The Obama Administration continues to make the same mistake, over and over: it refuses to understand the importance of ideology as a cause of behavior. This is in part because of its own ideology: a naive leftism in which the only motivator of human behavior is economics or power relationships. This is combined with the fact that most of our elite is ignorant of history and not very interested in it.
For example, they do not seem to understand that it’s more important to the Palestinians to eliminate the Jewish state than to have a prosperous state of their own. More seriously in the long run, they don’t understand that Islamists will take their money, but cannot be bought.
The majority of Israeli Jews and their leadership have an ideology, too. It’s called Zionism, and it’s combined with a historical memory of the tenuous existence of the Jewish people. The administration doesn’t get these things either.
For example, Hillary Clinton said this yesterday:
It’s our very strong belief, as President Obama conveyed to the Israelis, that it is not in anyone’s interest for them to take unilateral action … The U.S. has worked very hard with Israel on all levels from the military, intelligence, strategic, and diplomatic to make sure we were sharing information … It is in everyone’s interest for us to seriously pursue at this time the diplomatic path.
Israel, of course, is worried that if it waits until its window of opportunity to preempt closes, and if US actions — either diplomatic or military — are not effective, then it is exposed to a nuclear attack at worst, or conventional war under a nuclear umbrella at best.
I think this fear is quite reasonable, but there is much more. What Ms Clinton is asking is that the Jewish people give up one of the primary tenets of Zionism: that we are responsible for our own defense.
The history of the Jewish people in the Diaspora has been that their fate was not in their own hands. In Christian Europe and in the Muslim nations of the Middle East and Africa, when the antisemites prepared a pogrom the far-outnumbered Jews would approach the local rulers and beg, or pay, to be spared. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes entire populations were expelled, brutalized or murdered.
More recently, before and during the Holocaust, the allied nations did almost nothing to save the Jews of Europe. One of them, Britain, took actions that directly abetted the Nazis in their efforts to murder the Jews. Even after the war, Jewish refugees were kept in concentration camps.
Zionism is in part a response to this history, and teaches that the Jewish people cannot depend on the rest of the world to protect them. Israel has lived by this principle, rescuing the Jewish refugees of WWII and saving countless Jews from the Arab world and Africa since then.
Israel has devoted enormous resources to developing a strong military capability. Unlike other nations, it hasn’t used its capability for conquest. The return of the economically and strategically valuable Sinai to Egypt in return for a peace agreement — arguably a mistake — is evidence of this.
Do Clinton or her boss really expect Israel to leave everything to them? Do they expect the Jewish people to go back to begging for its life? Do they expect Israel to give up the control of its own destiny, achieved with great difficulty and by enormous sacrifice, and become a protectorate of the US? Do they think Israel will give up Zionism?
I’m afraid the answers to the above are all ‘yes’, but it is clear that if Israel gives in to the pressure it will be the end of the Jewish state, whether Iran ultimately gets nuclear weapons or if Israel, with its Zionist heart ripped out, more slowly succumbs to the Muslim, leftist and antisemitic alliance that has never given up its struggle to end Jewish self-determination.
How, for example, will Israel resist pressure to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians if its survival is entirely in American hands?
Israel still has leaders that know this, both in the government and in the opposition. They will not be swayed by the administration’s campaign against a preemptive strike.
The administration should understand that Israel is not going to knuckle under, and that therefore the best way for the US to be constructive is to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself successfully instead of trying to sabotage it.