With Friends like These
Oz-Salzberger, Fania, Newsweek
Byline: Fania Oz-Salzberger; Oz-Salzberger is an Israeli writer and historian.
Washington's hawks are giving Israel a big bear hug. But at least half of Israel doesn't want their support.
"Dear God," some thoroughly secular Israelis are saying these days, "save me from my friends; I can deal with my enemies myself."
As the Palestinian-statehood bid approaches at the U.N., Israel is gripped by a sense of numb insularity. The Netanyahu-Liberman government is wading into the crisis with no creative alternative and zero prospects for solving either the old feud with the Palestinians or the recent ones with Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan. Reeling from a heady summer filled with peaceful protests for socioeconomic justice (all of which boosted civic optimism), Israelis are facing a gloomy autumn of diplomatic crisis, isolation, and conflict.
Yet this insularity comes with a strange self-assurance that many right-wing Israelis flaunt and many center-to-left Israelis loathe. And Benjamin Netanyahu gives quintessential voice to that attitude: America loves us; and soon, for they believe Obama is on his way out, it will love us even more.
A bear hug from the hawkish side of Washington is nothing new to right-wing Israeli governments. Many believe that George W. Bush helped stall Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by injecting nationalist hubris into the veins of Sharon, Olmert, and Netanyahu. A sense of entitlement surrounds Likud and right-of-Likud politicians as they hammer on with their settlement-expansion and "no partner" mantra, in the face of the Arabs, the peace-brokering international Quartet, and the global community. Obama--at first feared by the Israeli right--is increasingly seen as a mere blip on the radar, promptly counterbalanced by Congress, in the trail of Washington's unerring support for an uncompromising Israel.
Indeed, the new generation of pro-Israeli Republican hopefuls is dwarfing its predecessors with a pungent mix of messianic Christianity and a misplaced love of Zion. It feels like Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann are competing to win the prize for more-Israeli-than-thou.
During a visit to Israel in August 2009, Perry told The Jerusalem Post he was "a big believer that this country was given to the people of Israel a long time ago, by God, and that's ordained. …