Monday, June 24, 2024 -
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Stop throwing gasoline

A cri de-coeur to leaders in our beloved countries

It’s hard to know who is doing more damage to US-Israel relations — President Biden or the likes of Israel government minister Chikli. 

Our president has undiplomatically and gratuitously insulted the leader of China (“dictator”) and the leader of Saudi Arabia (head of a “pariah state”), and now it’s Israel’s turn. Its Cabinet ministers are the “most extreme” ever, and of course Biden knows because, he tells us, he’s been on intimate terms with all of Israel Cabinet ministers all the back to the early 1970s.

Meanwhile, our Jewish state’s minister of Diaspora affairs has undiplomatically and gratuitously insulted the president of the United States and his administration by publicly accusing them of stoking the anti-government demonstrations raging in Israel.

The issue is not Biden and not Israel’s Cabinet ministers. The issue is not whether Biden or Chikli is right or wrong. The issue is gasoline. How have matters between the US and Israel so radically devolved that their leaders who are supposedly friends and allies stoop to incendiary language?

Biden and Chikli diminish their own personal stature and, more important to us, they diminish the great countries they represent by throwing gasoline at each other and lighting the match.

It is sad and shocking to see the leader of the free world and one of the leaders of the Jewish state stoop so low. This is no way to conduct diplomacy between any two countries, let alone among allies and friends.

The legitimacy of the president of the US butting into the minutest details of a domestic dispute in another country escapes us. But if he must, then at least he should educate himself as to the judicial background of the current dispute, and as to the differences between parliamentary democracy and American democracy. The simplistic denunciations that come from Biden’s lips do not reflect a nuanced understanding of Israeli democracy.

The wisdom of a minister in the government of Israel treating the leader of the free world, who is also the supplier of most of Israel’s weaponry, without which it could not survive, as he might treat a political opponent in the notoriously raucous Israeli Knesset, escapes us. But if Chikli must object to American meddling, let him go to the American ambassador to Israel. But of course he can’t do that because he has already unceremoniously told the American ambassador a few months ago to “mind his own business” on the dispute over judicial reform in Israel.

Benjamin Netanyahu, whatever one might think of his policies, has held his tongue. He has not been invited to the White House — a courtesy extended by American presidents to heads of Israel for as long as memory serves. Netanyahu has not responded in kind to this shabby treatment. 

It should not be a big surprise when Saudi Arabia, who has been snubbed and insulted by Biden, turns to Iran, as Saudi Arabia has; and it should not be a big surprise when Netanyahu turns to China, as he has. Neither move is good for either country, and certainly not good for the US. Yet, this is the path that Biden’s uncontrolled tongue is precipitating.

Whatever happened to something called diplomacy and discrete communication and mutual respect, not to mention friendship? All this is sorely missing these days in US-Israel relations. We cannot recall a similarly degrading spectacle. Even former Sec. of State Henry Kissinger, when he “suspended” relations with Israel under the late Yitzhak Rabin, did so in person, without insult, professionally, and with expressed hopes of a renewal. Even Menachem Begin, who in his time was considered far more extreme than any minister now in Israel’s government, received the respect of American leaders.

Lovers of America and friends of Israel cry out for a lot less crying out between the two countries.

Perhaps an opportunity for repair of the US-Israel relationship is before us, next Thursday, July 19, when Israel’s President Isaac Herzog is scheduled to be be received graciously in Washington, where he will address a joint session of Congress, in honor of Israel’s 75th anniversary of independence. 

We hope this will be good for Israel and for Israel-US relations, but it highlights the necessity for Congress taking the lead in sustaining good relations between the two countries. That’s out of balance. The tone, the policy, the outreach, the good will, the honoring of shared values, should start from the top.

Copyright © 2023 by the Intermountain Jewish News

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