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It’s hard to blame your uncle when you’re 62

Israel/Palestine
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Yonatan Touval, one of the Israelis behind the Geneva Initiative, clearly articulates the degree and ways in which Israel has suffered as a result of its special relationship with the United States. His hope is that Obama might correct the imbalance in the relationship and make it one based on genuine mutual interests, yet the quirk in Touval’s analysis is his claim that Israel is a victim in a relationship thrust upon the Jewish state — that America has indulged Israel “to the point of abuse.”

“Take the money,” insisted Uncle Sam. Little Israel was powerless to refuse. And now look what this over-indulgent uncle has done to its helpless nephew.

I guess this can be seen as a version of the “friends don’t let friends…” sentiment. Even so, the fact that Israelis still feel they can push their Little Israel image seems itself to be an expression of the way Israel has been over-indulged.

In “Pox Americana,” Touval writes:

Put simply, the relationship has damaged Israel by turning it into an adolescent state that doesn’t take responsibility for its own actions. And why should it take responsibility, when America’s uncritical embrace allows it to behave with the certainty that no action would ever be too costly – America would always save it from military, economic or diplomatic ruin.

To the extent, moreover, that this certainty has weakened Israel’s resolve to settle its conflict with its neighbors, the country has been further damaged by the loss of faith that the conflict could ever end. Hence the powerlessness to stop the occupation. This has had a terribly corrosive effect on Israeli life – from the high level of stress in everyday living, to the distorted allocation of national resources (Israel’s 2010 state budget allocates $14.4 billion for defense, a figure equal to 6.7 percent of the country’s GDP – the highest of any developed nation ), to the psychological adjustments that Israelis must make in the face of the deepening erosion of democratic values and growing doubts about the future prospects of the country as such.

Israelis have become accustomed to living under such anomalous conditions because, in many respects, the cushion of the special relations with the United States allows them to. But being habituated is a mixed blessing – which is also to say, a mixed curse.

Indeed, rather than habituation, Israel needs rehabilitation. And to those on the other side of the ocean who would disclaim responsibility, by placing the onus on Israel alone, we Israelis can only respond: “Where have you been all this time? It is you, America, that has turned us into what we are.”

Paul Woodward
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