Streetwise

Some say that as Israel’s closest ally, the US has a special responsibility to support Israel and Israeli policies unequivocally. They argue that the rest of the world is biased against Israel, and that showing “daylight” between Israeli positions and our own will only weaken Israel in the face of her enemies.

What We Say:

The historic US-Israel alliance is stronger than ever, and the US must do all that it can to defend Israel from the greatest threats to its security. Given that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to pose the greatest danger to Israel’s Jewish and democratic future, the US can best protect Israel by helping it negotiate a two-state resolution to the conflict.

In the past, the US played a critical role in helping Israel negotiate peace with its enemies, in Jordan and Egypt, and only US leadership can bring about an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The US is not looking to impose a solution on the parties, and in the end, it will be up to the Israeli and Palestinian people to decide whether they will embrace a particular deal. But as a close ally, the US must reserve the right to confront Israel when it feels that it is acting counterproductively against its own interests and against the prospects for peace.

The strength of the US-Israel relationship cannot and should not rely on unconditional support. Debate over Israeli policies is healthy and open in Israel, and that is how it should be here, in our Congress and in our community.

For the Record:

President Barack Obama:
“If we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.” The New York Times, 6/4/2009

Secretary of State John Kerry:
“In the past, we came closest to peace when we had American leadership that encouraged everyone to make hard choices and earned credibility with all sides.” Brookings Institution, 3/4/2009

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel:
“The United States support for Israel need not be… nor should it be… an either-or proposition that dictates our relationships with our Arab allies and friends. The US has a long and special relationship with Israel, but it must not come at the expense of our Arab relationships. That is a false choice, and not in the interest of Israel or the US.” Atlantic Council, 10/27/2009

Former National Security Advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft:
“The dispute between the two sides is too deep, and the discrepancies of power between them too vast, for them to solve their conflict without the US acting as a determined outside and even handed advocate and facilitator.” Foundation for Middle East Peace

Senator John McCain:
"The United States of America has got to push as hard as we can to resolve this Israeli-Palestinian issue… I'd find someone even as high ranking as former President Bill Clinton to go and be the negotiator. I know he'd hate me for saying, that but we need a person of enormous prestige and influence to have these parties sit down together as an honest broker." Reuters, 11/18/2012

Facts and Figures:

According to a 2012 exit poll of American Jewish voters, 69 percent want the US to play an active role in helping Israelis and Palestinians achieve a two-state solution, even if it means publicly stating disagreements with both parties. GBA Strategies, 11/6/2012

A 2011 poll found that 61 percent of Americans want the US to lean neither toward Israel nor toward the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. University of Maryland, 9/8/2011

Consider This:

In the Economist, New America Foundation senior fellow Daniel Levy was named the winner in a debate with former presidential speechwriter David Frum, arguing that the US should act as an honest broker in its dealings with Israel and the Palestinians. Economist, 7/31/2009

Israeli negotiator Gershon Baskin shared his plan for how President Obama can jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in his second term and gain the trust of both parties. Jerusalem Post, 2/4/2013

Columnist Tom Friedman made the case that America needs more leaders like Hagel, who support Israel while recognizing that some Israeli policies threaten Israel’s future. The New York Times, 12/25/2012 The New York Times editorial board wrote that “while no one can impose a peace, the United States is still the most credible mediator. At a minimum, President Obama should be exhorting both sides to halt retaliatory measures.” The New York Times, 12/20/2012

Former Ambassador Philip Wilcox explained that the US has responsibility, “as Israel’s best friend and ally, to treat it like a real friend and to speak the truth.” Middle East Policy Council

Will Marshall and Jim Arkedis of the Progressive Policy Institute illustrated how President Obama can re-establish himself as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. Real Clear Politics, 1/13/2009