The U.S. and Israel
What to do?

PrIsraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, March 5, 2012.


With Washington, D.C., talking Israeli politics, National Review Online asked experts: “Going into a presidential-election year, what’s a sane, responsible Israel policy?”


A sane, responsible Israel policy would reflect reality in the region today. Israel’s cold peace with Egypt may unravel as Islamists grow in power there, and the long-safe border between Israel and the Egyptian Sinai is already unsafe. Jordan’s stability is not certain, and Syria is awash in blood. The Palestinian leadership flirts with Hamas and invites it to join the PLO. And of course Iran’s nuclear-weapons program moves forward relentlessly.

The only firm ally we have in the region is Israel. Accordingly we should (1) maintain our military aid and our diplomatic support for Israel; (2) seek to improve life in the West Bank, with as much self-government for Palestinians and as few Israeli intrusions as security permits, while acknowledging that any final peace agreement is far away; and (3) state clearly the U.S. policy that Iran will never be permitted to acquire nuclear-weapons capability, and that we would support Israel in the aftermath of a military strike (Israel’s or ours) at that program.

Put in the negative, we should stop Obama-style pressures on Israel for negotiations with the Palestinians that cannot at this juncture possibly succeed, and stop undermining Israel’s military credibility against Iran with what the president called “loose talk.” The key concept is simple: Support your friend against your enemy.

— Elliott Abrams, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, was an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration and deputy national-security adviser in the George W. Bush administration.


American policy toward Israel should be built on bilateral and regional understandings:

U.S. disagreement with Israel on specific issues is normal; trying to substitute American choices for policies of Israel’s democratically elected government — particularly on security — is disrespectful and counterproductive. Israel is our partner in addressing common threats, not an impediment to better relations with the Arabs.

There is a way to deal with undemocratic political philosophies: We recognized the U.S.S.R., negotiated and traded with it, and tried to avoid war with it. We also did our best to defend against it, restrict it, deny it victories, and keep faith with its people. The dissidents knew we were on their side. In that context, ignoring the Iranian opposition is wrong, as is the U.S. embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood and the pretense that its election was democratic.

Iran is the central front in the battle for the political future of the Middle East, Israel’s security, and America’s influence in the region. The mullahs have to go. Support for the opposition, politics, financial sanctions, and military action are all tools in the toolkit.

The U.S. and Israel are in the same boat; we need to be on the same page.

— Shoshana Bryen is senior director of the Jewish Policy Center.