Permanent Allies or Enemies: Only Permanent Interests
By Isi Leibler
July 13, 2016
Aware that President Erdogan
remains an aggressive Islamist and presumably harbors as much love for Israelis
as we do for him, the government was strongly criticized for the unpalatable
concessions it granted in order to restore economic and diplomatic relations
The reality is that we have become
increasingly conscious that alliances are not exclusively based on shared values
or feelings of friendship. Obviously a shared Judea-Christian heritage is a
major asset as evidenced by the love for Israel shared by evangelical Christians
in the US which became an important factor restraining the Obama administration
from abandoning Israel in order curry favor with Islamic states.
In contrast, the absence of a
strong pro-Israeli element in Europe, facilitated the increasingly hostile
European Union approaches against Israel.
European soil was drenched in
Jewish blood during the Nazi era, aided and abetted in most cases by local
collaborators. Today Europe faces an onslaught both internally and externally
from Islamic fundamentalism which is challenging its social order. At the
frontline of the battle against Islamic terrorism is Israel, an oasis of
democracy and stability in a region dominated by barbarism reminiscent of the
Yet despite hypocritical calls for
peace, Europe remains passive as the Muslim-dominated global community campaigns
to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. The EU has applied moral
equivalence towards Israel’s self-defense and the criminal Palestinian regime
which incites and sanctifies killers. It has sought to pressure Israel into
accepting indefensible borders and is orchestrating efforts to force Israel to
unilaterally provide further concessions that could endanger its existence.
In this context Brexit may
alleviate the situation by weakening the control of the post-modernist EU
bureaucrats, many of whom regard any nation state and in particular Israel, as
remnants of a bygone era of nationalism and imperialism. They also undoubtedly
now face their own nationalist problems.
The Netanyahu government is moving
away from what was hitherto almost total dependency on the United States and is
seeking to bolster relations with other countries. These efforts have been
accelerated by the Obama Administration’s undisguised attempts to create
daylight in its relationship with Israel in order to appease Moslem states
hostile to Israel, in particular the Iranian terrorist state.
Today Israel welcomes alliances
based on pragmatic mutual economic, political or defense interests. Turkey fits
into this category as do a number of Arab countries threatened with ISIS and or
Iranian hegemony. Saudi Arabia (and the Gulf States), currently at least, are
willing to covertly benefit from an Israeli military presence in the region. But
we should be under no illusions. For generations the Saudis, like inhabitants of
most Arab states, have been exposed to intensive anti-Semitic indoctrination -
both religious and political. The Wahhabi religious teachings continue to
promote obscene Nazi-style stereotypes of Jews and the mullahs tell their
followers that we are direct descendants of apes and pigs.
Yet astonishingly, in the wake of
a failed Muslim Brotherhood government, today we find ourselves sharing common
interests with Egypt in combating ISIS and extremism in the Sinai Peninsula
which also includes Hamas. Taking account of the bitter anti-Semitism which
permeated Egyptian society, it is a remarkable situation for Egyptian President
Sissi to be calling for the eradication of Islamic fundamentalism and extremism
in religious dialogue and this week formally dispatching his Foreign Minister to
meet Netanyahu in Jerusalem. But we should not delude ourselves that Sissi has
become transformed Sissi into a lover of Zion.
These developments require
constant juggling. For example, Israel created mutual interest-based relations
with the Greeks and Cypriots who had previously bitterly opposed us and we must
endeavor to retain these ties despite our new relationship with Turkey.
Our most extraordinary, even
dazzling relationship is with the Russians. Who could have envisioned that a
former KGB officer, now President of Russia would hold more annual meetings with
the Israeli Prime minister than the US president? And that this Russian
president speaks in endearing terms about Jews in his country and his admiration
for Israel. The arrangement between Russia and Israel since their involvement in
the Middle East bloodbath on the borders of Israel, is unprecedented and
extraordinary. But despite what seems to be a genuine affinity between President
Putin and Israel, if current mutual interests conflict we should be under no
We have also made significant
progress in our relations with the two emergent superpowers India and China as
well as other South East Asian nations and Netanyahu’s visit to Africa last
week was a great success. We must now concentrate on persuading these nations to
extend the economic cooperation to politics and convince them to cease voting
against us at the biased international venues such as the currently biased and
To sum up, this is a new ball game
and we must tread cautiously and harbor no illusions.
We still look towards the US as
our principal ally but cannot avoid sharing our profound concerns with both
Hillary Clinton will be beholden
to a radicalized Democratic Party which calls for Palestinian statehood with no
qualifications despite the fact that the Palestinian Authority praises and
sanctifies the cruelest terrorist outrages.
Donald Trump remains somewhat of
an enigma and, if elected, few can predict in which direction he would move.
Netanyahu can be said to have
absorbed Lord Palmerstone’s philosophy “We have no eternal allies and we
have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those
interests it is our duty to follow.”
Our relationship is based upon the
reality that in many cases, the enemy of our enemy has common interests with us.
But that does not mean that the enemy of our enemy is necessarily a permanent
In this context Netanyahu has
employed sophisticated diplomacy, retaining remnants of eroding traditional
alliances but vigorously seeking to extend Israel’s diplomatic relationships
to broader levels. To maximize this he must also strengthen our ailing Foreign
Ministry and ensure that only top quality diplomats serve as envoys. Today we
have a number of outstanding diplomats serving simultaneously with the most
appallingly ill-suited personnel representing us in critical locations.
For the foreseeable future many
Arab states are likely to remain our bitter enemies. But there have been
historic occasions when alliances based on realpolitik led to overcoming
long-standing ethnic tensions as was the case between Germany and France. I
remain the eternal optimist and believe the day may come when our neighbors will
become reconciled to our existence and our grandchildren will live in harmony
The reality is that Israel today
is independently strong and able to resist global pressures. The US remains our
most important ally and the only country in which shared traditions and people
relationships do impact on foreign policy and have prevented anti-Israeli
elements from abandoning us. Ironically, if we succeed in our current policy of
broadening relations and become even more independent, it will actually
strengthen our relationship with the Americans.