No permanent allies or enemies, only permanent interests

Isi Leibler

The reality is that Israel today is independently strong and able to resist global pressures

Aware that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains an aggressive Islamist and presumably harbors as much love for Israelis as we do for him, the government was strongly criticized for the unpalatable concessions it granted to restore economic and diplomatic relations with Turkey.

The reality is that we have become increasingly conscious that alliances are not exclusively based on shared values or feelings of friendship.

Obviously a shared Judeo-Christian heritage is a major asset as evidenced by the love for Israel shared by Evangelical Christians in the US, which became an important factor restraining the Obama administration from abandoning Israel to curry favor with Islamic states. In contrast, the absence of a strong pro-Israel element in Europe facilitated the increasingly hostile European Union approaches to Israel.

European soil was drenched in Jewish blood during the Nazi era, aided and abetted in most cases by local collaborators. Today Europe faces an onslaught both internally and externally from Islamic fundamentalism which is challenging its social order. At the front line of the battle against Islamic terrorism is Israel, an oasis of democracy and stability in a region dominated by barbarism reminiscent of the Dark Ages.

Yet despite hypocritical calls for peace, Europe remains passive as the Muslim-dominated global community campaigns to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. The EU has applied moral equivalence to Israel’s self-defense and the criminal Palestinian regime which incites and sanctifies killers. It has sought to pressure Israel into accepting indefensible borders and is orchestrating efforts to force Israel to unilaterally make further concessions that could endanger its existence.

In this context Brexit may alleviate the situation by weakening the control of the post-modernist EU bureaucrats, many of whom regard any nation-state and in particular Israel as remnants of a bygone era of nationalism and imperialism.

They also undoubtedly now face their own nationalist problems.

The Netanyahu government is moving away from what was hitherto almost total dependency on the United States and is seeking to bolster relations with other countries. These efforts have been accelerated by the Obama administration’s undisguised attempts to “create daylight” in its relationship with Israel to appease Muslim states hostile to Israel, in particular the Iranian terrorist state.

Today Israel welcomes alliances based on pragmatic mutual economic, political or defense interests. Turkey fits into this category as do a number of Arab countries threatened with Islamic State (ISIS) and/or Iranian hegemony. Saudi Arabia (and the Gulf States), currently at least, are willing to covertly benefit from an Israeli military presence in the region. But we should be under no illusions: for generations the Saudis, like most Arab states, have been exposed to intensive anti-Semitic indoctrination – both religious and political. The Wahhabi religious teachings continue to promote obscene Nazi-style stereotypes of Jews and the mullahs tell their followers that we are direct descendants of apes and pigs.

Yet astonishingly, in the wake of a failed Muslim Brotherhood government, today we find ourselves sharing common interests with Egypt in combating ISIS and extremism in the Sinai Peninsula, which also includes Hamas. Taking into account the bitter anti-Semitism which permeates Egyptian society, it is a remarkable situation for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi to be calling for the eradication of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism in religious dialogue – and this week formally dispatching his foreign minister to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. But we should not delude ourselves that Sisi has become a lover of Zion.

These developments require constant juggling.

For example, Israel created mutual interest-based relations with the Greeks and Cypriots who had previously bitterly opposed us and we must endeavor to retain these ties despite our new relationship with Turkey.

Our most extraordinary, even dazzling relationship is with the Russians. Who could have envisioned that a former KGB officer, now president of Russia, would hold more annual meetings with the Israeli prime minister than the US president? And that this Russian president speaks in endearing terms about Jews in his country and his admiration for Israel. The arrangement between Russia and Israel since their involvement in the Middle East bloodbath on the borders of Israel is unprecedented and extraordinary. But despite what seems to be a genuine affinity between President Putin and Israel, if current mutual interests conflict we should be under no illusions.

We have also made significant progress in our relations with the two emergent superpowers India and China, as well as other South East Asian nations, and Netanyahu’s visit to Africa last week was a great success. We must now concentrate on persuading these nations to extend the economic cooperation to politics and convince them to cease voting against us at the biased international venues such as the currently hostile UN.

To sum up, this is a new ball game and we must tread cautiously and harbor no illusions.

We still look toward the US as our principal ally but cannot avoid sharing our profound concerns with both presidential candidates.

Hillary Clinton will be beholden to a radicalized Democratic Party which calls for Palestinian statehood with no qualifications despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority praises and sanctifies the cruelest terrorist outrages.

Donald Trump remains somewhat of an enigma and, if elected, few can predict which direction he would move in.

Netanyahu can be said to have absorbed Lord Palmerstone’s philosophy: “We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

Our relationship is based upon the reality that in many cases, the enemy of our enemy has common interests with us. But that does not mean that the enemy of our enemy is necessarily a permanent friend.

In this context Netanyahu has employed sophisticated diplomacy, retaining remnants of eroding traditional alliances but vigorously seeking to extend Israel’s diplomatic relationships to broader levels. To maximize this he must also strengthen our ailing Foreign Ministry and ensure that only top-quality diplomats serve as envoys. Today we have a number of outstanding diplomats serving simultaneously with the most appallingly ill-suited personnel representing us in critical locations.

For the foreseeable future many Arab states are likely to remain our bitter enemies. But there have been historic occasions when alliances based on realpolitik led to overcoming long-standing ethnic tensions as was the case between Germany and France. I remain the eternal optimist and believe the day may come when our neighbors will become reconciled to our existence and our grandchildren will live in harmony with them.

The reality is that Israel today is independently strong and able to resist global pressures. The US remains our most important ally and the only country in which shared traditions and personal relationships do impact on foreign policy and have prevented anti-Israel elements from abandoning us. Ironically, if we succeed in our current policy of broadening relations and become even more independent, it will actually strengthen our relationship with the Americans.

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