TWQ: Should Israel Become a “Normal” Nation? - Fall 2010
October 1, 2010
Founded in the aftermath of the Holocaust amid violent rejection from its neighbors, Israel has long insisted on extraordinary freedom of action to defend its existence as a Jewish majority state. But external pressures are rising, creating a diplomatic crisis that may constrain Israel’s tendency to use massive military force against adversaries. Increasingly, questions are being raised even by those sympathetic to Israel about whether its military conduct and unresolved conflict with the Palestinians are impinging on the U.S. ability to fight wars in two Muslim nations and to counter anti-U.S. sentiment in the wider Muslim and developing world. There is also an emerging debate about the wisdom and feasibility of Israel refusing to acknowledge its arsenal of nuclear weapons, while demanding that other countries in the Middle East foreswear them.
Supporters of Israeli policies say it is not Israel’s fault that it is not yet a ‘‘normal’’ nation with fully defined borders and general acceptance. They decry what they call an unjust international campaign to ‘‘de-legitimize’’ Israel led by European leftists, pro-Palestinian activists, and anti-Zionist Jews. This campaign includes comparing Israeli policies to those of apartheid South Africa or, even more horrifying, Nazi Germany, accusing Israel of using disproportionate force while downplaying continuing threats to Israeli security. In the view of many if not most Israelis, Israel should not expect or covet the approbation of the outside world as it pursues policies intended to safeguard Israeli lives.
It is clear, however, that since 2001, Israeli governments have, to some extent, brought this crisis upon themselves by failing to project a sincere desire to pursue a comprehensive peace. A thoughtful study by the Reut Institute in Tel Aviv argues that it is time for Israel ‘‘to make a more credible and consistent commitment’’ to ending the occupation and to integrating Arab citizens of Israel proper more fully into Israeli society. Otherwise, hostility toward Israel will grow in the West, particularly Europe, and Israel will increasingly be seen as a strategic burden by its one crucial ally, the United States.