Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word

Some thoughts on Israel’s in(ter)dependence

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Seventy-six years ago, the British were, as agreed in the terms of the Balfour agreement, about to leave Palestine. The Holocaust was fresh in everyone’s mind, and the Jewish population of the nascent state was swelling by the day. Yet the declaration of the Jewish state was not a foregone conclusion.

Harry Truman, the US president who could make or break the UN vote, only agreed to statehood at the last minute, after visits from leaders of the World Zionist movement, including Chaim Weizmann. There were those in Truman’s cabinet opposed to the declaration, who thought there might be long-term consequences for the daring act, and they advised him to refuse.

Truman, once he had made his decision, stood by it. He was the first one to congratulate the newly-born state, and he remained a supporter.

Despite fast-setting-cement nature of that initial support, not once did David Ben-Gurion test its strength by declaring: “No one is going to tell us what to do!” The world was sharply divided, and Israel had, with a handshake or two, aligned itself with the free, capitalist half. Allegiances and alliances were all-important, and good friendship with the US was our ticket to years of support. American assistance pulled Israel out of the morass of the 1973 war, American money then underwrote the peace with Egypt that holds to this day.

Seventy-six years later, I find little to celebrate. The tarnished pomp will ring hollow, the fumes from grilled meat will be noxious and the air force fly over will not be significantly different from the ones taking place any other day of the last seven months.

Still, I will find time to reflect, not on independence as a stand-alone concept, but on its counterpart, reliance.

Despite the bluster, someone is, of course, telling us what to do. Bibi, when he thumbs his nose at our reliance on the US, ends up unconvincing to his home audience and, to the countries that have been supporting us until now, an arrogant little prick (pretty much their words, not mine). Reliance is as imperative now as it was in 1948, if not more so. We should be figuring out how to improve our relations and repair the tears in our networks. Our economy depends on import, export and “exit” sales to global concerns. Our cars run on imported fuel; our local milk comes from cows that eat imported grain. Our universities had, until now, some of the highest levels of foreign collaboration in the world. Our country’s credit ratings are set by foreign firms; our vacations start at passport control and our nickname, “the start-up nation,” meant investment from abroad was guaranteed. And our army runs on foreign arms.

We’d best be cognizant of the IOUs piling up in our cabinet drawers and manage a grateful ‘thankyou’ once in a while

I use the word reliance, though politicians prefer to say “friendship.” As in “our friendship with Israel is as strong as ever.” Friends can disagree, it is implied with a smile. If we rely on you, however, and admit that you are 30 times our size and are trillionaires to our modest millions, I think we can safely say, at the very least, the friendship is an unequal one. We’d best be cognizant of the IOUs piling up in our cabinet drawers and manage a grateful “thankyou” once in a while.

And let’s face it, “friends” call one another out on bullshit. Our buddy Joe had already told us to our faces he would not stand for an offensive that put too many civilian lives at risk. We already knew the dates of US elections and the effect his support for Israel is having on certain swing voters. Our pundits had already pointed out at the beginning of the war that our allies would get impatient with us once the war dragged on. So why the surprise and hurt when we tried to pull a fast one and got ourselves slapped down a notch?

If, as some claim, American refusal to support our Rafiah plan pulled a fulcrum out of our so-called “leverage” in the hostage negotiations, it is only because Sinwar knows we have no plan B, no “day after” strategy, lexicon or vision. Biden is not so much telling us we are losing American support as that we need to rethink our plan – the concept, as we call it, using a vague term to veil a failing strategy — before we try something that will get us all hurt.

Post-WWII geopolitics and the resulting clean split in the world enabled Truman to give his full support to the declaration of the State of Israel. It was a world that was tending toward stability, prosperity and American hegemony for the free Northern Hemisphere. The current state of the world is a place where hostility, conspiracy theories and racism are allowed to fester, where former alliances are shaky and new splits are widening. We are not the only war in the place, and our fortunes are tied in ways we have trouble predicting.

In this tricky situation, we are not only failing to shore up our relationships, we are giving our “friends” the finger, telling them in an annoying tone of voice that we know better, and acting as though the loans are gifts with no strings attached. We forget that friendships can be made or broken, but if those we rely on downgrade our ratings, boycott our research or stop standing by our side in the UN, we’ll find ourselves in freefall faster than we can say Jewish democratic state.

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
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