American foreign policy often seems to take its cues from 1980s John Hughes movies. We’re the jock kid, whose role in the movie is to protect the smart kid. In turn, he helps us with out homework.
The real world is a bit more nuanced than a John Hughes movie, however. Instead of helping with homework, our allies protect our strategic interests as we turn a blind eye to their human rights abuses.
Nowhere in the world is that scenario better exemplified than in the oil rich region of the Middle East. In our John Hughes movie, Saudi Arabia is the rich asshole. The country is one of the leading human rights abusers in the world, yet the US is so reliant on their oil reserves that US Presidents have been known to literally play kissy face with its leaders.
Then we have Israel, our smart but very complicated friend. Perhaps it’s my Jewish heritage, but unlike many liberals, I don’t view Israel and in particular, Israelis, as two dimensional villains. Even if I were to label Israel as the intruders in the region, the vast majority of living Israelis have known only one home: the state that we currently call Israel. In many ways, the argument that we (rightfully) use to defend Palestinians can be used to defend Israelis; they are fighting for their very literal homes.
That being said, the human rights abuses against Palestinians cannot be excused. America’s support of Israel should not be unconditional. We should not be supplying the weaponry. Is it any wonder that people who feel forced to resort to rogue warfare (aka terrorism) turn their sites westward, toward the Sleeping Giant?
The Israeli leadership, and particularly Benjamin Netanyahu, seem to feel that they have the US in exactly the position they want us, wrapped around their little fingers. In this video, Netanyahu is caught telling a group of people that we will get out of their way, that we will be “moved in the right direction” and that he has no fear of us. Here it is:
While Netanyahu is wrong that 80% of Americans support him, the American support is unwavering, despite the fact that far more Palestinians have been killed or injured in the latest round of attacks than Israelis.
Netanyahu was a friend and vocal supporter to Mitt Romney during the last election. It’s extremely rare for a foreign leader, especially of an allied country, to take sides in America’s elections. The political risk is simply too great. But as Netanyahu arrogantly anticipated, the political risk for a sitting American president to turn against Israel is probably greater.
Like most regional wars, it’s unlikely the conflict will last much longer. As the skies over Gaza once again quiet, Israel’s version of FEMA will sweep up the debris, while Gaza will lie in rubble. Netanyahu, in the meantime, will try to use the conflict and Iran’s reported ties to Hamas, to sway Americans into a yet another Middle Eastern war.
It’s possible, though, that some hope could be on the horizon. Israel is holding an election in January. The former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, could be jumping into the ring. It’s heavily rumored that before he was forced to resign from the post, he was just two months away from a peace settlement with the Palestinians. However, as things currently stand, Netanyahu, boosted by the military action, is anticipated to win and even if Olmert were to enter the race, it’s unlikely he’d stand a chance.