This might be a watershed moment in US-Israel relations, despite the pronouncements from both sides of the aisle in Congress that our relations are rock solid.
Netanyahu will be speaking to Congress on Tuesday, undoubtedly to a packed chamber. Those 30-40 members who have decided not to attend in protest will find their seats warmed by young interns and pages who, of course, will be clueless to the grand theatrics unfolding around them. Maybe they’ll have something to share with their grandchildren in 40-50 years. “I remember where I was that day the United States matured and left its adolescence behind.”
As he was boarding the plane to D.C., Netanyahu told reporters, “I feel that I am an emissary of all Israel’s citizens, even those who do not agree with me, and of the entire Jewish people.” To which, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) retorted: “He doesn’t speak for me.”
Taking him at his word, Netanyahu believes he’s fighting for the survival of the State of Israel. His worldview is based on fear, and his fear he believes justifies his actions (whether bombing civilians in Gaza or bombing, figuratively speaking, the long-term historic relationship between the U.S. and Israel). His fear has blinded him to the real threats to Israel’s security.
Congressman Steve Cohen from Tennessee described the planned speech as “political theatre” that has “caused a breach between Democrats in Congress and Israel as well as the administrations of the United States and Israel”.
“While Americans and members of Congress may disagree on anything, even foreign policy, providing a forum of such immense prestige and power to the leader of another country who is opposing our nation’s foreign policy is beyond the pale,” he said.
From the very first day of Israel’s existence, the U.S. has been its primary benefactor. In fact, some could argue that the State of Israel owes its existence to President Truman and some in his Administration who lobbied the United Nations in 1948 for recognition of this new state, rather than a UN trusteeship that the majority of UN diplomats favored at that time.
Regardless of which party has sat in the Oval Office, or controlled the Congress, the United States government has had Israel’s back for the past 66 years —- providing Israel with the largest slice of the annual foreign aid appropriations, access to the best weapons technology, diplomatic cover at the U.N. and abroad, and vetoes at the Security Council whenever a resolution critical of Israel surfaced.
Even when the Israeli military deliberately attacked the U.S.S. Liberty on June 8, 1967, killing 34 U.S. servicemen and wounding at least 173, our government’s support of Israel was unwavering.
Our unquestioning support and advocacy on behalf of Israel in the face of incontrovertible evidence of Israel’s illegal and inhumane occupation of Palestine has, arguably, done as much to enrage the extremists (Al Qaeda and Daesh aka ISIS) and bring instability to the Middle East than any of our other foreign policy misadventures, including our disastrous war and occupation of Iraq.
Israel’s perceived security needs and threats have come to overshadow our own. Just as an adolescent struggles to find its own identity and detach from its parents, both Israel and the United States need to cut the umbilical cord.
Time for the United States to mature.
We can forge a new, healthy relationship with Israel — one of mutual respect and support, but one with firm boundaries. “You continue the illegal settlement expansion in the West Bank, we will withhold foreign aid.”
“You kill 1000s of innocent Palestinian civilians, we won’t veto those Security Council resolutions condemning Israel.”
“You fail to negotiate in good faith to end the occupation, we will break the siege ourselves by sending in the 6th Fleet to bring the necessary humanitarian supplies to Gaza.”
Morton Klein, director of the Zionist Organisation of America (ZOA), called the boycott of Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “anti-American, anti-patriotic”.
“We will, of course, be publicly condemning any Democrats who don’t show up for the speech—unless they have a doctor’s note,” he told Politico.