Friday, February 06, 2015

The Worst Decision for All Involved

            Recently, I watched the season three opener of The West Wing in which President Jed Bartlett delivers a speech to launch his reelection campaign.  White House staffer, Josh Lyman, is preoccupied throughout the episode with FDA approval of a new birth control drug that he does not want to “dominate the news cycle.” More than any other topic of debate, more than taxes and the size of the federal government, abortion and reproductive rights politically and emotionally divide the United States, and this debate encourages a range of futile attacks on both sides from boisterous, talk-show squabbling to violent protests around Planned Parenthood clinics. Currently, abortion is still the most sensitive, contentious issue facing the United States. However, without the vigilance of American and Israeli Jewry, House Republicans may very well drive a wedge through a fundamental, bi-partisan issue, for House Speaker John Boehner’s unprecedented invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu indicates danger for all parties involved.
            America’s equivocated aid for Israel, diplomatic, economic, and military, though, is not designated as a free grant for Israel to obliterate hopes of a peace process and eventual agreement for the sake of security. Rather, the US funds Israel so that we, as developed democracies who both face grey area over human rights and pressing concerns for self-protection, can learn from and improve one another, and a formative relationship with Israel provides strength for democracy in the Middle East. For Jews, American support of Israel protects our freedom to pursue self-determination, and after centuries of exiled from one anti-Semitic country to the next, we finally feel as though we have two established safe havens, one physical and one symbolic. Dismantling this relationship, then, pits liberal and conservative-minded Jews in direct conflict with one another. Just as what happens with any issue that results in partisanship, debate on Israel would stagnate as the majority offers its view and the minority stalls in protest. If the Camp David Accords faced the same divisiveness as Roe v. Wade, for instance, Carter would be waging a peace process on two fronts. When one focuses on the domestic qualms over a foreign issue, all prospects for resolution dissipate. Even for Jews who agree with Netanyahu and Boehner then, this decision will only weaken the degree to which America and its allies can help Israel.  Politicians tackle the abortion issue by doing one of the following: stroking their party’s base by taking on an extreme view or tip-toeing their way through the ambiguous “middle ground”. Either way, campaigns spend countless funds and hours over a topic in which they only sustain polarization. Birthright trips to Israel and summer camps would also have to tackle the issue in a new, exhausting age of political correctness.  In a neighborhood that seems to sustain itself on crises, such a decision would leave the American people and Jews all over the world helpless to establish a stable, meaningful connection to their homeland.
            Still, the Palestinians suffer as well. Granted, the factitious bodies of Hezbollah and Hamas will most likely benefit from the Netanyahu speech, using it as propaganda for the ignorance of the Israeli state. The majority of Palestinians, however, who face subjugation will either a.) be drawn to extremism and ultimately endure the continued hardship of war or b.) experience societal pain at the fault of the larger political forces on both sides that manipulate their daily lives. Partisanship in the United States creates a void for a mediator, one that comprehends the interests and obstacles of both sides as well as the promise of democracy. This vacuum not only spurs the conflict that inevitably wastes so many valuable lives but also reinforces systematic oppression that goes against American and Israeli ideals. In this invitation, Boehner and Netanyahu simultaneously withdraw their voice from the peace process, issuing a blank check for Hamas to wreak havoc on Israelis and Palestinians alike.
            Evidently then, Israelis lose most in this deal. In a contentious election, America’s vagueness over its relationship with the state boosts Netanyahu’s numbers. When the country focuses on securing itself, though, it ignores the root cause of the conflict itself, its own policy over the West Bank and Gaza particularly regarding the status of East Jerusalem and the construction of settlements. Moreover, Israelis will elect a vocal, religious right, projecting to the rest of the world its disregard for the fundamental rights of its founding. Israel will cede its biggest ally in the US and all of the nations that fall under American influence. Israel was once the most stable, promising democracy in the Middle East, but in its means of achieving a false version of that and in shielding its eyes to its own atrocities, Israel has betrayed itself and the world that brought it into being. By purposefully antagonizing Iran at a time when it is most willing to negotiate its nuclear program, Netanyahu merely provokes extremists throughout the region to support nuclear arms over energy. Instead of coordinating with the rest of the world to promote safety for Israel, Iran, and the region, Netanyahu has decided to sidestep diplomacy and place his countries needs over that of a country of 77.45 million. Granted, Netanyahu has a right to raise concerns about Israel’s security with a nuclear Iran, but he could do so while working in conjunction with all of Israel’s traditional allies.
            Without a change in course then, Israel would gravely suffer as a result of this speech. I can only imagine that West Wing episode with Lyman begging the State Department to avoid announcing its Israel policy so as not to plague a democratic president’s reelection campaign or provoke too much debate. Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and Speaker John Boehner, if you care about international stability, the condition of American Jewry, or your own legacies as politicians, please revisit your decision to replace an opportunity for bilateral compromise with partisan bickering