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US Pressure – Myth and Reality

Condoleezza Rice is a top Poker player, especially when facing Israelis who are unfamiliar with the Washington ropes, and are therefore easily intimidated by the Secretary of State.


The assumption that Israel cannot afford to defy the US is divorced from reality.  Such an assumption reflects miscomprehension of 1948-1992 precedents, of the wider context of US-Israel relations, of the special role played by the Jewish State in the US Judeo-Christian culture, of the impact by recent global circumstances on US empathy toward Israel, of the US state-of-mind, of the foundations of US democracy and of the declining fortunes of a second term president. 


In 1948/49, the Department of State, Pentagon and the CIA pressured Ben Gurion to refrain from declaration of independence and accept a UN Trusteeship, to internationalize Jerusalem, to allow the return of – and compensate – Palestinian refugees and to end the “occupation” of the Negev.  The ruthless pressure was accompanied by a military embargo and a threat of economic embargo.  Ben Gurion defied the pressure, in spite of the meager resources at his disposal.  In 1967, Eshkol launched a preemptive strike against belligerent Egypt, in defiance of a French military embargo (then, Israel’s key arms supplier!) and pressure by LBJ. In 1981, Begin bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor, despite a US threat of military embargo reinforcing international and domestic opposition. The three statesmen withstood pressure, launched  unilateral military operations, were victimized by short-term sanctions and criticism, but produced dramatic long-term strategic gains for Israel and for the US.


The three statesmen realized that US-Israel relations did not evolve around the Arab-Israeli conflict, but around the larger scope of joint interests and mutual regional and global threats. Thus, strategic memoranda of understanding were concluded between the US and Israel in 1983 and 1988, despite (or because…) the coarse rejection – by Israel – of the “Reagan Plan”, and in spite of the 1982 war in Lebanon and the 1987 eruption of the first Intifadah.  The memoranda were concluded due to Israel’s unique contribution to the US efforts against international terrorism, the USSR and ballistic missiles. 


The special strategic ties between the US and Israel are embedded in a foundation of shared Judeo-Christian values, which have prevented a rupture following frequent tensions between the two countries.  The 17th century puritan settlers were students of the Old Testament and appreciated Hebrew.  The Founding Fathers considered the values of Moses, Joshua and Samuel an inspiration for the Constitution and a basis for political and social relationships.  The sculptures of Moses feature prominently in the US Supreme Court and the House of Representatives.  A replica of the Tablets is set on the lawn of the Texas Legislature, and hundreds of locations in the US bear biblical names. Most Americans consider the Jewish State as a prime domestic value, rather than a foreign issue. 


The potential support of the Jewish State has been enhanced since 9/11, as a result of the daily reporting of US GIs killed by Arab/Muslim terrorists, the July 2005 terror blitz in London, the recent Muslim riots in France and the ongoing campaign of Islamic terrorism from the Philippines through Bali, India, Spain and Mauritania. Never has the image of Arabs/Muslims been so low, and never has Israel benefited from such a high potential of support. 


However, the US state-of-mind respects winners with gumption, who defy the odds and stick to principles and values.  The US state-of-mind offers sympathy – but little respect – to those who are afflicted by weariness and battle fatigue.  Therefore, most Americans loved Reagan.  And, therefore, the US upgraded its attitude toward the Jewish State from sympathy to strategic appreciation/respect as a result of the 1948 and 1967 wars, the 1976 “Operation Jonathan/Entebbe”, the 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and the 1982 decimation of the Soviet ground-to-air missiles in eastern Lebanon.  


The state-of-mind of the US public and its representatives on Capitol Hill is different than the state-of-mind of the Department of State.  The latter functions – just like any arm of the Administration – under the supervision of Congress, which has been a bastion of support for enhanced US-Israel connection, empowered with the “Power of the Purse” and with a stature equal to the Executive. Also, as the approval rating of presidents decline (which has afflicted second termers) so rises the assertiveness of the Legislature.


Until 1992, all Israeli prime ministers (from Ben Gurion to Shamir) considered Congress as a major platform for the upgrading of US-Israel strategic ties and for the neutralization of Department of State obstructionism.  However, since 1992 all Israeli prime ministers have relegated Congress to the role of a “second team”.  Until 1992 all Israeli prime ministers were aware that succumbing to pressure by staunch critics in the Administration would pull the rug from under the feet of steadfast supporters in the US. Therefore, they have, usually, resisted pressure, and have consequently enhanced the bilateral strategic ties.  However, since 1992, all Israeli prime ministers have adopted the policy of Israel’s critics in Washington, and as a result have become role model for concessions and submission to pressure. 



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President Biden’s pressure and Israel’s Judiciary Reform

Israel’s proposed Judiciary Reform ranks very low on President Biden’s order of priorities, far below scores of pressing domestic, foreign and national security threats and challenges.

Therefore, he has not studied the various articles of the reform, but leverages the explosive Israeli domestic controversy as a means to intensify pressure on Israel, in order to:

*Gradually, force Israel back to the 1967 ceasefire lines;
*End Jewish construction and proliferate Arab construction in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank);
*Advance the establishment of a Palestinian state on the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which overpower the coastal sliver of pre-1967 Israel;
*Re-divide Jerusalem;
*Prevent game-changing Israeli military actions against Palestinian terrorists and Iran’s Ayatollahs.

