Monday, March 26, 2012

Peter Beinart’s False Prophecy: "The 'Crisis' of Zionism" Deconstructed

This is an important, cogent retort to Beinart's latest catastrophizing.  Some excerpts below.  Worth reading in its entirety. Hopefully, this will be read by the legions ready to get on Beinart's self-righteous, out-of-touch bandwagon.

david in Seattle

Peter Beinart’s False Prophecy

The Crisis of Zionism, his book arguing that the Israeli occupation alienates young American Jews, is sloppy with facts and emotionally contrived

“I wrote this book because of my grandmother, who made me a Zionist. And because of Khaled Jaber, who could have been my son.”
So begins Peter Beinart’s new book [1]The Crisis of Zionism, and already you know he’s off to a bad start. Leave aside the oleaginous appeal to Grandma. The real question is: Someone named Khaled Jaber could have been Beinart’s son?
Sorry if I just can’t get past hello, but this curious little intro tells us something about the methods—factually cavalier and emotionally contrived—of the whole book. Here’s the story: Khaled Jaber is a young Palestinian boy whose father, Fadel, was arrested by Israelis in 2010 for stealing water after being repeatedly denied access to pipes serving a nearby settlement. The arrest—and Khaled’s frantic efforts to reach his “Baba” as he’s being hauled away—were caught on a video and later reported in the Israeli press.
The connection to Beinart is that Beinart’s son also calls him Baba. That’s it. Yet watching the video sparked in Beinart what he describes as a kind of Damascene conversion: “For most of my life,” he writes, “my reaction to accounts of Palestinian suffering has been rationalization, a search for reasons why the accounts are exaggerated or the suffering self-inflicted. … But in recent years, for reasons I can’t fully explain, I have been lowering my defenses, and Khaled’s cries left me staring in mute horror at my computer screen.”
This is disturbing, though not in the way Beinart intends. Many people form their views of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on snapshot impressions, often shorn of the most basic context. That’s a shame, but at least most of these people don’t go on to write books on the subject. Journalists, by contrast—and Beinart is a former editor of the New Republic who currently teaches journalism at City University of New York—are supposed to, you know, dig deeper. Get the full picture. Go where the facts lead.
So, you might expect that Beinart would have made the effort to reach out to the Jabers, perhaps even by flying out and meeting them in person. Who is this family in whose name this book is ostensibly written? Are they supporters of peaceful co-existence with Israel or advocates of terrorism? Do they intend to vote for Fatah or Hamas at the next poll? Was Fadel’s arrest as unjustified as Beinart makes it seem? Is it true that Israel deprives Palestinians of their fair share of water rights? Would the Fadels be better off as farmers in a Palestinian state? What was the state of Palestinian agriculture—not to mention education, health, and infrastructure—before 1967?
These are real questions, worth exploring intelligently. The answers might be flattering to Israel. Or they might not be. But you won’t learn a thing about them here. The Jaber family arrives in Beinart’s story on page 1 and exits it on page 3, never to be heard from again. Beinart might think of them (or, perhaps, think he thinks of them) as flesh-and-blood people. But in this book they are merely props in the drama known as Being Peter Beinart, the self-appointed anguished conscience and angry scold of the Jewish state.
* * *
As readers of Tablet are surely aware, Beinart is the author of a June 2010 essay in the New York Review of Books, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” Beinart’s basic thesis was that institutional U.S. Jewry has slavishly followed a right-wing line on Israel at the very moment when younger American Jews are becoming increasingly sympathetic to Palestinians, ashamed of the occupation, and appalled by what Zionism has become.
How many minutes elapsed between the Review publication and the signing of a contract with the publishing imprint of the New York Times I do not know. Clearly it wasn’t long enough. A few months after “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment” first appeared—based primarily on the testimony of a Frank Luntz focus group—a team of scholars led by Brandeis’ Theodore Sasson released an exhaustive survey [2] of American Jewish views toward Israel.
The Sasson study [3] was to Beinart’s thesis approximately what Fat Man was to the city of Nagasaki. A whopping 82 percent of American Jews feel that U.S. support for Israel is either “just about right” or “not supportive enough”—and that’s just among those Jews who describe themselves as “liberal” or “very liberal.” Among those calling themselves “middle of the road,” the figure rises to 94 percent. Regarding the settlements, just 26 percent of even liberal Jews think Israel should dismantle all of them; among moderates, the figure drops to 10 percent. Generationally speaking, there even seems to be a rightward tilt among younger Jews. Consider Jerusalem: 58 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 29 oppose re-dividing it. Just 51 percent of their parents and grandparents feel the same way.
* * * 
Beinart’s habit of what is either inexplicable sloppiness or extreme interpretative elasticity turns out to be one of the defining characteristics of The Crisis of Zionism. In fact, one of the challenges of reviewing the book is that it practically demands a typology. Consider a few examples:
Elasticity of attribution:
Describing the effects of Israel’s policy toward Gaza after Hamas’s election in 2006, Beinart writes that “the blockade shattered [Gaza’s] economy. By 2008, 90 percent of Gaza’s industrial complex had closed.” The source of this claim is a study conducted by the IMF—in 2003.
Of omission:
Beinart quotes former Israeli foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami telling Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman that “If I were a Palestinian, I would have rejected Camp David as well.” Yet Ben-Ami said in the same interview that Yasser Arafat “was morally, psychologically, physically incapable of accepting the moral legitimacy of a Jewish state, regardless of its borders or whatever.” This goes unquoted. I suspect that’s because Beinart found it in The Israel Lobby [5] by political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, which also quotes the first part of Ben-Ami’s statement but not the second.
Of consistency:
Beinart acknowledges that “the populism sweeping the Middle East has unleashed frightening hostility against the Jewish state.” Yet in the same paragraph he writes: “The Egyptian leaders who have emerged in Hosni Mubarak’s wake are not calling for Israel’s destruction, let alone promising to take up arms in the cause.” Maybe Beinart should acquaint himself with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Essam El-Eryah, currently head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament. “The earthquake of the Arab Spring will mark the end of the Zionist entity,” El-Eryah said recently.
Of fact:
Returning to the subject of Gaza, Beinart writes that the Strip “remains a place of brutal suffering.” This, he adds, is the case even after Israel eased its blockade following the Turkish flotilla business in 2010.
Really? Here’s what New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof (whose politics track Beinart’s, but who also visits the places he writes about) had to say on that score in a July 2010 column: “Visiting Gaza persuaded me, to my surprise, that Israel is correct when it denies that there is any full-fledged humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The tunnels have so undermined the Israeli blockade that shops are filled and daily life is considerably easier than when I last visited here two years.”
