The Case for U.S. Distancing From Israel

Is America's closeness with Israel causing more harm than good?

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Israel has historically been one of America's closest allies, but a small contingent of writers is suggesting our closeness could cost more than it's worth. Last month, three high-profile columnists made the case for disengaging from the long, fraught Israel-Palestine peace process. Now some are saying we should diplomatically distance ourselves from Israel itself.

  • Better For Us, Better For Israel Financial Times's Tony Judt argues that a little distance would help us both. "If the Jews of Europe and North America took their distance from Israel (as many have begun to do), the assertion that Israel was 'their' state would take on an absurd air. Over time, even Washington might come to see the futility of attaching American foreign policy to the delusions of one small Middle Eastern state. This, I believe, is the best thing that could possibly happen to Israel itself. It would be obliged to acknowledge its limits. It would have to make other friends, preferably among its neighbours." He adds, "The perverse insistence upon identifying a universal Jewishness with one small piece of territory is dysfunctional in many ways. It is the single most important factor accounting for the failure to solve the Israel-Palestine imbroglio. It is bad for Israel and, I would suggest, bad for Jews elsewhere who are identified with its actions."
  • Cut Off U.S. PACs Making It Worse The Guardian's Andrew Kadi and Aaron Levitt report on a group called The Hebron Fund. "The fact that the Hebron Fund likely raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for extremist Israeli settlers at a major US venue with little public scrutiny is a troubling sign for those who hope that the US can play a constructive role in achieving a just peace in the Middle East," they write. "Non-profit organisations like the Hebron Fund play a substantial role in fuelling the Middle East conflict, but largely fly under the radar in the US. [...] Until the public, advocacy groups, media and the US government scrutinise and rein in settlement non-profits like the Hebron Fund, policy statements about peace in the Middle East will do nothing to stop the daily violence and dispossession suffered by Palestinians.
  • 'Looming US-Israel Split' The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan thinks it's all about Iran. "That's the likeliest consequence of the current awful choices the West has with respect to Iran's nuclear weapon capacity," he writes. "I can see this conflict coming and do not believe it can be contained or managed without a more open and honest public dialogue than the cramped and emotional one that occurs in Washington. The truth is: Israel and the US have very different interests with respect to Iran, and if Israel launches a war on Iran, against US wishes, then the alliance will never be the same."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.