Israel received a brisk wake-up call Tuesday from its most significant ally, the United States. The removal of a provision that would have given Israel $1 billion in emergency funding to restock its Iron Dome missile defense system from the U.S. House of Representatives spending bill – the result of pressure within the Democratic Party – proves once again that Israel is losing the bipartisan support that is so crucial to its foreign policy.
This is a consequence not only of the tenure of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who too clearly supported the previous administration, but also of the continuation of the occupation policy and the refusal to make peace, which is exacting a diplomatic price.
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It is not a random whim on the part of the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic Party. The technical argument that was used to remove the provision conceals a much deeper truth. This move is the result of a long process of despair over the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian arena and of the sense, among those who still care, that more drastic measures are needed to shock the parties from their apathy. Nothing can be more drastic than a change to defense aid, a core issue in Israeli-American relations, which has until now been considered almost self-evident and nearly sacrosanct.
The assessment is that Israel will eventually get the full funding, and that the operation of Iron Dome will not be affected. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has already said he would submit a new bill this week calling for full funding of Iron Dome, and it is expected to pass.
Nevertheless, it would behoove Israeli decision-makers to treat this incident as a worrisome alarm. This won’t be the last time that the issue of defense aid to Israel will be up for public debate in Washington. This is only the beginning. Gone are the days when American taxpayers at both ends of the political spectrum are willing to take it for granted that the U.S. will continue to fund Israeli military rule of the Palestinians when there seems to be no diplomatic progress on the horizon. Bipartisan support will continue to erode, meaning a significant policy shift is needed.
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Rather than brag in interviews about how his government has no intention of holding peace talks with the Palestinians, and gush in media briefings about how U.S. President Joe Biden is supposedly accepting this position, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his partners in the government of change on the right, center and left must take a clear-headed look at the ramifications of their childish recalcitrance for Israel’s future and its security.
Israel’s international credit is increasingly running out. Biden told the UN General Assembly Tuesday that the two-state solution is a long way off, but he also emphasized, and rightly, that it is the only option.