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Selected quotes from Doomed to Succeed, the U.S.-Israel relationship from Truman to Obama

Posted by John Reed on

Here are my thoughts on U.S. policy toward Israel:

  1. Israel is not a strategic country. A strategic country is one that can take an action or refuse to take an action and thereby hurt or help other countries. Examples include closing canals or straits like the Panama, Hormuz, or Suez; ceasing to sell oil, attacking other countries with a powerful military
  2. Israel is a small country in terms of GDP, population, and geographic size. In terms of GDP adjusted for cost of living, Israel ranks 56th, just below Kuwait and just above Greece. In terms of population, Israel ranks 98th, just below Switzerland and just above Honduras. And in terms of geographic size, it ranks 149th, just below El Salvador and just above Slovenia. Yet Israel ranks far higher in the amount of attention it is given by the U.S. government. One of my main roles in life is to be like the boy who pointed out that the emperor had no clothes. Strategically, Israel has not clothes. The mantra “But Israel is our best friend and ally in the Middle East” implies strategic, significance but relies on sheer repetition and U.S. domestic politics for credence.
  3. The idea of a Jewish state violates our First Amendment. As a foreign country, Israel is not bound by our Constitution, but the notion of a Jewish state contradicts the oft-made claim that Israel shares our Judeo-Christian values. Hannity loves to say that. I find no Jews among the founding fathers and while Christians do share the Old Testament with the Jews, far more religions and non-believers make up America than just Jews and Christians and if the First Amendment is not one of our values, I don’t know what is. And it says, “Congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of a religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
  4. Jewishness is part religion and part race. can tell from a tube of spit how Jewish you are. I am three percent Jewish. But they cannot tell from a tube of spit how Catholic or atheist or Buddhist you are. That is because of extreme aversion on the part of many Jews gong back millennia against intermarriage and extreme discipline at not intermarrying. Other religions, including the Catholicism that my mom raised my brothers and I in, also has been averse to intermarriage, but not enough to show in DNA. A group of black Africans called the Lemba claimed to be Jews. Israel rejected them with regard to all Jews being allowed to immigrate into Israel. Then, when DNA was discovered, it proved the black African Lemba Jews were, in fact, Jews and they let them in. Religions generally seek converts. One name for those who do that is missionary. I have never heard of Jewish missionaries. I have heard of converts to Judaism, most recently Ivanka Trump. A Jew is both a race and a religion but all DNA Jews are Jews. Not all Jews believe in or practice Judaism. So it is more fundamentally a race and secondarily a religion.
  5. There is not now and never has been a mutual defense treaty between the U.S. and Israel. Nor should there be. Yet the American people seem totally convinced there is. Israel has been involved in a number of wars. The wars with their Arab and Persian neighbors are holy wars and race wars. It seems to me that America cannot commit in advance to participating in a holy war or race war. In a given military situation, it is possible that the interests of America and Israel may coincide, but America cannot pledge to send it sons and daughters to fight in a religious war between Muslims and Jews because they are Muslims and Jews. Many of our citizens and Muslims, Christians, atheists, Sikhs, and so on. I do not see how they can morally be ordered to fight to a race or a religion.
  6. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel has been almost entirely a one-way street with American politicians getting votes from the relationship while Israel gets money, diplomatic support, military equipment, and military training. We have gotten intelligence cooperation from Israel, when they were not attacking our spy ship the U.S.S. Liberty or using Jonathon Pollard to spy on us.

The book Doomed to Succeed by Dennis Ross is about the history of U.S.-Israel relations. Below are quotes from that book along with who said them. Ross has been a Middle East diplomat for the U.S. under George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and a special assistant to Obama. He is now a Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a Distinguished Professor of diplomacy at Georgetown University.

Gratuitous antagonism

“Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister until 2015, …often seemed to delight in provoking the international community rather than being a sympathetic or persuasive public spokesman for Israel’s cause.” Dennis Ross page xii

No strategic benefit

“…none of [Truman’s] senior national security officials saw any strategic benefit in supporting Jewish aims in Palestine. On the contrary, they saw only costs.” Dennis Ross 6

Kennedy did not see the Middle East as the central arena for competition with the Soviets... p. 55

[Truman] was not going to commit American forces to something that he considered neither a priority nor central to American interests. Ross p. 17

Israel is domestic politics not foreign policy

Ross p. 12 Truman altering policy to counter Dewey support for Jewish state in 1948 presidential election

According to Clifford, [Secretary of State] Marshall became increasingly agitated as he spoke and responded not to Clifford’s points but by asking why Clifford was present: “Mr. President, I thought this meeting was called to consider an important and complicated problem in foreign policy. I don’t even know why Clifford is here. He is a domestic adviser, and this is a foreign policy matter.” Marshall charged that Clifford was “pressing a political consideration with regard to this issue. I don’t think politics should play any part in this.” Secretary of State George C. Marshall, father of the Marshall Plan p.19

As far as Eisenhower and Dulles were concerned, domestic politics, not the country’s overall interests, had determined Truman’s decision.

Aversion to sending US troops to Israel

“I have no desire to send 500,000 American soldiers [to Israel] to make peace in Palestine.” Truman p. 16

Intractable nature of the Middle East disputes

“Jesus Christ couldn’t please the [Jews] when he was here on earth, so how could anyone expect that I would have any luck?” Truman p. 17

Johnson wrote an initial report and asked for comments. The Israelis did not respond , but the Arabs did... p. 58

One-way street

“While he put the lion’s share of the blame on Nasser, Eisenhower also found fault with Ben-Gurion, observing that Israeli leaders were ‘anxious to talk with Egypt’ but willing to ‘make no concessions whatsoever in order to obtain a peace,” his goal being to gain arms from us, ‘as a means of ensnaring the U.S. as a protector.’” Ross p.31

Feldman succeeded in getting Ben-Gurion and Golda Meir to agree to take 10% of the refugees if the Arabs would take 90%. p. 58

[President Kennedy] felt strongly that the relationship with Israel should be a two-way street. He drew a very clear line on Israel’s nuclear program. [Israel got nuclear weapons in spite of US objections.] p. 66-7

After much prodding, in September 1962, Ben-Gurion had allowed two American members of the Atomic Energy Commission, with very little notice, a forty-minute visit to Dimona [Israeli heavy water reactor] The tour was informal and tightly controlled by the Israelis... p. 67-8

[Ben-Gurion] delayed his responses and played for time. [regarding his development of nuclear weapons—Sounds like Iran and North Korea who are not our allies.] p. 68

Having lost patience, [President Kennedy] sent Ben-Gurion a blunt letter on May 18. In his frustration with Israel’s nonresponsiveness, he warned that notwithstanding our deep commitment to the security of Israel, our support would be seriously jeopardized...if it should be thought that this Government was unable to obtain reliable information on a subject as vital to peace as the question of the character of Israel’s effort in the nuclear field. [In effect Israel subsequently responded to this by giving us the finger and getting nuclear weapons.] p. 69

Israeli expansionism

…Eisenhower and Dulles tended to view the Israelis with suspicion. They perceived Israel as inherently aggressive and geared toward expansion. Eisenhower said in response to a question about giving military assistance to Israel, “We are not rendering anyone assistance to start a war or to indulge in conflict with others of our friends.”

Kennedy was concerned that the Israelis would take advantage of Jordanian actions and annex the West Bank. p. 55

The invisible defense treaty with Israel

Kennedy: ...identifying Israel as our...close and intimate allies...though it is not a formal ally...he assured Meir that if there was an invasion of Israel, it is quite clear that the United States would come to the support of Israel, p. 67

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