There’s more of this. Much more. In fact, the errors in Beinart’s book pile up at such a rate that they become almost impossible to track.
Still, the deeper problem isn’t that there’s so much in Beinart’s book that is untrue, but rather so much that is half-true: the accurate quote used in a misleading way; the treatment of highly partisan sources as objective and unobjectionable; the settlement of ferocious debates among historians in a single, dismissive sentence; the one-sided giving—and withholding—of the benefit of the doubt; the “to be sure” and “of course” clauses that do more to erase balance than introduce it. It’s a cheap kind of slipperiness that’s hard to detect but leaves its stain on nearly every page.
* * *
A few months ago I read pretty much the same book by Gershom Gorenberg. But whereas Gorenberg’s The Unmaking of Israel is based on the honest toil of on-the-ground reporting, nothing in The Crisis of Zionism suggests that Beinart ever set foot outside of his study to write this book. “That’s not writing, that’s typing!” Truman Capote supposedly once said of a Jack Kerouac novel. Similarly with Beinart: It isn’t reporting. It’s Googling.
Again, you see it in the small but important details that Beinart misuses. For instance, in making the case that Israel could withdraw from the West Bank without putting its security critically at risk, Beinart commends readers to the authority of former Maj. Gen. Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, who is quoted as saying: “There is no longer an eastern front.” Translation: Top Israeli brass no longer views the Jordan Valley as a strategic asset because they don’t seriously fear a conventional attack along that front.
There are, however, problems with this reference. You have to realize that the quote is at least eight years old, uttered when the United States appeared to be triumphant in Iraq. You have to realize that it is lifted with little context from a Brookings Institute report by Gal Luft, whose views on the matter are more-or-less the opposite of Beinart’s. You have to realize that Farkash has been outspoken [7] in warning that an independent Palestinian state poses all kinds of security hazards to Israel. And you have to realize that even if Israel were to receive various security guarantees in a prospective peace deal with the Palestinians, it can have little confidence that those promises would be honored for very long.
* * * 
None of this appears to disturb Beinart much, except to prompt some glib and equivocal acknowledgment that Israelis live in a less-than-super neighborhood. Indeed, to read Beinart is to appreciate how much mental slovenliness can be contained by the word “but.”
• “Yes, the Islamist groups Hamas and Hezbollah traffic in anti-Semitism and murder Jews, but they gain strength when Israel—by subsidizing West Bank settlement and meeting nonviolent protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets and military courts—discredits those Palestinians willing to live in peace.”
• “Discussing the Hamas charter is important; people should read it. But listening to American Jewish organizations, one would never know that Hamas has in recent years issued several new documents, which are more compatible with a two-state solution.”
• “There is, of course, real anti-Semitism in today’s Middle East. But by too often ascribing criticism of Israel to a primordial hatred of Jews, American Jewish leaders fail to grapple with Israel’s own role in its mounting isolation.”
* * * 
 Beinart is singularly intent on scolding Israel, like an angry ex who has lost all grip on the proportions of the original dispute. To him, no Israeli misdeed is too small that it can’t serve as an alibi for Palestinian malfeasance. And no Palestinian crime is so great that it can justify even a moment’s pause in Israel’s quest to do right by its neighbor.
Paradoxically, the result of such thinking is an unwitting, but profound, contempt for the very Arabs for whom Beinart claims so much concern. Beinart’s Arabs are almost always characters off-stage, to be trotted out only when—as with the Jaber family—they can serve some trite homiletic purpose. These are Arabs who have no moral agency: They never act; they only react. The very thought that Palestinians need not celebrate suicide bombers or cheer the murder of Jewish children seems never to have crossed Beinart’s mind. They are like some not-fully domesticated animal that requires the ministrations of a horse whisperer lest it trample you underfoot.
This has implications for Beinart’s argument. To typical Israelis, theirs is a country of 6 million Jews faced with the ardent, sometimes fanatic, hostility of 350 million neighboring Arabs (to say nothing of another billion or so non-Arab Muslims) and the contested loyalty of one million of its own Arab citizens. Lebanon is in the hands of Hezbollah; Gaza in the hands of Hamas; Turkey and Egypt—until recently, its only significant Muslim allies—are gradually moving into the column of adversaries. In the past decade, it has had to fend off a steady drizzle of suicide bombers and Kassam and Katyusha rockets over the course of three separate wars. The Arab Spring has become an Islamist winter. Iran has now enriched more than 5,000 kilograms of uranium. Israel will soon have to roll the dice with a military strike or otherwise allow a regime that pledges its destruction the means to carry out that pledge almost instantaneously.
To all this Beinart’s considered reply seems to be: Whatever. Israel, he says, is a “regional superpower” that can dispatch its enemies almost with the flick of a finger. I can’t swear that Beinart never devotes more than a sentence to Iran’s nuclear capabilities (the review copy I used for this essay lacks an index). But I am pretty sure he doesn’t give the subject more than a paragraph, and certainly not a whole page. It’s true he makes a fuller case when writing about delegitimization and anti-Semitism. But here, too, he’s dismissive of the idea that there’s any real problem: “The main reason Israel generates disproportionate criticism from leftist academics, artists and labor unionists, not to mention the General Assembly of the United Nations, is not because it’s a Jewish state but because it’s perceived as a Western one,” he explains. So, now you know that the General Assembly’s 1975 “Zionism is Racism” resolution really wasn’t aimed at the Jews at all.
* * *
In Beinart’s world, then, Israel has no real mortal enemies—other than itself. Would that it were so.
Would that the happy outcome of Jewish statehood after 2,000 years of exile were the elevation of all politics to a form of ethics, and vice versa. Would that Israel be renamed Altneuland, after Theodor Herzl’s fable. Would that Israel’s politicians all be wise and just and its generals all kind and fair. Would that Israel’s enemies answer conciliation with conciliation. Would that Israel’s friends were true in fair weather and foul.
But that’s not how it is. That wasn’t the hand dealt to the Jews of 1948 when they fought—and shot, and killed and, yes, sometimes murdered—their way to statehood. That hasn’t been the deal with which Israelis have lived ever since. Maybe Beinart imagines that his own treasured Zionist legacy—the one he learned on his grandmother’s knee—exists in some sealed compartment, translucent and softly glowing. I suspect his grandmother knows better.
Here, then, is the core problem with The Crisis of Zionism: It is not a work of political analysis. It is an act of moral solipsism. It shows no understanding that the essence of statesmanship is the weighing of various unpalatable alternatives. Instead, the book imagines that politics is merely a matter of weighing “right” against “wrong,” both words defined in exclusively moral terms, and always choosing “right.”

