Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reassessing Our Ties With U.S.

Yarden Gazit
Ynet/Israel Opinion

Barack Obama's demand that Israel freeze all settlement activity in Judea and Samaria, including east Jerusalem, created a rift between Washington and Jerusalem. Similar rifts existed in the past. Such temporary rifts do not undermine the close relationship between the two countries. They do, however, raise questions about its nature. Given that both countries' interests are not always aligned, Israel should reevaluate its policy of depending so heavily on American support.

Similar issues are being debated in Washington, albeit from a different perspective. In think tanks and op-eds, on college campuses, and even within Obama's administration, many ask whether the current state of affairs best serves the American interest. Some argue that hostility towards the United States among Muslims results, at least partially, from America's support for Israel, and that scaling back aid to Israel will reduce that hostility. Others openly question whether the pro-Israel lobby is a positive factor in shaping American policy. Others still argue that the US must actively and aggressively pursue a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in order to improve its standing in the region. President Obama seems to be a member of the latter group.

In Jerusalem, on the other hand, the debate focuses on issues of less strategic importance. Should Netanyahu accept Obama's demand or reject it? Should Israel insist on natural growth? What about Jerusalem? Is there a creative formula that would please everyone? Such are the questions the media raise. Even those who say Netanyahu should oppose Obama's demand do not suggest a reevaluation of Israel's relationship with the United States.

It is easy to understand why. America's support is one of the most valuable strategic assets Israel has. The US gives it military and economic aid; it provides diplomatic support at the United Nations, often blocking resolutions that would jeopardize Israel’s interests; and it is an important trade partner. Furthermore, Israel shares many common values with the US. Israelis tend to view themselves as Westerners, so it is only natural for them to seek the support of the largest Western power.

What are the costs?

But Israel must also ask itself what are the costs of preserving its dependency on the US. An honest examination of the situation will reveal that the costs of allying so closely with America amount to much more than restricting settlement construction and periodically restraining the IDF.
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