In the past four years, the strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States has become the most stable factor on the Middle Eastern political map. The clearest current expression of this mighty bond is the joint struggle of the two countries against the Islamic terror movements.
Prof. Aviezer Ravitzky (`Clinging to the middle ground,' Haaretz, April 11) was afraid that a clear pro-American position, even if it undoubtedly serves Israel's immediate strategic interests, will harm the Jewish diplomatic interest in the long run. He feels that this position denies us any future maneuvering room on a world level between the two clashing cultural blocs.
Therefore, it would be better to stick to the traditional policy of the Jewish people, which in similar past situations was wise enough to cooperate with one power or another without devoting itself to the point of closing all channels of communication with the rival power.
This suggestions seems fundamentally mistaken. First, it ignores the educational roles of the diplomat. The diplomat is above the politician in that he not only worries about the physical survival of his people, but also leads it according to moral and ethical standards. Winston Churchill understood this difference.
Unlike the appeasers of his generation, Churchill did not debate using arguments such as "not all the Nazis are so terrible, a few of them grew up in good homes and it will be possible to get along with them." Instead, he earned his eternity by making the sharp and unhesitating distinction between the good and the bad.
It is our right and even our obligation to demand similar behavior from our leaders. The current violent face of Islam does not leave room for any type of tactical maneuvering.
There is not, and cannot be, any justification for a stance that can be interpreted as forgiving toward behavior that is so contrary to basic human values.
Our leaders are being called upon to make a clear distinction between good and evil. In the long run, calculations of cost effectiveness, theoretically based on realistic considerations, are liable to cause the greatest damage. Instead of leading to greater diplomatic possibilities in the future, such calculations could blur the moral compass that is the most significant heritage of Judaism, without which it will not be possible to maneuver the Jewish people in its future paths.
In putting the good of the Jewish people at the center of his considerations, the diplomat arrives at another conclusion, also contrary to that of Ravitzky. It is worth remembering that the term "the Jewish people" is still not limited to just those Jews living in Zion. Therefore, we must avoid taking stances that could harm Jews living in the Diaspora. Such, however, is Ravitzky's contention, that taking an uncompromising anti-Islamic stance will harm the last hopes of reaching an understanding in the local arena between the Israelis-Jews and the Palestinians.
Even if this perception is correct, it is very narrow and even borders on abandoning Diaspora Jewry at their time of trouble. This group also is at the heart of the clash between Judaism and Islam. Sometimes the clash expresses itself quite violently, in the form of attacks on Jewish institutions and individuals.
The most common signs, however, appear in a seemingly less violent, but more troublesome form, on university and college campuses in Western Europe and the U.S. The Jewish students there are required, and not specifically in academic politeness, to explain and justify Israel's policies in the territories.
Will these students and their parents understandingly accept Ravitzky's recommendation that we return to the traditional Jewish policy in inter-bloc struggle situations, whereby the Jewish people refrains from siding with only one bloc? For the most part, this policy reflected the reality that there were Jewish communities in both camps' borders.
This is not the case today. We no longer need to fear the effect of our close ties with the U.S. on Jewish communities in the Islamic countries for the simple reason that such communities were emptied out long ago. We are obligated, therefore, to only one side of the struggle, and we will reach a moral low if, after over 50 years in which Diaspora Jewry has been required to fully support the State of Israel, we give our solidarity not only to the members of that group, but also to their mother countries.
Prof. Cohen is a senior member of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies and teaches at the Faculty of Political Science at Bar-Ilan University.
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