This brings us to the occupation. For the sake of argument, let’s allow that everything Beinart says about it—the indignities it inflicts on Palestinians, its corrosive effects on Israeli values and democracy—is true. Does that alone make for a compelling argument for withdrawal?
A serious person would have to give this subject some serious thought. But not Beinart: Such is the cancer of occupation, in his view, that any kind of surgery that removes it will do. That includes his prescription to apply a limited form of the boycott-divestment-sanctions campaign—call it BDS lite—against Israeli settlements, a suggestion that he admits makes him “cringe.” His hope is to draw a line between the condemnation the settlements fairly deserve and what the current BDS campaign unfairly does to Israel as a whole. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that his idea amounts to another squeaky note in the blasting chorus that is modern-day Israel bashing.
* * *
This has been a harsh review. Perhaps not harsh enough. This isn’t because there’s nothing worth reading in the book—I commended Beinart’s chapter on Obama’s education in Jewish radicalism in a recent column [13]—but because there’s a book called The Crisis of Zionism that really does need to be written.
What would such a book be like? It can’t be a Peacenik’s Complaint. It can’t be a Likudnik’s Lament, either.
What such a book would do, however, is understand that Israel today is a country besieged by real enemies and phony friends. It would appreciate that the purpose of Israel is to defend its citizens, not to make Diaspora Jews feel upstanding. It would attend to Israel’s internal dilemmas, social, ethnic, and economic, which lack the cachet of “the conflict” but are arguably of greater potency. It would cock a listening ear to the conversations of the Arab world and consider carefully the implications of present upheavals. It would not treat the choices of the Israeli electorate with derision or elected leaders as mere boobs and knaves. It would be carefully reported and scrupulously fact-checked. As for “the conflict,” it would be sensible that in the event of a return to the 1967 borders, another day would come, and Israel would find that it had merely traded one set of unpalatable realities for another. This is not an argument for or against withdrawal. It is a plea for an intelligent argument, written in something other than a spirit of icy contempt and patent insincerity.
Any takers?

