Who Are Israel’s Friends?

Alan Elsner Image
Alan Elsner
on February 2, 2016

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Memo to: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
From: Director General, Ministry of Friendship
Subject: Our Friends  

An Op Ed in the New York Times by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon headlined “Don’t Shoot the Messenger, Israel,” raises the issue once again of who are our real friends in the world.

The Secretary-General, unfortunately, has crossed himself off that list. He wrote, “Nothing excuses terrorism. I condemn it categorically. It is inconceivable, though, that security measures alone will stop the violence.”

So far so good. But then, he went on the say, “As I warned the Security Council last week, Palestinian frustration and grievances are growing under the weight of nearly a half-century of occupation. Ignoring this won’t make it disappear. No one can deny that the everyday reality of occupation provokes anger and despair, which are major drivers of violence and extremism and undermine any hope of a negotiated two-state solution.”

Those sentiments are unacceptable. We reject the argument that the 1.8 million Palestinians fortunate enough to live in the liberated territories of Judea and Samaria under our benevolent military rule have anything at all to complain about. They resort to violence because they hate us, they always have and always will and nothing we do, or don’t do, will ever make a difference.

Unfortunately, the US ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, can no longer be considered a friend after delivering a speech last month in which he questioned why we were steadily expanding our settlements. He said: “Too many attacks on Palestinians lack a vigorous investigation or response by Israeli authorities; too much vigilantism goes unchecked; and at times there seem to be two standards of adherence to the rule of law: one for Israelis and another for Palestinians.”

Well of course. If we applied Israeli law equally to everyone who lives in the West Bank, we’d be accused by the entire world of annexing the territory. That time will come. Meanwhile, Israelis are Israelis and have all the rights of citizens and Palestinians are Palestinians and do not.

We are guided by the following principle: to be a true friend of Israel, a person, state or institution must agree 100 percent with everything your government does, Mr. Prime Minister. It is not enough to care about our future, to be deeply concerned about our security, to uphold our right to exist in peace, to support military aid and our qualitative military advantage in the region, to oppose boycotts and double standards, to support and uphold our democratic values and to rally to our side when we are attacked or threatened.

Secretary of State John Kerry has long been crossed off the list of friends but confirmed the wisdom of this decision when he recently warned that violence, settlement-building and demolitions of Palestinian homes were “imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.” He said the number of settlers had increased by tens of thousands in five years – implying that this was somehow a negative.

President Obama crossed himself off the list years ago for transgressions too numerous to list. Hillary Clinton, still leading in the campaign to become the next Democratic presidential nominee, still needs to do more to erase our suspicion after she kissed the wife of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat back in 2000. She’s apologized for that numerous times and professes her friendship at every opportunity – but let’s face it, she’s no Marco Rubio.

The European Union — all 28 members — has not been a true friend for years but when they recently put forward rules to label products from the settlements as products from the settlements, they joined the ranks of our enemies. They may think there is a Green Line dividing our historic homeland — but we know better. Settlement products are Israeli products, no matter what anyone says.

Some of the EU members are more fanatically against us than others. Top of the list is France, which had the temerity to suggest convening a peace conference — an idea that is as ridiculous as it sounds — and said it would recognize the so-called “State of Palestine” if nothing came of this. To echo your own wise words, Mr. Prime Minister, there will be no state of Palestine on your watch.

Apart from these non-friends, we also have many domestic enemies – authors, intellectuals, professors, journalists, leftists, peaceniks, Israeli Arabs and various non-governmental organizations which get money from foreign democracies to monitor what they laughingly call “civil rights.” Fortunately, with pending legislation you have backed, we will soon clip their wings.

You may ask, Mr. Prime Minister, who are our true friends?
That will be the subject of a future memo – unfortunately quite a short one.

Alan Elsner is Special Advisor to the President at J Street. He’s on Twitter at @alanelsner