ECLECTIC RANT: Rep. Omar’s comments and the House Failure to Debate U.S.-Israeli Relations

Ralph E. Stone
Wednesday March 13, 2019 - 02:13:00 PM

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) recently suggested that House supporters of Israel have dual allegiances. Her comments caused a furor. Whether her comments were anti-semitic is debatable. Ideally, this uproar was an excellent opportunity for a long overdue debate on our one-sided U.S foreign policy toward Israel. Instead, the House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and other bigotry. I fear this resolution will result in a chilling effect on legitimate speech activity. All criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic. 

Through the George W. Bush administration, there has been a clear pro-Israel tilt to U.S.-Israeli foreign policy. Consider that since 1972, the U.S. has cast over 43 vetoes in the United Nations to protect Israel. And Israel was the largest annual recipient of direct economic and military assistance since 1976, According to President Trump’s fiscal year budget request, Israel is expected to receive $3.3 billion in annual funding in 2019.  

Why does Israel need so much U.S. support as Israel’s vulnerability is a myth. Although there is open hostility between Israel and many of the other Arab states, the latter do not pose a direct threat to Israel at this time. Even though an Arab alliance has a quantitative advantage, Israel can rely on its technological and military dominance. Israel has a nuclear monopoly in the region, although there is fear that Iran will develop this capability. It has a military superiority vis-a-vis any possible coalition of Arab forces. It has the fourth largest air force in the world after the U.S., Russian, and China. It is the only state in the region with its own defense industry. It has the most modern military in the region with about 160,000 personnel. 

Unfortunately, under President Trump, the pro-Israel tilt has gotten worse. Trump has started a new, hardline pro-Israel stance that fits easily with the Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel, is a pro-Israel advocate who once wrote that the two-state solution is “a suicidal ‘peace’ with hateful radical Islamists hell bent on Israel’s destruction.” Trump moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Trump appears to have abandoned efforts to curb illegal settlement activity in the West Bank, and the Trump administration’s peace plan, supposedly being drafted by son-in-law Jared Kushner, is reportedly tilted toward Israel’s view of the conflict. That’s why it is very, very unlikely for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. 

While it is unrealistic for the U.S. to suddenly become neutral in all things Middle East, we must end our lockstep support of Israel with little or no public debate. Instead, we must redefine what it means to be pro-Israel something the House response to Rep. Omar’s comments fails to do.