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

An Irish Artist and Founder & Director of Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group Have Change of Heart re:Israel & Palestinians

Israel is a Refuge Under Siege- Nicky Larkin
I used to hate Israel. Not any more. Now I loathe Palestinian terrorists. After Israel's incursion into Gaza in December 2008 I applied for funding from the Irish Arts Council to make a film in Israel and Palestine and spent seven weeks in the area.
    Posters of martyrs followed us throughout the West Bank. They watched from lamp-posts and walls wherever we went. But the more I felt the martyrs watching me, the more confused I became. After all, the Palestinian mantra was one of "non-violent resistance." Yet when I interviewed Hind Khoury, a former Palestinian government member, she refused to condemn the actions of the suicide bombers. She was all aggression.
    Back in Tel Aviv in the summer of 2011, I began to listen more closely to the Israeli side. I remember one conversation in Shenkin Street - Tel Aviv's most fashionable quarter, where everybody looks as if they went to art college. I was outside a cafe interviewing a former soldier. He talked slowly about his time in Gaza. He spoke about Arab teenagers sent running towards the base he'd patrolled. Each strapped with a bomb and carrying a hand-held detonator.
    Conversations like this are normal in Tel Aviv. I began to experience the sense of isolation Israelis feel. An isolation that began in the ghettos of Europe and ended in Auschwitz. Israel is a refuge - but a refuge under siege, a refuge where rockets rain death from the skies. My film is called "Forty Shades of Grey." But only one side was wanted back in Dublin. My peers expected me to come back with an attack on Israel. No grey areas were acceptable.
    Why have Irish artists surrendered to group-think on Israel? I would urge every one of those 216 Irish artists who pledged to boycott the Israeli state to spend some time in Israel and Palestine. Maybe when you come home you will bin your PLO scarf. I did. (Independent-Ireland)

