The bond connecting the United States to Israel runs deep. In equal measures political and spiritual, it is rooted firmly in the American idea. Long before either of the modern states existed, the people who would become Americans identified strongly with the Biblical Children of Israel. The resulting bond between the world’s two covenantal nations is unique in the annals of international relations.
When John Winthrop, the Puritan leader who helped found the Massachusetts Bay Colony, proclaimed: “We shall be as a city upon a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us” in 1630, he didn’t choose his metaphor casually. He echoed the Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel, who prophesied in great detail of God’s third Holy Temple, rebuilt in a gleaming city on a hill — a New Jerusalem.
In 1783, Yale President Ezra Stiles, perhaps the leading theologian of his time, delivered his famous sermon celebrating American independence, “The United States Elevated to Honor and Glory.” Stiles spoke eloquently of the “American Israel,” the promised land to which God had delivered his newly chosen people. The metaphor was instantly familiar and comfortable to all who heard it. It remained familiar as long as the American psyche remained rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition preaching objective morality, individual freedom, and personal responsibility.
Even more readily recognizable to those who value American iconography is Leviticus 25:10. “Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” is emblazoned across the Liberty Bell. This commandment, which America adopted as its own, is part of God’s law applicable only to the Land of Israel. The proclamation occurred every fifty years, in a special Jubilee Yom Kippur service that the High Priest performed at the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. But the inscription is only part of a verse that ends with the true meaning of the Jubilee’s liberation, “ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.” A finer description of the modern State of Israel, the return of the Children of Israel to their land after many generations of exile, would be hard to find.
As long as America retains its covenantal creed of individual liberty, and Israel fulfills its covenantal role as the safe haven for the long-suffering, long-wandering Jews for whom it has always been home, the members of both nations will share a visceral bond. That the countries share so much in the way of geostrategic interests, philosophy, economics, society, culture, and values makes the relationship easier. It enables a political dimension fully capable of appealing to those — in either nation — who eschew spirituality in the name of pragmatism.
From a purely practical perspective, Israeli political stability, democratic governance, and military might benefit American security interests in the Middle East greatly. The hyperinnovative Israeli start-up economy complements American innovation and commercialization; the integration of the two technology sectors has provided a boon to America’s most vibrant and competitive industries.
The example of responsible minority self-determination that Israel sets should be a model for other minority ethnic groups around the world. Many of them have indeed turned to Israel for inspiration and training. Israel’s respect for human rights — from its hands-off approach to non-Jewish religions and its live-and-let-live attitude towards non-traditional lifestyles to the unprecedented efforts its military has pioneered to protect civilians during wartime and minimize collateral damage — sets the standard for those who recognize that classic liberalism and Judeo-Christian morality will crumble if they prove unsustainable under duress.
Americans grounded in the American idea, Americans willing to see Israel for what it is, Americans able to see through the hateful slanders that Israel’s many enemies propagate — in other words, American restorationists — necessarily embrace the Jewish State. By any measure, Israel is a miracle. After two millennia of exile, diaspora, and persecution, the State of Israel arose in the ancient Jewish homeland as a modern incarnation of Jewish sovereignty and the world’s only safe haven for the People of Israel. Israel is a diverse society, integrating Jews from across the globe into a modern nation-state and granting full rights to its thriving non-Jewish minority, and setting the standard on numerous aspects of human rights. Its robust economy is a technological marvel, powering advances in the information sciences, medicine, energy, agriculture, and aquaculture that benefit the world in ways far out of proportion to Israel’s size.
To many — not only Jews and Americans — Israel represents the fulfillment of a divine covenant. To others, it is a testament to human endurance, rewarding the timeless yearning of a people for its home. To all who care about the liberal ideals of freedom, progress, tolerance, and forbearance, Israel is a shining example. And to proud and patriotic Americans, Israel is a sister outpost demonstrating the promise, power and resilience of a free society oriented around Judeo-Christian values.
