Critics of the United States, both American and foreign, have constantly focused their attacks on the American foreign policy in the Middle East – most notably with the ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. More controversial however is the state of Israel and its unique relationship with the United States. Israel is designated as a special non-NATO ally and the two nations have worked together on issues as diverse as intelligence-sharing regarding threats from Iran or terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda to green initiatives and medical technology breakthroughs from the “world’s Silicon Valley.” Throughout the volatile Middle East, Israel is often the only ally the United States can count on time and time again and more often than not, the converse is true for Israel.
In May 2009, The Jerusalem Post conducted a survey of Jewish Israelis in regards to the special relationship that Israel has with the United States. The survey found that 88% of Israelis believed the Bush administration to be pro-Israel whereas only 7% found it to be neutral. Only 2% found the United States under the leadership of President George W. Bush pro-Palestine. Most striking about the poll is that once Jewish Israelis were asked about the Obama administration, they made a complete about-face: only 6% thought President Obama as being pro-Israel. 50% viewed him as pro-Palestine while 44% either stated no opinion or believed him to be neutral.
On first inspection, the poll results regarding the Obama administration do not seem alarming. Significant populations of Jewish Israelis find his policies rather neutral or they simply had no opinion regarding President Obama. However, that cannot continue. Israel is our strongest ally in the region and a threat to the state should be considered a grave threat to American interests in the Middle East.
The United States has long been the pillar of freedom and democracy since its inception as a nation. Other nations in the world have long sought to emulate the United States and our remarkable Constitution. In the Middle East, Israel is the only nation who shares those same values that we take for granted: Israel is a beacon for human rights, recognizing everything from property rights to equality under law regardless of gender or religious affiliation. Israel is the only Middle Eastern state that grants religious minorities such as Muslims, Druze, and Christians equal legal status. Notably, there are many Arab Muslims in the Israeli legislature, where many Arab parties appreciate legitimacy and admittedly a great amount of influence in the Knesset and other areas of Israel’s government. The United States needs to continue this relationship as Israel stands apart as one of the Middle East’s freest places.
Israel is at the forefront of major issues plaguing our world today – chief among them, the threat of a nuclear Iran. It is quite evident now that Iran’s nuclear ambition is not for civilian purposes. Iran has continuously been in the news with threats of violence, as war games and rhetoric from Iranian leadership have reached new heights of aggression. Furthermore, a nuclear Iran would be devastating for the world. Given how emboldened Iran has become after the election of President Obama and the administration’s willingness to negotiate without preconditions, our future seems as dangerous and uncertain as ever. Iran would seek to advance its dangerous foreign policy; it would advance its dealings with terrorist organizations and destabilize our advances with Arab nations in the region. The number of Arab nations on friendly terms with the United States is small, and we need to focus on strengthening those relationships while building working relationships with others. This goal will be hindered by a nuclear Iran with even more ability and desire to destabilize, intimidate, or destroy its neighbors. Israel, as one of the first likely targets of Iranian nuclear weapons, needs to have support in preventing Iran from acquiring those weapons, and doing so would be in our best interests as well.
The Obama administration needs to look at this poll as a wake-up call. President Obama needs to remember Israel’s significance both in the Middle East and abroad. The United States cannot have success in the Middle East without Israel on our side. We need to take a more proactive role with Israel involved and so we cannot keep pressuring or alienating our strongest ally. Should that not work, perhaps Barack Obama should take heed from his Christian faith that was so prominent in his campaign: “And I will bless them that bless thee [Israel], and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, KJV).