Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, was born and raised in Florida, so he has as solid an understanding of both countries as any Israeli official. In a recent speech at the B’nai B’rith World Center Award for Journalism ceremony in Jerusalem. he made several insightful observations.
First, he reminded the audience that support for Israel is in America’s self-interest, and the support runs both ways:
So while there is absolutely no question that Israel benefits immensely from having such a broad and deep alliance with the most powerful country on earth, there is also no question that America also benefits a great deal from its alliance with Israel. American leaders have understood as much for many decades. Thirty-five years ago, former American Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier and is located in a critical region for American national security.” Vice President Biden expresses a similar sentiment when he often says that if Israel didn’t exist, America would have to invent it.
Too often President Obama has treated Israel — and our other allies — as free riders, giving the impression our alliances are burdens we undertake out of altruism. With a new president six months from taking office (not that we are counting, or anything), it is important to take on the isolationists and anti-Israel voices and reiterate that the alliance is mutually beneficial.
Second, Dermer did not mince words about the Iran deal, which in retrospect (even Senate Democrats agree now and then) looks much worse than when Ben Rhodes was spinning the press. Dermer explained:
The best that can honestly be said about this deal is that it may temporarily block that path. Yet the price for that temporary delay is not only removing the tough sanctions that were crippling the economy of the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. The even heavier price is that in 10 to 15 years, Iran will have a fully legitimate industrial-sized nuclear enrichment program, as the restrictions placed on Iran’s nuclear program are automatically removed. Those two words – “automatically removed” – are at the heart of Israel’s opposition to the deal.
All the restrictions the deal puts in place will be automatically removed even if Iran’s regime continues its aggression against its neighbors, continues its support for terror across the world and continues its commitment in both word and deed to annihilate Israel. No amount of spin can change the fact that in 15 years, Iran will be able to spin as much uranium as it wants without consequence. And as the Prime Minister said last year in his speech to Congress, 15 years may seem like a long time in politics, but it is a blink of an eye in the life of a nation.
As more details come out — Germany’s intelligence report on Iranian cheating, loopholes in the inspection regime, Iran’s determination to continue its missile program — many Democrats may come around to his view, although the remedy for the flawed deal remains a subject of good-faith debate.
Third, Dermer suggests that the U.S.-Israel relationship will improve (how could it not?). With an implicit dig at Obama, he argued that “the most dangerous security challenges facing the United States will continue to emanate from the Middle East for a long time to come. Some in the United States hope that America can pivot away from the Middle East. But for the foreseeable future, I don’t think the Middle East is going to pivot away from America.” But the most intriguing passage of his speech was this:
[T]here is something even beyond interests and values that goes to the very core of the unique alliance between Israel and America. You see, both America and Israel are not merely countries. They are also causes. America has long been what Lincoln called the last best hope on earth — a beacon of opportunity for people across the world, carrying the torch of freedom for all humanity and entrusted by history with securing liberty’s future.
Israel is the hope of the Jewish people, offering opportunity for all its citizens — Jewish and non-Jewish alike — safeguarding freedom in the darkest region on earth and entrusted by history with securing the Jewish future.
These causes imbue each country with a deep sense of purpose – and because these purposes are not at odds with each other but rather compliment and reinforce one another, they also imbue the two countries with a deep sense of solidarity.
This obviously is something far beyond Donald Trump’s grasp. He thinks America is great because it is rich or can force countries to do its bidding. The Israeli ambassador understands what he does not: America is great and will continue to be so provided that it lives up to its ideals. America is great because it is good.
If we cease to be a “beacon of opportunity for people across the world, carrying the torch of freedom for all humanity and entrusted by history with securing liberty’s future,” we will lose the core of American exceptionalism. Picking a president who is utterly disdainful of such views and ignorant of our foundational values is the quickest way to ensure America’s decline — and create rifts with democratic allies who look to the United States for inspiration and reassurance.