Israel's Delusions of Grandeur

How did the country maneuver itself into being an 'outpost of democratic capitalism' when it is really only a small country in a big world?

Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing a rally in Jerusalem, October 2015.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, October 2015.Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO
Odeh Bisharat
Odeh Bisharat

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu boasts, “The United States supports Israel to the tune of $3 billion a year. You spent on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq a trillion and half [dollars]. So that’s five centuries worth of support for Israel.” He said this during his recent visit to Washington, D.C., when he received the Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute. But what’s the connection between support for Israel and the war in Afghanistan? According to Netanyahu, there’s definitely a link: America needs outposts of democratic capitalism, and Israel is a sister nation of America in its fight to create a better world. We are allies.

On this festive occasion, we can also include Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some banana republics in South America among these proud outposts. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, while Qatar employs foreign workers in conditions of slavery. But according to Netanyahu, unlike other democratic outposts, “Israel doesn’t ask for any American troops. We never have, and we don’t intend to. We can defend ourselves. We just want to have the tools.” What, those ungrateful Americans need more? Israel is working “all inclusive” and dirt cheap.

It’s not only the victims – the wounded are also thrown in on the house, as are the shell-shocked, the parents who have lost their reason for living. Really, the owner has gone crazy!

The basic question is this: How did Israel maneuver itself into being an “outpost of democratic capitalism” (witness its democratic performance in the occupied territories). Avinash Dixit and Barry Nalebuff, authors of the book “The Art of Strategy: A Game Theorist’s Guide to Success in Business and Life,” write: “You may be thinking you are playing one game, but it is only part of a larger game. There is always a larger game.”

So is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict part of a larger game? We can assume it is. We can even take bets that what is happening now with knives, stones and shootings is just a small gig compared to the real global game. Can someone please explain, for example, what is included in the “strategic alliance” with the United States? Is it only practicing Hollywood-style raids on pathetic hospitals in Ramallah, or something more sinister?

More than that: If they dig deep, they will discover that the circumstances of the brutal 1955 ousting of Israel’s second prime minister, Moshe Sharett, on the eve of the Sinai Campaign, arose from similar circumstances. Sharett, who wanted a “state of law and order,” not “robbery,” was also ousted from the Foreign Ministry and replaced by the “man of strife,” as Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion called himself.

Anyone who reads Sharett’s memoirs will learn that for two years, when he was prime minister, he stood like a dam blocking dangerous adventurers, disciples of the man of strife, who wanted Israel to fill a role suitable for an empire rather than a small country, whose security and the welfare of whose citizens were supposed to be its top priority.

Netanyahu’s apex came when he his American audience, “Nobody makes alliances with the weak; and nobody makes peace with the weak. So the first obligation we have to further the future of Israel is to make sure the country is strong militarily, but that’s expensive ... our ability to make alliances is shifting. We are now in an extraordinary relationship with two small countries in Asia, India and China, and Japan. Together, we account for roughly two and a half billion people in the world ... So I think Israel is moving into a leadership position.”

The problem is that Netanyahu is adopting the discourse of large countries. But the large will remain large, and the small – even if at one point they resemble the large countries – will eventually go back to being small. It’s when they’re strong that they must prepare themselves for a rainy day.

After all, the vast majority of the world is composed of small nations who live quite well, and are even spared the headaches of the large countries.

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