This past election season included mentions of domestic woes, poor economic performance, and a graze over of shallow foreign policy. Libya and Iran took most of the attention, but after that, the country that drew interest was the state of Israel. Regardless of which candidate would claim a victory, neither could afford to ignore this small yet prominent country. In an effort to sway Jewish voters, Romney picked up the Israel issue as an attempt to garner sympathy. This ultimately did not result in much change except for his obvious effort to poke at Obama’s shaky relationship with Israeli leader Netanyahu. When polled, only 4% of Jewish American voters viewed Israel as a top priority for their voting decision (Etzioni, 2012). Like most Americans, they were focused on domestic issues such as the economy or health care. If Israel is not a top voter priority, then why is it so crucial for American foreign policy?
For those who are geographically challenged, Israel is located in the Middle East. This region holds an unimaginable importance to the future of the global community and American interests. What separates Israel from the states that surround it is the established and stable democracy it boasts. All the main features that add up to a traditional democracy are present. These include legitimate elections, majority rule with individual rights, accountability within the system, and freedoms of speech and press. In a specific case, an Arab member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, was even allowed to visit and sympathize with known terrorist organizations. He vocalized what he found wrong within the state and stated his support in some aspects of these groups (Levick, 2012). Of course, this was all accomplished within the democratic institutions established by the state. It is evident that freedom of expression is not an issue here. One of the major issues in other states in the region is the suppression of voices and opinions of citizens. Having an open flow of opinions and an outlet of expression to others makes this concept of democracy even more concrete. Being the lone liberal democracy in the region has created quite a tension to maintain that role and use it wisely.
The surrounding areas of the Middle East and North Africa are currently undergoing massive transitions into what the world can hope are stable democracies. The Arab uprisings each encountered unique situations but all shared the common goal: to rid themselves of a “sultanistic” leader. This term describes a regime that has similar features to neopatrimonial rule, namely an exertion of personal authority, a small corrupt personal support system, and keeping the masses deprived yet satisfied enough to comply with their rule (Goldstone, 2011, 9). While the United States might not necessarily be directly intervening in those cases, it is clear that as a country we wish for at least stability and ideally, democracy to spread.
The United States needs to work with Israel and lead by example. By smoothing out relations with each other and encouraging peace talks among the Israelis and Iranians, a sense of stability and perhaps equilibrium can at least be established, even if it is temporary. As long as the relationship is strengthened between the US and Israel, it will hopefully demonstrate that democracies are strong and fair systems, and hopefully the surrounding areas can strive to follow suit. Proving that this liberal form of government can endure disagreements in leadership and some policy-making decisions goes to show its overall effectiveness. Setting a strong precedent is the best way to get any point or idea across.
America and Israel share many fundamental features. Firstly, both are predominantly immigration countries. They grow because people want to move and live there. This also means they have faced similar hardships in the terms of what to do about granting citizenship and deciding who is worthy of representation and rights (Strenger, 2012). The United States has taken hundreds of years to overcome these obstacles, while Israel is in the process of doing so within a much shorter time span. Secondly, both are filled with business and technological innovations. Israel has the highest concentration of high-tech start-ups in the world (Geromel, 2012). Many large American companies such as Google and Microsoft have opened numerous offices and labs there in recent years to expand on their business and innovation. Israel is an invaluable resource to our government as well. Military training, intelligence, and technologies are often shared and work together. Counter-terrorism efforts are often partnered up and assist each other (Blackwill, 2011). With mutual ambitions and the acknowledgement of the importance of democracy, the Israeli-American relationship has no reason to falter.
Netanyahu is up for re-election in January, and will most likely keep his post (Heller, 2012). He and Obama have their work cut out for them. They both realize the extent of their cooperation. We must support them, as people and as a country and they will continue to support us. People who hold similar values are irreplaceable resources. Democracies need to stand together and work together to achieve a common goal of stability and reap benefits for both states. This is possible, and should be actively pursued. America’s relationship with Israel should not be taken for granted or thrown onto the back burner and be forgotten by the American government and people. There is room to grow and mend the relationship that has taken many blows in the past several years. The course of action is quite clear – we must stand with Israel.
Blackwill, R. D. & Slocombe W. B. (2011, October 31). Israel: a true ally in the middle east. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/oct/31/opinion/la-oe-blackwill-israel-20111031
Etzioni, A. (2012, November 4). Israel doesn’t swing jewish voters. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/04/opinion/etzioni-jewish-voters/index.html?hpt=op_t1
Geromel, R. (2012, May 16). Proctor & gamble explains why israel is the start-up nation. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ricardogeromel/2012/05/16/procter-and-gamble-israel-startup/
Goldstone, J. A. (2011, August) Understanding the revolutions of 2011. Foreign Affairs, 9(3), 8-16. Retrieved from http://heinonline.org
Heller, J. (2012, November 7). Obama reelection spells trouble for netanyahu. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/07/obama-re-election-netanyahu_n_2087591.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003
Karon, T. (2012, November 5). Five countries where the u.s. election matters most. Time. Retrieved from http://world.time.com/2012/11/05/five-countries-where-americans-choice-matters-most/
Levick, A. (2012, November 6). Condemning israelis democracy, while serving in the knesset. The Jewish Press. Retrieved from http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/cifwatch/condemning-israelis-democracy-while-serving-in-knesset/2012/11/06/
Strenger, C. (2012, November 7). Obama’s victory and the american social contract: lessons for israel. Haaretz. Retrieved from http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/strenger-than-fiction/obama-s-victory-and-the-american-social-contract-lessons-for-israel.premium-1.475932