"Corrupt" Palestinian Leadership Slammed by Palestinian Activist- Alison Goldberg (South African Jewish Report)
    "There are no Palestinian leaders capable of conducting peace talks," says Bassam Eid, founder and director of the Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group.
    He says the Palestinian leadership is corrupt and Palestinians are worse off under their administration after Oslo.
    Eid also castigated the Palestinian Solidarity Committees around the world for fomenting hatred between Palestinians and Jews that does not exist in Israel or in the territories.
    Eid is a former anti-Israel activist turned critic of the violation of Palestinian human rights by his own leaders. 

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Halevi Articulates Why Israelis Are Still Queasy About Obama's Reassurances

Why Israel Still Can’t Trust That Obama Has Its Back

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Friday, March 2, 2012

Yossi Klein Halevi: The Big Question: Can Israel Trust The United States When It Comes To Iran?

The concern over Iran's nuclear ambition has been with us for over 20 years now. When Yitzchak Rabin became Prime Minister in 1992, he already had his eye on the main threat facing Israel, Iran, even as he embarked on a peace process with the Palestinians. Eleven years later, Ariel Sharon was not as concerned with Iraq as he was about the growing threat from the Iranian Mullahs. Contrary to the Walt and Mearsheimer version of history, Sharon was fearful that an American assault on Iraq could potentially weaken American resolve when it came to the greater threat from Tehran. History has confirmed his fears. By not prosecuting  the Iraq War successfully from the beginning (and not securing the peace quickly and effectively through more serious nation-building), America set the stage for cold feet when it came to Iran. 

Today we stand on the precipice.  The military option to stop Iran from going nuclear may be the worst one: but it may be the only option that will prove decisive at this late stage. Halevi ponders Israel's excruciating dilemma. As Ari Shavit wrote last week, If Israel Strikes Iran, It'll Be Because Obama Didn't Stop It.  Next week's meeting between the two leaders may determine the fate of  the Middle East and the larger world for many years to come.  Let's hope when Bibi leaves Washington for Jerusalem, there is no light between the two capitals.
david in Seattle

Can Israel Trust the United States When It Comes to Iran?

