Assessing US Support of Israel
Previously published on May 10, 2010
December 28th of 2008 marked the beginning of the Israeli government's bombing campaign on Gaza in response to Hamas rocket attacks. During the months of August and September, 2008, Russia led a similar brutal military campaign against weaker Georgia in response to an attempt to retake its breakaway territory of South Ossetia. Not surprisingly, the United States immediately supported Israel, yet opposed Russia's response. Although America's special relationship with Israel has often allowed the Israeli government to engage in distasteful behavior, which most Americans would never accept from the US government, the mounting deaths of civilian Palestinians is feeding rage throughout the Middle East and West. While the George W. Bush Administration had weakly urged Israel to attempt to curtail civilian causalities, a great deal more needs to be done to alter the behavior of Israel and Hamas away from such reckless violence.
Though America's support for Israel is unwavering, even under the Obama Administration and despite Israel's disrespectful policy to proceed with building new settlements in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank against the US wishes, it has cost the United States dearly. Issues like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan influence Middle Eastern perceptions of the US, but America's unique relationship with Israel weighs heavily on the minds of Muslims. With the focus of American military power and foreign policy currently directed toward the dangers of Islamic extremism, Israel's behavior threatens America's ability to fight terrorism by rallying supporters to groups like Al Qaeda and dissuading individuals from supporting America's efforts against terrorists.
Meanwhile, mass protests against Israel for killing civilians in Gaza create momentum for the anti-American sentiment that leads to terrorist attacks on Western targets and increases the danger for the many US servicemen and women fighting in the Middle East. Supporting Israel is a significant part of US foreign policy and that support will likely continue; however, America must influence the behavior of Israel's government away from such destructive acts. Even leaders in the Middle East view Hamas as a rogue government at best, but the Israeli government's treatment of the Palestinian population in response to terrorism is at issue. After all, without the support of key allies like the US, Israel could only survive by developing better relationships with its Middle Eastern neighbors.
Furthermore, the only means of achieving the goal of Middle East peace is for the Israeli government to combat Hamas without disenfranchising and harming Palestinians. Unfortunately, the current aggressions with Hamas and their impact on the civilian population will only serve to hurt relations in the Middle East as Hamas and Israel feed the devastating cycle of violence that has cursed the Holy Land of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. With a global war on terrorism primarily targeting Islamic extremism, the support of the Muslim world is ever so important. A lack of discretion in dealing with Hamas and a failure to protect the lives of the people in Gaza will only create greater support for extremists while further endangering Israel. Although the Bush Administration's soft, very traditional response to Israel's attacks was expected, more needed to be done by the Bush Administration to help the Palestinian people and the Obama Administration's handling of the situation.
Putting real pressure on the Israeli government to protect Palestinian civilians by curtailing their military actions would help demonstrate America values the lives of Muslims above its devotion to the Israeli government. Unfortunately, the view of President Barack Obama as a liberal leader creates greater resistance from critics when it comes to change in policy toward Israel. By the unpopular Bush Administration offering public criticism of Israel's behavior, it would likely have made it easier for the Obama Administration to adopt a policy that continues to support Israel, yet discourages reckless behavior while reinforcing Obama's popularity in the Middle East with sound policy toward peace. The violence between Israel and the Palestinians is decades old; however, the fight against Islamic extremism requires the United States to take a stance against Israel's extremely violent and devastating response to Hamas for the benefit of the people in Gaza, all Palestinians, the United States, and Israel.
Although the unrelenting devotion for Israel by Americans hinders the ability of policymakers to criticize Israel's behavior without risking careers, this support is becoming ever more costly, especially when the Israeli government so recklessly endangers the lives of civilians by unleashing bombing campaigns over a densely populated area such as Gaza. It is perfectly reasonable for Israel to respond to the rocket attacks of Hamas with force; however, endangering civilians and impeding the basic freedoms of a population segment in pursuit of terrorists will only prolong fighting in the West Bank and help fuel Islamic extremism around the world. Moreover, as Israel becomes increasingly disfavored in the Middle East, it becomes a greater burden for the United States to carry as an ally.