In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and deputy-editor of the paper Bret Stephens argued on Monday that due to US President Barack Obama’s irreversible actions, the US doesn’t have Israel’s back anymore – and Israel should learn to stand on its own.
In the opinion piece entitled “Israel Alone,” Stephens reported that in his recent conversations with senior Israeli officials they have shown “a sense of incredulity. They can’t understand what’s become of U.S. foreign policy.”
“They don’t know how to square Barack Obama’s promises with his policies,” the journalist noted, presenting a brief survey of how Obama is allowing Iran to push towards nuclear proliferation and spread terror in the Middle East.
“In a word, the Israelis haven’t yet figured out that what America is isn’t what America was,” wrote Stephens. “They need to start thinking about what comes next.”
According to the journalist many are optimistically waiting for Obama’s presidency to end in 2016. He noted that a February Gallup poll showed 70% of Americans view Israel favorably, adding “the presidential candidates from both parties all profess unswerving friendship with the Jewish state, and the Republican candidates actually believe it.”
“Yet it’s different this time” from previous low points in Israeli-US relations, according to Stephens, who argued there are two main reasons why things have changed.
The first reason why this time is different is because “the administration’s Mideast abdications are creating a set of irreversible realities for which there are no ready U.S. answers.”
“Now the president is marching us past the point of no return on a nuclear Iran and thence a nuclear Middle East,” wrote Stephens. “When that happens, how many Americans will be eager to have their president intervene in somebody else’s nuclear duel? Americans may love Israel, but partly that’s because not a single U.S. soldier has ever died fighting on its behalf.”
Elaborating his point, the WSJ deputy-editor noted that “Obama is bequeathing not just a more dangerous Middle East but also one the next president will want to touch only with a barge pole.”
Israel is left alone to face “thousands more missiles for Hezbollah, paid for by sanctions relief for Tehran; ISIS on the Golan Heights; an Iran safe, thanks to Russian missiles, from any conceivable Israeli strike,” in a reference to the S-300 missile system.
Learn to stand alone
The second reason things are different now “follows from the first,” wrote the journalist. “Previous quarrels between Washington and Jerusalem were mainly about differing Mideast perceptions. Now the main issue is how the U.S. perceives itself.”
Since roughly the turn of the 20th century he argued that all US presidents stressed strength both internationally and domestically, seeing them as mutually contributing to each other.
“Then along came Mr. Obama with his mantra of ‘nation building at home’ and his notion that an activist foreign policy is a threat to the social democracy he seeks to build,” wrote Stephens. “The result is a world of disorder, and an Israel that, for the first time in its history, must seek its security with an America that, say what it will, has nobody’s back but its own.”
“How does it do this? By recalling what it was able to do for the first 19 years of its existence, another period when the U.S. was an ambivalent and often suspicious friend and Israel was more upstart state than start-up nation,” he noted, pointing out a time period in which Israel fought two wars for survival without receiving even a single bullet from the US.
Remarking on Israel at the time of its rebirth, Stephens wrote “that was an Israel that was prepared to take strategic gambles because it knew it couldn’t afford to wait on events. It did not consider ‘international legitimacy’ to be a prerequisite for action because it also knew how little such legitimacy was worth.”
“It understood the value of territory and terrain, not least because it had so little of it. It built its deterrent power by constantly taking the military initiative, not constructing defensive wonder-weapons such as Iron Dome. It didn’t mind acting as a foreign policy freelancer, and sometimes even a rogue, as circumstances demanded. ‘Plucky little Israel’ earned the world’s respect and didn’t care, much less beg, for its moral approval,” he argued.
In conclusion, Stephens gave Israel advice, noting, “perhaps the next American president will rescue Israel from having to learn again what it once knew. Israelis would be wise not to count on it.”