To Understand Israel’s Foreign-Policy Challenges, We Must Understand Israel’s Relationship with the U.S.

May 26, 2022 | Douglas Feith
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In recent years, the Jewish state’s relations with China and Russia have generated tensions with the its most important ally, the U.S. These tensions have been made more acute, notes Douglas Feith, by Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. As Feith observes, “America’s substantial support over many years elicits unease as well as gratitude,” because it creates a dependency that might not serve Israel well in the long run. Feith sketches the complex and shifting history of U.S.-Israel relations and proposes a path forward for the latter, based on what he calls the “Herzl paradox.”

When [Theodor] Herzl organized Zionism into a political movement, his goal was Jewish self-reliance. At the same time, he sought foreign support. This is the paradox.

In Herzl’s day, Jewish life, liberty, and property depended everywhere on the goodwill or toleration of non-Jews. Nowhere were Jews a majority, and hostility to them was pandemic. . . . The Zionist message was that Jews should cease living as history’s objects. They could take their future into their own hands by creating a Jewish-majority state in their ancient homeland. For some, a Jewish state would be home. For those in the Diaspora, it could be a refuge.

Zionists have always understood that Israel may one day have to stand alone. But prudent Israeli officials will do what they can to put off that day—and not hasten it by courting anti-Western powers in ways that antagonize America. Israel’s interest is in encouraging America to strengthen its military and revive its leadership of the democratic world.

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