When It Comes to Israel, America Has Shown Which Side It’s On
This article originally appeared on the New York Times' Room for Debate on 24 August 2012.
Israelis know it. Palestinians know it. The whole world knows it. The absence of any American sense of fair play where Palestinian-Israeli issues are concerned is no secret. In fact, it will keep the U.S. from ever being a disinterested intermediary in the Middle East.
Administrations of both parties long ago proved the U.S. unworthy of the title of “honest broker.” This has reached the point that today blindly siding with Israel, beyond being an electoral necessity, has become almost a patriotic duty for anyone in public office. Only those who ignore reality can deny that such bias has tarnished America's reputation and undermined its interests abroad.
Republicans criticize President Obama for showing insufficient fealty to Israel. He did push for a temporary freeze on illegal Israeli settlement building, but it was incomplete (neither Jerusalem nor ongoing construction was included) and he failed to get Israel to extend it. Moreover, Obama responded to Israel’s obduracy by offering it F-35 fighter jets and other goodies. The U.S. president has since coddled Israel, extending additional military assistance and vetoing U.N. resolutions criticizing settlement activity. He also opposed the Palestinian initiative for statehood last September, delivering the most pro-Israel American speech ever at the U.N. And though it seems of no importance in Washington, the Palestinians are as far from freedom from Israeli subjugation as ever.
Meanwhile, Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney, held a big-money fund-raiser in Jerusalem last month, saying that when it comes to Palestinian-Israeli policy, “I’d get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: ‘Would it help if I said this? What would you like me to do?’ ”
Americans surely don’t want to subcontract our foreign policy to another state, let alone one that seems determined to egg us into a disastrous war with Iran. Yet Sheldon Adelson, a big Romney contributor and casino mogul, appears committed to just that: pushing the Romney-Ryan team toward war. For his part, Obama refrains from saying the obvious: War with Iran would not only destabilize the Middle East, but also upend America’s own fragile economy.
As politicians, skinny dipping and clothed alike, outdo themselves to embrace an ever-more-belligerent Israel this electoral season, we should recall the words of George Washington’s farewell address: “A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.”
Rashid Khalidi is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in addition to being the Edward Said professor of Arab studies at Columbia University.