What is the connection between America and Israel
POSITIONS : America and Israel are inextricably linked
A six-day Middle East drama has just ended in Washington. On May 19, Barack Obama delivered a keynote address on the Middle East, and on May 24, Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the US Congress.
Observers recorded very precisely all the nuances in the complex interplay between the two politicians. There is a deeper meaning behind it: The United States and Israel have a unique relationship that is supported by the vast majority of Americans. Although there are occasional political differences among close friends, it is no different between Washington and Berlin. It is crucial, however, that this does not weaken the link between the two countries. The US and Israel remain inextricably linked by shared values, perspectives and threats. However, some Europeans do not understand why the Israeli prime minister, whom they view critically, receives a standing ovation in Congress from both Republicans and Democrats. They cannot understand that Israel is being praised for its pursuit of peace and the right to self-defense, when in their eyes Israel is the main obstacle to an "eternal peace" in the region.
These observers miss the essential: America supports Israel contrary to some allegations not only because of the American Jews, who make up just two percent of the population. America identifies with Israel because it is a liberal democracy surrounded by autocratic regimes. The majority of Americans understand Israel's constant struggle for self-determination in the face of its hostile neighbors. You know that Israel seeks a lasting peace and a two-state solution, but has no serious negotiating partners.
But these observers have been wrong before. They still believed in Yasser Arafat long after he was known as a corrupt and duplicitous leader. They refused to acknowledge that their despised Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, had changed when he took office in 2001 and initiated Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. For them, the Israeli settlements are at the heart of the Middle East conflict. In this perspective, only Israel has a duty to move. But in truth, the real point of contention has always been different: the right of Jews to their own state.
Israel’s critics do not want to give Prime Minister Netanyahu a leap of faith. It takes a statesman of his stature to get Israel to take risky steps for peace.
For the majority of Americans, Israel is a country that wants peace and that is willing to pay a territorial price for that peace. There are no simple solutions. Hamas seeks the annihilation of Israel, like Hezbollah and Iran. The Palestinian Authority is sending unclear signals, calling for peace one day to glorify terrorists the next, pressing for a compromise with Israel one day to fraternize with Hamas the next.
June 1st marks the tenth anniversary of a terrorist attack on a nightclub in Tel Aviv that killed 21 young Israelis. The then Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer happened to be nearby. He saw the bloodbath and understood what it means for Israel when suicide bombers want to kill Israelis anywhere, anytime.
No other country wants peace more than Israel. But no other country is confronted with other UN members calling for its destruction. Europe in particular should understand the vulnerability of the Jews. Europe in particular should understand that Israel's liberal, democratic society needs support in order to achieve peace.
The author is the executive director of the American Jewish Committee.
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