Yossi Klein Halevi


When Benjamin Netanyahu meets Obama on Monday, the main issue will be trust. Obama will ask that Israel trust America’s determination to stop Iran, and trust that when he says all options are on the table he means it. Netanyahu will likely be thinking about May 1967.
In late May 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dispatched his foreign minister, Abba Eban, to Washington. Egyptian and Syrian troops were pressing on Israel’s borders; Egypt had imposed a naval blockade on the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s shipping route to the east. Eban’s request of President Lyndon Johnson was that America honor its commitment to back military action if Egypt blocked the Straits of Tiran. That commitment had been made by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in 1957, to secure Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai desert following the 1956 Suez War. Only a declaration by Johnson that he intended to immediately open the straits to Israeli shipping even at the risk of war—one idea was for the U.S. to lead an international flotilla—could stop a unilateral Israeli strike. Though Johnson was viscerally pro-Israel, he proved unable or unwilling to honor Dulles’ commitment. Preoccupied with Vietnam, Johnson wasn’t ready to support another war, let alone initiate one.
Even if Barack Obama is truly the pro-Israel president his Jewish supporters claim he is, the Johnson precedent tells us that it may not matter. Like Johnson, Obama presides over a nation wary of another military adventure, especially in the Middle East. According to Israeli press reports, Netanyahu intends to ask Obama to state—beyond the vague formulation that all options are on the table—that the U.S. will use military force if Iran is about to go nuclear. But few here expect Obama to make that policy explicit.
What the world remembers of the Six Day War era is Israel’s military victory in June 1967. But these days Israelis are recalling the vulnerability of May 1967, in the weeks that preceded the victory.
To be sure, Israelis understand that, in several crucial ways, today is different from 1967. Then, Israel was entirely on its own in facing the threat on its borders. Today, by contrast, many countries, including in the Arab world, regard a nuclear Iran as a very real threat. In 1967, the war was localized, while this time the consequences of an Israeli preemptive strike will directly affect the international community and especially the United States—and perhaps not only economically. Iranian attacks against American targets—or Israeli difficulty in fighting a multi-front war—could draw America into conflict. And that could risk the stability of the American-Israeli relationship.
The Iranian nuclear threat could force Israel to choose between two of its essential national values. On the one hand, there is the commitment to Jewish self defense. On the other hand, there is the longing to be a respectable member of the international community. Allowing an enemy that constantly threatens Israel’s destruction to acquire the means to do so would negate Zionism’s promise to protect the Jewish people. And launching a preemptive strike without American backing could lead to Israel’s isolation and risk Zionism’s promise of restoring the Jews as a nation among nations.
In this excruciating dilemma, the question of whether Israel can trust the administration to act militarily against Iran becomes all the more crucial. Israeli leaders believe that their window of opportunity in launching a preemptive strike will be closing in the coming months. America, though, with its vastly superior firepower, could retain a military option even after Israel’s lapses. In other words: An Israeli decision not to strike this year will mean that it effectively ceded its self-defense—against a potentially existential threat—to America. When Obama tells Israel to give sanctions time, what he is really saying is: Trust me to stop Iran militarily when you no longer can.
Yet the message from Washington in the last few weeks has only reinforced Israeli suspicions that we are back in May 1967. The spate of administration leaks to the media questioning Israel’s military capability in confronting Iran has undermined Israeli confidence in American resolve. An adminstration serious about stopping Iran to the point of military intervention would convey messages that raise Iran’s anxiety, not Israel’s. By insisting that Israel’s military threat isn’t credible – without at the same time explicitly stating that America’s military threat —the administration reassures Iran that it has little to fear from military action. The Israelis can’t and the Americans won’t. 
Then there was the comment by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, to the effect that Iran hasn’t yet decided to build a bomb. If Dempsey’s point was to reassure Israel, he managed the opposite. Dempsey reinforced a long-standing Israeli fear that the administration is prepared to live with nuclear ambiguity—that is, a situation in which Iran could quickly assemble a bomb while choosing for the time being not to. According to this scenario, Obama would negotiate an agreement that would allow him to claim he’d stopped Iran while in fact ensuring its nuclear capability. For Israel—and for Arab countries—that outcome would hardly differ from an explicitly nuclear Iran. In either case Tehran could credibly threaten Israel and blackmail the Arab world.
In the last few days, in anticipation of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, Washington’s tone has finally begun to change. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that America’s goal is to prevent Iranian nuclear capability, period. And U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz announced that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have a detailed plan to strike Iranian nuclear sites should that become necessary.
While those statements help ease the tension between Washington and Jerusalem, they don’t go anywhere far enough. Israel needs a public, unambiguous warning from Obama to Iran that, if sanctions fail, America will use military force—that a nuclear Iran is as much a red line for this administration as, say, an Iranian blockade of the Straits of Hormouz. Only that kind of threat has the chance of restoring American credibility—not only for Israel, but also for the Arab world and, not least, for Iran.
Given that Obama is unlikely to make that threat, Israel will hope, at least, for a change in the administration’s signals about an Israeli strike. Iranian leaders need to hear from Obama that Israel has the right to defend itself against a nuclear threat.
And if that message, too, is not forthcoming? Faced with an imminent existential dilemma, Israel will probably opt for preemptive self-defense, even if that means risking its special relationship with America—a different kind of existential threat.
The precedent of the two Israeli attacks against Arab nuclear facilities—in Iraq in 1981 and in Syria in 2007—reinforces Israeli determination to stop Iran, unilaterally if necessary. Israel, after all, prevented a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein and a nuclear-armed Bashar Assad. And it did so without asking America’s permission. Yet the administration can credibly counter that in neither case did Israeli unilateralism threaten to draw America into an armed conflict, as it does now.
In the end the dilemma for both Israel and the U.S. isn’t only strategic but ethical. Israel has a moral responsibility not to surprise its closest friend with an initiative that could drastically affect American well-being. And the U.S. has a moral responsibility not to pressure its closest Middle East ally into forfeiting its right to self-defense against a potentially genocidal enemy.
In better times, the two allies might have been able to navigate these conflicting needs. But in the absence of mutual trust, what could remain are conflicting perceptions of interest.
Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor for The New Republic and a fellow of the Engaging Israel Project of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerualem. He is completing a book about the Israeli paratroopers who fought in Jerusalem in the Six Day War. 

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