Israel’s Judiciary Reform and US democracy

If the President and his advisors had studied the proposed reform, they would have noticed the Israeli attempt to adopt key features of the US democratic system, which would end the current situation of Israel’s Judiciary as Israel’s supreme branch of government. The reform aims to provide Israel’s Legislature and Executive branches with the effective authority (currently infringed by the Judiciary) to exercise the responsibility accorded to them by the constituency.

For example:

*Israeli Supreme Court Justices should not be appointed – as they are today – by a committee, which is controlled by Justices (who possess a veto power) and lawyers, but rather by a committee, dominated by legislators;

*The Attorney General and the Legal Advisors of Cabinet Departments should be appointed (and fired) by – and subordinated to – the Executive, not the Judiciary. Their role should be to advise, and not to approve or veto policy matters, as it is today. Their advice should not be binding, as it is today.

*Supreme Court Justices should not be empowered to overturn Basic Laws (Israel’s mini-Constitution).

*Supreme Court Justices should have a limited power to nullify and overturn legislation.

*Supreme Court Justices should decide cases according to the Basic Laws and existing legislation, and not resort to the reasonableness of the legislation (which is utterly subjective), as is the case today.

*The Supreme Court should not be able to overturn legislation by three – out of fifteen – Justices, as is the case today.

*The Supreme Court should be supreme to lower level courts, not to the Legislature and Executive, as it is today.

President Biden’s pressuring Israel

*President Biden’s pressuring Israel reflects the return of the US State Department to the center-stage of policy-making. The State Department opposed Israel’s establishment in 1948, has been a systematic critic of Israel since then, and has been consistently wrong on crucial Middle East issues.

*This pressure on Israel represents the multilateral and cosmopolitan worldview of the State Department establishment, in general, and Secretary Blinken and National Security Advisor Sullivan, in particular. This worldview espouses a common ideological and strategic denominator with the UN, International Organizations and Europe, rather than the unilateral US action of foreign policy and US national security. It examines the Middle East through Western lenses, assuming that dramatic financial and diplomatic gestures would convince Iran’s Ayatollahs and Palestinian terrorists to abandon deeply-rooted, fanatic ideologies in favor of peaceful-coexistence, enhanced standard of living and good-faith negotiation.  Middle East reality has proven such assumptions to be wrong.

*President Biden’s pressure mirrors the routine of presidential pressure on Israel since 1948 (except 2017-2020), which has always resulted in short-term tension/friction and occasional punishment, such as a suspension of delivery of military systems and not vetoing UN condemnations of Israel.

*However, since 1948, simultaneously with presidential pressure on Israel, there has been a dramatic enhancement of mutually-beneficial defense and commercial cooperation, as determined by vital US interests, recognizing Israel’s unique technological and military capabilities and growing role as a leading force and dollar multiplier for the US. Israel’s unique contribution to the US defense and aerospace industries, high tech sector, armed forces and intelligence has transcended US foreign aid to Israel, and has eclipsed US-Israel friction over less critical issues (e.g., the Palestinian issue).

*The current bilateral friction is very moderate compared to prior frictions, such as the Obama-Netanyahu tension over the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran; the US’ brutal opposition to Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear reactors; the US’ ferocious resentment of Israel’s application of its law to the Golan Heights; the US’ determined opposition to the reunification of Jerusalem, and the renewal of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and Greater Jerusalem; and the US’ strong-handed pressure for Israel to withdraw to the suicidal 1947 Partition lines; etc.

*In hindsight, the US pressure on Israel was based on erroneous assumptions, which could have undermined vital US interests, if not for Israel’s defiance of pressure.  For example, Israel’s refraining from bombing Iraq’s and Syria’s nuclear reactors in 1981 and 2007 would have confronted the US and the world at-large with a potential nuclear confrontation in 1991 and a potential Syrian nuclearized civil war since 2011.

*Rogue Middle East regimes consider US pressure on Israel as an erosion of Israel’s posture of deterrence, and therefore an inducement to the intensified threat of terrorism and war, which gravely destabilize the region and undermine US interests (while advancing the interests of China, Russia and Iran’s Ayatollahs), threatening the survival of pro-US vulnerable oil-producing Arab regimes.

*Most Israeli Prime Ministers – especially from Ben Gurion through Shamir – defied presidential pressure, which yielded short-term friction and erosion in popularity, but accorded Israel long-term enhanced strategic respect. On a rainy day, the US prefers allies, which stand up to pressure, and are driven by clear principles and national security requirements.

*Succumbing to – and accommodating – US presidential pressure ignores precedents, overlooks Israel’s base of support in the co-equal, co-determining US Legislature, undermines Israel’s posture of deterrence, whets the appetite of anti-US and anti-Israel rogue regimes, and adds fuel to the Middle East fire at the expense of Israel’s and US’ national security and economic interests.

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The post-1967 turning point of US-Israel cooperation

Israeli benefits to the US taxpayer exceed US foreign aid to Israel

Iran - A Clear And Present Danger To The USA

Exposing the myth of the Arab demographic time bomb