The Puzzle That Is Israel


Israel is supposed to be a staunch ally of the United States and in many ways it is. However, the American public, in general, knows little about Israel and certainly nothing about its internal politics. This doesn’t matter very much because the only thing of importance to Americans is that they believe Israel will provide military-related assistance, if and when necessary, to the U.S. in the Middle East. That is the ultra-simplified way to consider U.S./Israel relations, but still essentially accurate. While the American public is largely ignorant of Israeli political matters, it is always a bit surprised when the news media bring up situations that reflect serious divisions within this determinedly friendly state.

The truth is that the non-Jewish American public seems to be unaware that Israel has had any other prime minister that wasn’t Bibi Netanyahu. Maybe there is a glimmer of remembrance of the others, but Bibi is just about the only one they can recall. This may be an exaggeration, but not by much. After all, most Americans don’t think much about Israel except when they see on television some riot against the Jewish state in some Arab country. This may seem simplistic, but it’s realistic. This is why the current political competition between and among Israeli politicians is so little understood by the average U.S. television news viewer. It seems the one person they know is having a hard time holding on.

This is upsetting the American who cares, but there are not many of them. These few hear that their one known Israeli leader, Bibi Netanyahu, is being characterized as a “rightist” – a term that is not fully understood. On closer inspection, the right-wing character attributed to Bibi is currently grounded in his stated willingness to annex the West Bank in Palestinian territory. To add to that, Netanyahu is also facing serious corruption charges in addition to vociferous opposition claims that he regularly has attacked the country’s minority Arab population. The connections are tenuous, but they work in the cut and thrust of tough Israeli politics, even if it is far too arcane for the average American to comprehend. Israel is seriously divided on what may come next. However, Bibi appears in real trouble and Washington is very aware of that.

The one thing that appears clear, even to Americans, is that Bibi Netanyahu and any government he leads will take a hard line toward Palestinian ambitions and goals both within Israel and across the demarcation line into internationally recognized Palestine territory.

Meanwhile, Israel, with or without Netanyahu’s leadership, maintains a well-equipped military force dedicated to the protection of their country. And once again here is Netanyahu’s perception at work despite the strong effort of Israel’s Left to balance the perceptions of the danger of renewed efforts by the Palestinians and their Islamic allies to overthrow the existing structure and borders of the State of Israel. The current American Administration is solidly committed, though carefully unclear, in its definition of support for the protection of all aspects of the Jewish homeland.

Divided is the best way to describe the American Jewish involvement and interest in the current political situation in Israel. This is to say nothing of altered relations with Palestine and its people, both those who are within its territory and those who still live in Israel. There seems nothing that isn’t controversial when any form of challenge is posed. From a U.S. military and political standpoint, the entire issue can be best described as keeping a watchful eye on the issue – with fingers crossed. And that is about as professional as it gets – or maybe even can get!

The bottom line in this seemingly never-ending crisis continues to be played out in varying ways, while in spite of on and off TV coverage and comment the American public, in general, remains blissfully unknowing. No, Bibi Netanyahu is not running for President of Israel (at least not now). Yes, Israel shares technical intelligence and more – we think – with the United States. Meanwhile, American Jews seem to know nearly as little about Israeli affairs as the Americans who are not Jewish.  

And yes, if Moses had led the faithful to the northern part of Egypt, he would have found that land is connected to the Sinai without ever having to part the Red Sea. There is a meaning to this, but who knows what it is!