Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can take credit for the restoration of relations with the central African nation of Chad, and chalk it up as another diplomatic achievement in a series of considerable political successes. These include warming relations with India and other African countries that will seek Israel’s help, as well as gaining the support of certain Eastern European countries.
On Sunday, Netanyahu visited the central African nation of Chad to renew diplomatic relations after nearly 50 years, a move that the Israeli leader called “historic.”
But against the backdrop of these achievements, Netanyahu’s biggest failure —his relations with the US Democratic Party—resonates even more. It is true Israel’s relations with President Donald Trump are blooming after he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish state and moved the American Embassy there, but Trump is probably a short-term phenomenon.
In practice, support for Israel is weakening in the United States. The backing of the intellectual elite vanished a long time ago, and shortly thereafter that of US Jewry, and now the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel has infiltrated the US Democratic Party’s leadership.
The Israeli right-wing belittles the liberal camp in the US, while expressing enthusiasm over polls indicating growing support for Israel. But this is an illusion. In the past, the Jewish state enjoyed bipartisan support in the US. Those times have passed, and now Israel is losing support among the Democratic Party’s base and among young voters. The support among American Jews, most of whom are affiliated with the Democratic Party, is even lower.
We might not feel it immediately, but the damage in the long run will be severe. Bipartisan support and support from American Jews were strategic leverage for Israel, leverage that is now being eroded.
Things will be worse five years from now; a decade from now they will be terrible.
The New York Times recently published yet another opinion piece calling on Israel to implement the “right of return” for millions of Palestinians who fled in 1948 and their descendants, all of whom are classed as refugees. The implementation of the right of return means the destruction of Israel. The piece also calls on the US to reexamine its commitment to provide Israel with $38 billion in aid.
What appears in the first act as a demand in the most prominent and important newspaper in the US, will undoubtedly appear in the second act as a Congressional initiative.
This is happening because Netanyahu decided to surrender to the ultra-Orthodox parties over matters such Jewish conversion and the plan for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall, rather than to bolster Israel’s relations with American Jewry. It is also happening because Netanyahu preferred to make redundant statements about building thousands of houses in the Palestinian territories to please the radical right-wing, rather than strengthen bipartisan support for Israel.
In short, when Netanyahu had to choose between the long-term national interest and his own short-term political interest, he chose the latter.
But all is not lost. The relations between the Jewish state and most of the Democratic Party’s prominent members can still be mended, as can its relations with US Jewry.
This is not a matter of right or left. We may have completely lost some parts of American public opinion, but a smart policy can prevent severe damage. Many American Jews and/or Democrats could renew their support for Israel, since the hostility is currently more a state of mind than a matter of fact.
So with all due respect, Mr. Prime Minister, the US is far more important than Chad.
Reprinted with author’s permission from YNet News