The Neocons vs. Israel: the Algerian Ultras of the Western World?

…because the balance of power can only turn against them – they need the might of France, that is to say the French Army. So these separatists are also hyper-patriots. Republicans in France – insofar as our institutions allow them to constitute a political force at home – they are, in Algeria, fascists who hate the Republic but who passionately love the Republican army.

Jean-Paul Sartre: Colonialism is a System

The projected “National Home for the Jews” endorsed by Britain in 1917 was never intended to become a nation. It was to be part of the British Empire, not ruling itself but governed benignly from London, a permanent way station on the proposed land-route to India and a glacis protecting the Suez Canal from any power that threatened it from the north. The British Empire accepted the Zionist scheme because it provided Britain with an excuse to straddle one of the most important pieces of strategic property in the world.

“Zionism: A Defense” Peter Hitchens, The American Conservative October 6, 2003

The notion that the U.S. and Israel are allied together in the cause of spreading democracy in the Middle East and worldwide would be scoffed at by Israeli pundits. After all, their government has been strengthening its military ties with China despite U.S. opposition. Israelis are not “pro-American” because of their commitment to Jeffersonian values—the Jewish state has yet to adopt a constitution—but because they concluded that their interests and those of the U.S. are compatible now. But they see this “special relationship” not as marriage but as an affair. And like any affair, it could end.

Indeed, there was a time when Israelis were pro-Soviet and pro-French. In 1948, Stalin’s Soviet Union was the most enthusiastic supporter of establishing Israel, which it hoped would be a leading anti-imperialist post in the Middle East, while Secretary of State George Marshall pressed Harry Truman not to recognize the new state, warning that it could harm America’s position in the region. Hence Moscow recognized Israel immediately after the state was proclaimed and provided it with arms, while it took the Americans more than a year to grant de jure recognition to Israel, on which they imposed an arms embargo. At the height of the In-Russia-With-Love mood in Israel, the expectation was that the new state would remain neutral in the evolving Cold War.

Then Israel had its French kiss. It was France that served as Israel’s main source of arms in the 1950s and early 1960s and helped it develop its nuclear arsenal. Israel was embracing then a European orientation and forming close ties with an emerging Franco-German bloc to help resist U.S. pressure to end its nuclear program. The Israeli alliance with France reached a peak in the aftermath of the 1956 Suez campaign during which the two conspired (with Britain and against U.S. wishes) to oust Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser. Their interests were seen to be compatible as the French tried to suppress the Nasser-backed struggle for independence in Algeria. But after Charles de Gaulle’s decision to grant independence to Algeria, the relationship between Israel and France cooled; they soured after Israel rejected the aging French leader’s advice not to attack Egypt in 1967…

It was only after Israel’s 1967 victory over Egypt, a Soviet ally, that the intellectual predecessors of today’s neoconservatives started popularizing the idea of Israel as an American “strategic asset” in the Middle East. Similarly, neoconservatives in the Reagan administration argued that Israel should become America’s leading ally in the region during the renewed Cold War tensions, while depicting the Palestine Liberation Organization as a Soviet stooge. But even as Israel and the U.S. were strengthening their ties, there was recognition in both governments of the strategic constraints on their relationship. America could not maintain its position in the Middle East without establishing a presence in the Arab world, while Israel’s friendship with America could not substitute for the acceptance of Israel by its Arab neighbors. Washington’s efforts to bring about Middle East peace were part of a strategy to advance U.S. and Israeli interests…

Bush and his advisers see America’s battle with Iraq and Israel’s battle with the Palestinians as part of the same war, according to Ha’aretz chief political analyst, Akiva Eldar. “They have actually suggested that Israel will help the United States to take over the Middle East,” Eldar said. “They were sitting in think tanks that believed that you don’t even try to appease or satisfy the Arabs, you reach peace by force which means you impose it [and] you don’t make concessions to people you don’t trust, and that puts them and Sharon in the same party.”

Consider the results of U.S. policies—the coming to power of radical Shi’ites in Baghdad and the strengthening influence of Iran and its allies; the radicalization of the Palestinians, the election of Hamas, and an environment less conducive for Arab-Israel peace; the growing isolation of the U.S. and Israel in the Middle East, in Europe, and around the world. Is it surprising that Israelis are asking: if we have a pro-Israeli administration in Washington, how would a anti-Israeli one look..?

…Israel, as Ha’aretz columnist Doron Rosenblum put it, “was not established in order to be a spearhead against global Islam, or in order to serve as an alert squad for the Western world.” But that is exactly the role that the neocons have assigned to Israel, which has led Daniel Levy, a former aide to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to propose that “disentangling Israeli interests from the rubble of neocon ‘creative destruction’ in the Middle East has become an urgent challenge for Israeli policy-makers.” An America that seeks to reshape the region “through an unsophisticated mixture of bombs and ballots, devoid of local contextual understanding, alliance-building or redressing of grievances, ultimately undermines both itself and Israel,” Levy wrote.

Moreover, the neoconservative paradigm is bound make Israel a modern-day crusader state, an outlet of a global power whose political, economic, and military headquarters are on the other side of the world.

“Special Relationship: A one-sided U.S. policy toward Israel endangers both countries’ interests.” Leon Hadar, The American Conservative, November 20, 2006

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