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George Friedman's "The next decade": US-Israeli relationship

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  • George Friedman's "The next decade": US-Israeli relationship

    Extract for the book

    The United States should quietly adopt a policy of disengagement from Israel, which would appear to mean simply accepting the current imbalance of power. Yet in the longer term, its purpose would be to reestablish the balance of power, containing Israel within its framework, without endangering Israelís existence. It would, however, compel Israel to reconsider what its national interests are.
    Publicly distancing the United States from Israel would not only appear to open opportunities for Syria and Egypt, it would also present domestic political problems within the United States. The Jewish vote is small, but Jewish political influence is outsized because of carefully organized and funded lobbying efforts. Add to this mix Christian conservatives who regard Israelís interests as theologically important and the president faces a powerful bloc that he doesnít want to antagonize. For these reasons the president should continue sending envoys to build road maps for peace, and he should continue to condemn all sides for whatever outrages they commit. He should continue to make speeches supporting Israel, but he must have no ambitions for a ďlasting peace,Ē because any effort toward achieving that goal could in fact destabilize the region.

    The things the United States needed from Israel in the past no longer exist. The United States does not need Israel to deal with pro-Soviet regimes in Egypt and Syria while the U.S. is occupied elsewhere. Israel is, however, valued for sharing intelligence and for acting as a base for supplies to support U.S. fighting in the region. Israel is not faced with the likelihood of major conventional war anytime soon. It does not need vast and sudden deliveries of tanks or planes, as it did in 1973. Nor does it need the financial assistance the United States has provided since 1974. Israelís economy is robust and growing.

    For Israel, foreign aid means far less than close ties with U.S. hedge funds do. Israel is quite capable of handling itself financially. What the foreign aid signifies to Israel, which has no formal treaty with the United States, is a public commitment by the United States to Israel. Israel uses that as a card both in the region and to comfort Israeli public opinion. What the United States once got in return for that aid was a stable partner in the region, which could not manage without the money. Now the United States has a partner regardless of the aid. On the negative side of the ledger, the aid provides grounds for Islamicist arguments that the United States is the source of all their problems, including ruthless behavior on the part of the Israelis. Given that the aid is marginal in importance, that price is too high. Giving up this commitment to aid would actually help Israel by eliminating a prime argument of the anti-Israeli lobby in the United States.

    Of course, this is all window dressing for the core policy of simply allowing the balance of power to be reestablished. Israel was of great value to the United States during the second part of the Cold War. After the Cold War, the benefits to the United States of the relationship have declined while the costs have risen. The equation does not call for a break in relations with Israel. It calls for a recalibration based on current realities. Israel does not need foreign aid and is not in strategic danger from conventional forces. There is a mutual need for intelligence sharing and weapons development, but that is by definition a fairly quiet development.

    There is no moral challenge here. No democratic ally is being abandoned, and Israelís survival is not at issue. At the same time, while settlement in the West Bank may be a fundamental national interest to Israel, it is not of interest to the United States. These are two sovereign nations, which means that both get to define the relationship. And every relationship has to be viewed in terms of its value to the broadest sense of the national interest. What the United States needed from Israel thirty-five years ago is not what it needs today.

    From the Israeli side, the primary pressure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians comes from concerns that they will find themselves alienated from the United States and particularly Europe over their treatment of the Palestinians. Economic relations are important to Israel, but so are cultural ties. But the Israelis have internal pressures. Given the Palestinian disarray, the idea of reaching a settlement with a Palestinian state that is unable or unwilling to control terrorist attacks from its territory has limited support. Any settlement would require concessions to the Palestinians that the Israelis would not want to make and that, given the weakness of the Palestinians, they are not inclined to make.

    The Arab-Israeli balance of power is out of kilter. Egypt and Jordan have opted out of the balance, and Israel is free to create realities on the ground. It is not in the interest of the United States for Israel, or any country, to have freedom of action in the region. As I have said, the balance of power must be the governing principle of the United States. The United States must reshape the regional balance of power partly by moving closer to Arab states, partly by drawing back from Israel. This does not pose an existential threat to Israel, which would pose a moral challenge. Israel is in no danger of falling and does not depend on the United States to survive. That was in the past. It is not the case in the next decade. The United States needs distance. It will take it. There will be domestic political resistance. There will also be domestic political support. This is not an abandonment of Israel, but relations between two nations canít be frozen in an outdated mode.

    The complicating factor in this analysis is the rest of the Islamic world, particularly Iran and Turkey. The former threatens to become a nuclear power, and the latter will become a powerful force in the region, shifting away from close ties with Israel. Having begun with a narrow focus on Israel, we need to switch to a broader lens. And that is how, as a case study, the balance of power of an empire works.

    I know that this was written before the Arab Revolutions and might be somewhat out of date. However, I would still value some of our forum members's views and thoughts on this.

    (If any moderator thinks that we breach copyright of the book, please be so kind as to delete the thread)

  • #2
    Take this bit..

    Originally posted by Rastagir View Post
    The United States should quietly adopt a policy of disengagement from Israel, which would appear to mean simply accepting the current imbalance of power. Yet in the longer term, its purpose would be to reestablish the balance of power, containing Israel within its framework, without endangering Israel’s existence. It would, however, compel Israel to reconsider what its national interests are.

    Publicly distancing the United States from Israel would not only appear to open opportunities for Syria and Egypt, it would also present domestic political problems within the United States. The Jewish vote is small, but Jewish political influence is outsized because of carefully organized and funded lobbying efforts. Add to this mix Christian conservatives who regard Israel’s interests as theologically important and the president faces a powerful bloc that he doesn’t want to antagonize. For these reasons the president should continue sending envoys to build road maps for peace, and he should continue to condemn all sides for whatever outrages they commit. He should continue to make speeches supporting Israel, but he must have no ambitions for a “lasting peace,” because any effort toward achieving that goal could in fact destabilize the region.
    How does the US distance herself from Israel ?

    That is to say if the US distances herself from Israel, it would not matter to Syria or Egypt, whether it was done publicly or privately. They would see an opportunity and at the same time it would force Israel to reconsider her position and restablish a new equilibrium.

    So what kind of distancing does Friedman have in mind ?

    Abstain instead of veto when Palestinians bring up their issue in the UN this sept.

    Comment


    • #3
      This reads like a liberal's wet dream.

      What, we back away from Israel and the Muslim nations are going to start loving us?

      I especially don't like the, "Israel was a useful friend when the big bad bear was around but now that the bear is dead, we should back away from them" bit.

      Comment

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