US President Joe Biden said in a television interview with CNN that “the government under Benjamin Netanyahu is too extreme. Itamar Ben-Gvir and Betzalel Smotrich are part of the West Bank problem.” In Jerusalem everything is played down by the government. But a number of newspapers and experts are warning of an explosion between Jerusalem and Washington. To what extent can Israel allow interference from foreign governments?
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman warned in his op-ed that “the current government in Jerusalem is willing to risk civil war in Israel.” According to Friedman, the Israeli government is also endangering the common interests of both countries. Friedman is himself Jewish and a high-ranking political commentator in the American media. In his column, he harshly criticized the controversial judicial reforms and stated that Washington is already reconsidering its relationship with Israel. In Jerusalem, this was downplayed and a senior official explained that this was normal and had happened on several occasions in the past: “The Ford government reconsidered its relationship with Yitzhak Rabin’s government. The Reagan administration reconsidered its relationship with the Menachem Begin administration. The Bush administration did the same with the government of Yitzhak Shamir. And the Bush Jr. administration did this to the administrations of Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon.”
As in the biblical past, so today Israel is dependent on great powers. During his 55-year reign, King Manasseh in the southern kingdom of Judah remained a loyal vassal of the great Assyrian power, thereby guaranteeing political stability. King Ahab of the Kingdom of Israel was a talented and prosperous king dedicated to strengthening and establishing his domain in the north. The Bible condemns King Ahab as one who did evil in the sight of God, but his repentance deferred divine punishment. Archaeological discoveries in the ancient Near East shed light on King Ahab as a great statesman. In the 9th century BC, a state took shape in Mesopotamia that soon became a superpower with advanced technological advantages, including a newly developed cavalry system. The countries of the region had no military answer to Assyria. The game of alliances with great powers has always been a part of Israeli politics.
Friedman wrote that the Biden administration sees the far-right government in Israel, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, as leading the nation to extremism under the guise of a judicial reform that undermines the shared interests of Israel and America. Friedman also criticized National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir for saying earlier in the week that “Israel is not a star on the American flag.” That’s right, Israel is not the 51st state of the United States. But as Friedman pointed out, Israel has received the most US financial support of any country since World War II at $146 billion. “That’s a lot of pocket money, so Ben-Gvir, who was convicted of inciting anti-Arab racism in his youth, should show a little more respect for the American president,” he wrote.
“It’s no secret that we have disagreements with the American administration over the establishment of a Palestinian state, a return to the dangerous nuclear deal with Iran, and a no-surprises policy by Netanyahu over a possible attack against Iran,” said the same government source in Jerusalem. “Despite these regular reassessments and disagreements over the years, Israeli-US relations have strengthened over the decades, reaching a record level of security cooperation under the leadership of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu will ensure that this trend continues.”
It has to be mentioned that Friedman was never a big fan of Benjamin Netanyahu and has very strong ties to the Democratic Party, with which Bibi is on a little less friendly terms than the Republicans.
Furthermore, Donald Trump this week poked Netanyahu saying, “Bibi was the first to congratulate Joe Biden after his election victory and has not been invited to Washington to date.” Trump remains bitter over what he sees as Netanyahu’s betrayal in too quickly congratulating Biden amid a contested election outcome.
The Biden administration interferes in Israel’s politics no less and no more than previous US administrations. All American governments have interfered in Israeli politics. In the late 1970s, Jimmy Carter urged Menachem Begin to sign a peace agreement with Egypt. Later books and studies often discussed Carter’s threats. When Israel receives $3 billion in US military aid annually, it forces both sides to be more considerate.
The thing is that Israel contends with a unique mix of political and spiritual tension. The current government consists largely of right-wing nationalist and Orthodox Jewish parties that put their trust in God first. At least that’s how they often imagine it. Of course, Netanyahu is more balanced, emphasizing the importance of the alliance with the American superpower. Israel’s existence is primarily due to God, and I think most Israelis in the country understand that. But others also say that America is behind us and is helping to fund Israel’s security. Rulers come and go. Between Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Donald Trump ruled in Washington, and he was a great fit for Israel and Netanyahu in particular. The current government in Jerusalem hopes that next year Trump will again win the election.
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