The U.S. still Jerusalem’s best friend, but no longer Israel’s only friend


Israel is no longer an embattled, impoverished, emotionally needy client state. It is an emerging int’l power with options it never had before.

By Zev Chafets



Late last month the United States introduced a U.N. resolution condemning Russia’s de facto seizure of Crimea from Ukraine. As expected, the resolution passed the General Assembly easily. Unexpected, though, was the decision by Israel, long America’s most reliable U.N. vote (and vice versa), to absent itself from the ballot.

MP14-0147 2nd Israel C-130J 5742 first flight 20140115

The Hercules “Samson” C-130J will reinforce Israel’s air superiority, giving it better carrying capacity and mid-air refueling ability. Better than ever before, Israel will be able to neutralize threats both near and far. – Photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

This shook up the Obama administration. National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and demanded an explanation. Lieberman blandly blamed it on a strike at the foreign ministry. What was he supposed to do, ask Israeli diplomats to cross a picket line?

At home he was more candid. “We have good, trusting relations with the Americans and the Russians,” he told a TV interviewer. “I don’t see why she needs to get caught up in this.” General Amos Gilad, a senior figure in the Ministry of Defense, seconded this new, even-handed approach. “Our security interests should not be defined as identical to that of anyone else, even the United States,” he said.

Ha’aretz, a left-wing Israeli newspaper, reported that White House officials “nearly went crazy” with shock and anger when they heard such ungrateful sentiments.

If so, Rice and her colleagues haven’t been paying close attention. Israel is no longer an impoverished, embattled, emotionally needy client state. It is an emerging international power with options it never had before. Locked doors are now wide open. Old enemies want to be given another chance. America is still Israel’s best friend, but it is no longer its only friend.

This year Israel’s sunny new place in the world has been increasingly evident. In February, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to Jerusalem and delivered an almost embarrassingly pro-Israel speech.

Photo:Following are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's remarks from last night (Monday, 24 February 2014):Prime Minister Netanyahu: "Chancellor Merkel, Angela, welcome again to Israel, with your entire delegation. This is an important meeting. Israel and Germany have a unique bond forged of tragedy and hope, and a great friendship and cooperation.I think that there are three main subjects that I would like to raise in this visit, and they relate to our two democracies’ quest for security, peace and prosperity.On security, I would like to discuss the ways to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability. I believe that this is the greatest challenge to the security of the world.On peace, I would like to discuss with you how we can advance the efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And I can assure you Angela, that the people of Israel want peace. They want a real peace; they want a peace that ends the conflict, that finally gets the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state and one in which we have the necessary means of security to defend ourselves against any possible contingency in this turbulent Middle East.And finally, on prosperity, you brought 16 members of your government here, which enables us to discuss the various ways in which Israel and Germany can further strengthen our cooperation in all the fields of economics, technology, and many, many other exchanges.So we have a lot of work to do, and we’re going to start this evening.So, welcome to Jerusalem.”Chancellor Merkel: "Dear Benjamin, Prime Minister, allow me to say that I’m delighted to be here again for this, the fifth German-Israeli inter-governmental consultations.We have come here, as you rightly put it, with almost the whole of the new government, almost all of the ministers are represented. And we wanted to show you in this way that this is indeed a very strong friendship, which ties our two countries together, and a friendship that we want to continue to develop further.We are here in order to discuss a very broad-based spectrum of different issues and we can discuss economic issues, we will discuss research and development, we will discuss exchanges, particularly, people-to-people exchanges, in particular, exchanges among the members of our young generation, and we will also obviously address current political issues.We will also have an opportunity to discuss the preparations leading up to next year, to the year in which we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the German-Israeli diplomatic relations, these five decades of which unite our two countries show how long Germany has already tried to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel in order to secure the future of Israel.Part and parcel of the secure future of Israel is obviously the two-state solution, for which the Federal Government has also been working assiduously: a Jewish State of Israel and alongside it, a Palestinian state. That is something on which interesting talks have already started and have been ongoing for quite some time and I'm very much looking forward to being able to address with you tonight this issue, yet again, because, as I said, we, as Federal Government very much support this concept, not only as a government, we want to see progress in this respect but I personally am also championing this.We will also, as you quite rightly said, discuss Iran. There's quite a lot to discuss on this particular issue, so it is going to be an interesting evening with intensive talks and then we're looking forward to tomorrow where we will be able to address together with members of both cabinets all other outstanding issues."Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem.  –  Photo: Amos Ben Gershom, GPO

A month later, German Chancellor Angela Merkel brought virtually her entire government to Israel in what was an astonishing show of solidarity by Europe’s most powerful government.

Merkel and other world leaders still have talking-point problems with Israeli policies in the West Bank, but in the real world, these are not leading to the kind of international isolation that the Obama administration has been darkly forecasting.

Just the opposite, in fact. Early this month, President Shimon Peres was given a red-carpet welcome in formerly anti-Zionist Beijing.

Photo: ‎Live broadcast at 2:30AM (10:30, Beijing time): President Peres will launch his official page on Sina-Weibo (China's largest social networking site)שידור חי בשעה 05:30 (שעון ישראל): נשיא המדינה ישיק את העמוד הרשמי שלו ב'ווייבו'- הרשת החברתית המובילה בסין ממטה החברה בבייג'ין:‎

President Peres launched his official page on Sina-Weibo (China’s largest social networking site) – Photo: President Shimon Peres Facebook page

India, once a leader of the anti-Zionist Third World bloc, now has a close military relationship with Israel. And, of course, there are those “good and trusting relations” between Jerusalem and Israel’s Cold War arch-enemy, Moscow.

Even the Arab world is coming around. Peace with Egypt, fragile during the Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohammed Morsi, is once again firm; the two countries are fighting a common jihadist enemy in Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula.

Jordan, Israel’s neighbor to the east, is friendly.

And, on the eve of Passover, Foreign Minister Lieberman disclosed the open secret that Israel closely cooperates with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States in a joint effort to block Iranian expansionism and Teheran’s nuclear ambitions.

None of this reflects a spontaneous outburst of affection for the Jewish State. Israel has become one of the world’s leading hi-tech innovators. Its transformative breakthroughs in water desalination, medical technology and agriculture offer practical solutions to the urgent problems of developing countries. It is at the forefront of drone and satellite technology. It exports sophisticated weapons systems and lends expertise in fighting Islamic terror to targeted nations like Russia, India and the U.S. And, of course, it has the strongest military in the Middle East.

To top it all off, Israel has now hit the fossil fuel jackpot. During the heyday of the Arab oil boycott, people joked that Moses should have headed for Saudi Arabia. But Moses was smarter than he looked. Off its Mediterranean coast, Israeli and American companies are now developing tens of trillions of cubic meters of natural gas. Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus and other nearby nations are hotly competing for a piece of the action as distributors and consumers.

All this and Jaffa oranges, too.

Next month, Israel will celebrate its 66th Independence Day. Sixty-six is adolescence in nation-years. This country is just at the start of its growth spurt. Washington is going to have to accept that its young ward is not a kid anymore (Israel needs to internalize this, too, but that’s a different story). And, as Rice and her fellow policymakers know better than anyone, being a grown-up nation means making complicated choices, pursuing your own vital interests and, unavoidably, sometimes disappointing even your very best friends.

Zev Chafets is a Fox News contributor.

View original Fox publication at: