improve, and augment them. The Israeli lessons are implemented in American weapons and in that way Israel becomes the source of many hundreds of American weapon upgrades in a variety of areas, ranging from intelligence to combat doctrines, from weapons to espionage, cyber capabilities and more. Thanks to Israel, the American army emerges victorious in the ongoing campaign against its competitors in China, Russia and Iran.
Ettinger is insistent on citing the statement of the commander of the United States Air Force, George Keegan: “If the United States was forced to purchase the intelligence it receives from Israel, it would be necessary to establish four more organizations like the CIA.” The same is true regarding the statement of former NATO commander, Alexander Haig: “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world, which does not require any American presence on board, and is anchored in an area critical to the American economy and its security.”
Had Israel not been present in the Middle East, the United States would have been forced to transfer its best and brightest by the thousands to this region, manufacture more aircraft carriers, and establish more and more American regiments.
Of course, this is not an attempt to minimize what we receive from the United States, but we must not bow our heads as a result. The road between America and Israel is a two-way road.
Moreover, Yoram Ettinger states that “American pressure is the test of Israel's leadership.” He mentions a series of Israeli leaders who withstood American pressure, were subject to threats followed by American fury and anger; but at the end of the day, steps taken by those Israeli leaders resulted in American appreciation.
This was already true when the first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, decided to establish the State of Israel despite State Department opposition. This was true when Prime Minister Levi Eshkol decided to start the Six Day War with a pre-emptive strike without waiting for the delayed green light from Washington. This was true when Begin decided to apply Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Likewise, it is incumbent upon Netanyahu to look to the country's leaders since its earliest days, remember his own ability to stand firm in the face of the pressure exerted by President Obama regarding Iran, and to act in accordance with the democratic verdict of the Israeli voter who is interested in seeing Bezalel Smotrich in a most senior position in the Israeli government, as the leader of the second largest party in the government about to be formed. The people of Israel wish to see Smotrich as Defense Minister who will see to Israel's security, to settlement in Judea and Samaria, and not only there, a Defense Minister who will take resolute action against terrorism and against Iran, and promote the steps leading to sovereignty. In the past, Netanyahu was able to withstand American pressure, and he must do the same now. He has the people’s support.
We must be cognizant of the case of Afghanistan. American security guarantees will not prove reliable when put to the test. There is no nation that will sacrifice its sons on our behalf. We must not allow the continuation of American control over the policies of the elected Israeli government. We are a sovereign and independent nation and must see to our interests with dignity, reliance on our strength and our significance, while at the same time being grateful to our great friend for its contribution.
Yehudit Katsover and Nadia Matar are the founders and leaders of the Sovereignty Movement