Several events that have taken place over the past week highlight where the United States and Israel do not see eye to eye. One such event is the White House’s first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism. To Israel’s surprise, the Biden administration avoided a clear endorsement of the mainstream, widely accepted definition of antisemitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), after progressive entities (including several Jewish organizations) argued that the IHRA definition does not allow for what they describe as “legitimate criticism of Israel and its policies.” Progressive groups also urged the Biden administration to leave out a definition of antisemitism entirely or consider alternative definitions.
Moreover, among the creators of the document, titled “The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism,” the White House included the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a partner in building “cross-community solidarity” to combat antisemitism. This is disconcerting since the FBI has concluded long ago that leaders of CAIR are linked to the designated anti-Israel terrorist organization Hamas.
Another issue that has been on the table between Washington and Jerusalem for quite some time is the inclusion of Israel in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The program enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. Recently, 16 senators, led by Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Administration not to include Israel in the VMP until Israel meets certain conditions of reciprocity that they believe are necessary for inclusion in the program.
The letter completely ignores Israel’s complex security issues with the Palestinians and demands that all American citizens of Palestinian origin will be given a free pass into Israel and will be free to travel within Israel with no questions asked. Even though one of the initiators of the letter, Brian Schatz, and one of the signatories, Bernie Sanders, are Jewish, they show no sympathy for Israel’s position. On the contrary, they are leading the demand for Israel to act against its own security interests.
I am bringing up these two issues not in order to criticize the US for its policy or to rebuke this or that senator for advocating an anti-Israel policy. I am doing this in order to stress the obvious truth that US-Israel interests are becoming increasingly discordant, and that Israel should not expect the US to take Israel’s best interest into consideration.
Also, the fact that one of the initiators of the VMP letter is Jewish, and that one of the signatories is a known Israel-basher Jewish senator, proves that a significant portion of American Jewry has no regard for Israel’s security. The conclusion Israel must therefore draw is that it can no longer rely on American Jewry to support it and work in its favor in the US government. The alliance that Israel has had with the US for decades is clearly weakening, including with American Jewry, and I am not sure how long it will last.
It is time for us, Israelis, to stand up for ourselves. It may be painful, but we must realize that US interests are often different from ours, and often contradictory; we cannot rely on them, and we should not expect America to cater to Israel’s needs. We need to do this for ourselves, and we could not begin too soon.