Hillary Clinton keeps saying she wants to take the Israel relationship “to the next level.” What could that mean? Robert Danin, a former peace processor now at Harvard’s Kennedy School, has an article in Foreign Affairs calling for a treaty between the United States and Israel to establish a “formal alliance” that requires the U.S. to defend Israel– and thereby “lock in” the special relationship before Americans get too lukewarm about Israel.
Danin worries that the Democratic Platform fight heralds a new American perception of Israel as a Goliath, and so he urges Israel and the U.S. to formalize the relationship before all the young progressive hordes get out of college and end what he describes as a “romantic” view of Israel. And he says that the special relationship is vital to Israel because “many countries throughout the world perceive the route to Washington as coming through Jerusalem. So this improves Israel’s standing in the world.” I never heard it put so baldly before: Warm up the empire by sucking up to the client state. (No wonder, Scott McConnell in his new book Ex-Neocon, argues that Israel has been a transmission belt for bad policies.)
Danin explained these ideas yesterday on a press-conference call arranged by Foreign Affairs about the Israel-Palestine conflict, which featured, drum-roll please, Zero Palestinians. He rejected the idea put forward by neoconservative Martin Kramer that “the day will come when the Jews will find themselves alone” and “the relationship with the U.S. will wane.” So Israel must go-it-alone.
No no no, Danin said. Speaking as an advocate for Israel, Danin allowed that Kramer’s stance is “deeply rooted in the Zionist ethos,” but “the danger here is to make a virtue out of a necessity, or maybe a necessity out of a virtue.” (The idea of Jewish sovereignty being a virtue.) Danin:
In any case I think it is divorced from the realities of what Israel is today, which is a medium sized power in the region which is very closely aligned with the United States, along with a number of states, and that Israel benefits a tremendous amount, which is well, known from its relationship with the United States both directly and indirectly– directly in terms of all this military hardware, the political cover it gets in international fora, etc etc, and also indirectly, because many countries throughout the world perceive the route to Washington as coming through Jerusalem. And so this also [improves] Israel’s standing in the world. So to me this is a tremendous asset which would be a shame to forfeit.
Note that Danin is serving again as an advocate for Israel’s interests. And while many on the right in Israel say that the country can turn to India, China, or Russia, because they don’t need Europe and the U.S., they’re wrong.
I think this is a misreading of reality. Because at the end of the day, Israel’s legitimacy and whole existence was rooted in the western tradition. It came out of western history, recent and ancient. And to squander something that exists is a shame.
That’s why he recommended “something even much more dramatic” than a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S., but a “formal alliance,” a treaty between the countries. But do it fast, guys!
Because if you look at the trends taking place in Israeli society … and the trends taking place in American society. We see taking place particularly in the Democratic Party in generational changes in the United States– the old romantic attachment that the United States feels or Americans feel towards Israel is shifting, and slowly and imperceptibly as the occupation nears its 50th year, of the West Bank, the perception in the United States has grown from one of seeing Israel as being David against the great… surrounding power to Israel itself being the Goliath. However inaccurate that may be, that is a perception that is taking hold and we are seeing it playing out now in the Democratic Party over the platform fight, for example. So to me now is the opportune moment if I were an Israeli to want to lock in the benefits of the U.S. relationship in a in a formal alliance in a way that many countries in the world have done so.
Danin formerly served in the State Department and as a negotiator with the Quartet. These comments strike me as evidence of how deeply-rooted the Israel lobby is in American public life. Danin is probably Jewish, I don’t even know; that would certainly give the Zionist ideas more oomph; but he sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton here, extolling the special relationship, and it’s a reminder that this is just how the world works now. Israel and the U.S. must be joined at the hip, because that’s the way power has been arranged between Washington and the Gulf of Oman, and to upset that arrangement would be convulsive, and who knows what would follow. It is extremely conservative thinking. Especially because it dismisses the ideas of the young and restless as purely disruptive, rather than a progressive response to 50 years of denying the Palestinian people any rights. The White Citizens Council surely talked like this back in the days of Jim Crow.