This year, Washington has urged Jerusalem to limit or forbid construction beyond the 1949 armistice lines and to refrain from attacking Iranian nuclear facilities. Yoram Ettinger looks to previous instances when the Jewish state has stood up to American demands without compromising its security or causing lasting damage to its most important alliance:
Defiance of U.S. and global pressure was a critical attribute of Israel’s pro-American founding fathers—from David Ben-Gurion in 1948 through Yitzḥak Shamir in 1992. This defiance triggered [some] short-term friction between the two countries, but earned long-term respect for Israel, while providing the United States with a unique force-multiplier in the Middle East. On a rainy day, the United States prefers a principle-driven ally, one that does not retreat in the face of pressure and refuses to sacrifice its own independent national security on the altar of diplomatic and economic convenience.
In 1948/49, the United States, United Nations, and Britain threatened Israel with economic and diplomatic sanctions unless the newly born Jewish state ended its “occupation” of areas in the Galilee, coastal plain, Negev, and western Jerusalem, and absorbed Palestinian refugees. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion rejected each of these demands, stating that “much as Israel desired friendship with the United States and full cooperation with it and the UN, there were limits beyond which it could not go.”
Israel’s destruction of Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear reactors in 1981 and 2007—in defiance of U.S. pressure—spared the United States, and the world, a potential nuclear confrontation in 1991 and a potential nuclearized civil war in Syria.
As evidenced by these and additional examples, Israel’s defiance of U.S. pressure has advanced U.S. national-security interests, bolstered Israel’s posture of deterrence, enhanced its role as a force-multiplier, constrained the capabilities of anti-U.S. Sunni and Shiite Islamic terrorists, and therefore reduced the scope of war and terrorism in the stormy Middle East.