The US-Israel special relationship at a crossroads


The once strong and enduring special relationship between the United States and Israel seems to have come to an end, at least for the foreseeable future. While some may deny this, the damage done to the foundation of shared values cannot be easily repaired. Israel’s claim to being America’s essential ally in the Middle East, due to its status as the only democracy in the region, no longer holds true.

The blame for this deterioration primarily lies with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition of Jewish nationalists, who have led Israel on a path towards authoritarianism and disregarded the rights of Palestinians living within its borders. However, some responsibility must also be borne by America’s leaders, who, for years, turned a blind eye to Israel’s drift towards undemocratic practices and human rights abuses.

The unwavering support Israel received from American leaders, regardless of its actions, emboldened Netanyahu and his government to act without accountability. They knew that American aid would continue to flow, and that they would face no consequences for their actions. American leaders were reluctant to criticize Israel, fearing backlash from influential pro-Israel groups in the US, who often equated any criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.

Even when Netanyahu aligned himself with the Republican Party and the MAGA movement, American support remained steadfast. The recent attempt by Netanyahu to undermine the power of Israel’s Supreme Court drew strong words of caution from the Biden administration but did not lead to any significant changes in the US’s aid to Israel.

The latest move by Netanyahu to weaken Israel’s democratic institutions is a clear signal that the US-Israel special relationship must be reassessed. Prominent supporters of the traditional alliance, such as former US ambassadors to Israel, have called for considering the suspension of military aid to Israel. It is time to use America’s history with Israel to support democracy in the country, rather than providing unconditional support to actions that threaten democratic values.

Israel’s political landscape has changed, and divisions within the country are likely to persist, even amid large-scale protests against Netanyahu’s government. American leaders must acknowledge that their policy of overlooking Israel’s abuses has failed, and stronger steps are required. US aid to Israel should not be an unquestioned blank check but driven by American interests.

To revive the special relationship, the US and Israel must share genuine values rooted in democracy and the rule of law. Protecting the rights of all people living within Israel’s borders, including Palestinians, is essential for restoring the ties that once connected the two nations. Netanyahu’s hope for a restoration of the relationship under a Trump administration, which shares similar authoritarian tendencies, would be disastrous for democracy and the rule of law globally.

This critical juncture calls for active efforts to undo the damage already done and to halt further erosion of democratic principles in both countries. Failing to confront the enemies of shared values will have dire consequences for both nations and the world. The time has come to use all available legal means to safeguard the foundations of democracy and security in the US and Israel.


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