More than any other ally relationship, the United States’ unwavering bond with Israel poses a persistent foreign policy challenge. Be it in tempering talk of an Israeli military strike on Iran or the persistent challenge of assuring the Muslim world that America is working in good faith toward peace, the United States deals with the consequences of its special relationship on a regular basis.
Standing by our nation since the fight against communism during the Cold War, Israel continues to be one of America’s most valued and trusted allies. In fact, the structure of American foreign policy in the Middle East is so centered upon U.S.-Israeli relations that it has inevitably created tension in the Arab world. Every anti-American conflagration in the Middle East—such as the recent spat of violent anti-American protests—reminds us of the consequences of our special relationship with Israel. It is clear that America must do more to decentralize its focus on Israel in order to build closer ties with the broader Middle East.
Last year, President Obama staunchly sided with Israel against Palestine’s request for full state membership, suggesting that peace would not be achievable through any decision made at the United Nations. Since granting UN statehood would give the access to the International Criminal Court necessary to allow Palestine to carry out war crime prosecutions, this response appears more to be an effort to preserve the integrity of U.S.-Israeli relations than an attempt to promote peace talks. As if that isn’t enough to frame the U.S. as an Israeli-centric nation, events from this month alone would erase any doubt. Namely, both Romney’s recently leaked remarks about Palestine’s alleged lack of interest in peace, coupled with the perceived role of the American-made film “Innocence of Muslims” in paving the way for the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, do little to construct a positive image for U.S. relations with the Middle East. Whether or not such claims hold even a minuscule degree of merit, one thing we can be certain of is that the attacks demonstrate a real anti-American sentiment which should be taken as a challenge for the U.S. to amend its foreign policy.
The United States is fervent in keeping Israel on its side for a few reasons, the most important being defense. Israel is a favorable ally in part because it is a democracy that America can rely on for security cooperation. Israel is lauded and revered for creating some of the most advanced missiles and drones along with possessing one of the best espionage agencies in the world. Alternatively, others argue that the U.S. has a sense of moral responsibility to continue nourishing Israel, a mindset that was formed primarily in response to adversity Jews have faced since time imemorial. While it is only valid to agree that Israel plays an integral role in U.S. homeland security efforts, we must not be too quick to discuss moral duties when Palestinians, despite attempts at peace such as the 1993 Oslo Accords, continue to have their lands settled by right-wing extremists. There is no question that military defense is a key topic in foreign relations and is crucial to the prosperity of our nation—but so are human rights. If promoting human rights truly is a “central goal of U.S. foreign policy,” America must demonstrate this through encouraging peace and compromise instead of taking a passive approach in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Israel is fated to time and again find itself at odds with the Muslim world. Naturally, America’s decision to back Israel consistently has sometimes been at the root of anti-American sentiment. The U.S. does not need to completely distance itself from Israel. Rather, it must strike a balance between its support of the nation and the Middle East as a whole in order to implement fully a more holistic foreign policy.
Dina M. Perez ’15, a Crimson editorial editor, lives in Leverett House.