All of which also explains (at least in part) why progressivism so despises Israel. Israel is perched precariously on the front lines between civilization and barbarism. Its presence offends the barbarians; its success breeds envy among those who claim to have “progressed” beyond parochial Biblical values. Israel exists under constant attack and subject to constant slander.
Far too often, Israel attempts to reason with her enemies in the vain hope of achieving a livable accommodation rather than fighting for what is right. Also far too often, Americans attempting to intercede on Israel’s behalf follow that misguided lead — often making things worse rather than better. While a small pariah state may feel pressed to take such an approach if it believes that its friends and allies demand it, it is counterproductive for Americans who care about Israel to make such demands. To be true to its own ideals — and to act in its own long-term interests — the United States should do everything in its power to ensure Israel’s success. Israeli victory over the forces arrayed against it will mark the resurgence of Western Civilization in the war against those who would degrade and destroy it. An Israeli loss will open the floodgates for the barbarians seeking to overturn the entire rule-based global order, ushering in an era of oppression and pain. President Trump clearly sees the connection. So too do most American restorationists.
Great nations must lead, and the citizens of great free nations must bear the mantle of leadership in the fight for freedom against the forces of tyranny. Americans should call out every anti-Israel slander for the lie it is, challenge every attempt at false equivalence, stand steadfast for the superiority of Judeo-Christian morality and Western values, and blaze a path of international support for defeating the insatiable evil using anti-Israel rhetoric as a thin veil for classic Jew hatred.
The chasm between progressive antipathy for Israel and the true American embrace of Israel is stark. President Obama left office amid a standing ovation for enabling the UN to reward Arab barbarism by slandering Israel as an international outlaw. President Trump entered announcing that if Israel’s enemies could not behave in a responsible manner capable of promoting stability and other American interests, the U.S. would withhold support. Americans and Israelis overwhelmingly understand the need for American leadership — and Israelis overwhelmingly appreciate President Trump.
Israel has expressed both gratitude and caution in its relationship with America. Though this small American ally has a constant need for diplomatic support, military hardware, cooperative contracting, and intelligence sharing (most of which benefits both countries), it has never requested actual military support. No American soldier has ever died defending Israel, and it is unlikely that any Israeli leader will ever ask the US military to intervene on its behalf. Few if any other American allies — in Europe, Asia, or the Arab world — can make that claim.
From an American perspective, opinion polls taken over the course of decades show consistent, solid support for Israel across much of the American political spectrum — with the notable exception of progressives. Pro-Israel sentiment is overwhelming among those who consider themselves conservative Republicans. It remains strong among moderate Republicans and independents. It is eroding quickly, however, among moderate Democrats as they run hard to the left chasing the progressives who now define the agenda of their party.
As in many other areas, young Americans unschooled in the American idea have fallen prey to progressive seduction. Social progressives are becoming reflexively anti-Israel without understanding why. On Israel as on so many other issues, progressivism is working hard to undermine the causes of freedom and responsibility, of classic liberalism, Western civilization, Judeo-Christian morality, of minority self-determination and human rights while insisting against all evidence that it stands for justice, fairness, equality, and tolerance.
The progressive mindset — long more powerful in Europe than in the U.S. — shows far greater sympathy for a genocidal Jew-hatred movement that cloaks itself in the nationalist garb of the fictional nation of Palestine than for the Jewish State. That fiction serves as more than merely the lifeblood of the enemies of the Jewish State. Palestine is, and has long been, the centerpiece of a progressive worldview antithetical to the rule-based international order of the post-WWII, post-Cold War Pax Americana. That world order has served American strategic, political, economic, and ideological interests well. It is an order that has allowed much of the world to embrace at least parts of the American idea, to the benefit of people living almost anywhere. It is a world order under attack; Palestine is a weapon of choice of the attackers.
As any objective student of history knows, there has never been, is not now, and in all likelihood never will be a distinct “Palestinian people.” The people known today as “Palestinians” are simply Arabs — now almost exclusively Sunni Muslims, given their concerted effort to reduce the number of Christians in their midst — whose ancestors lived in the portion of the Mandate for Palestine west of the Jordan River during a brief period in the 1940s. In no other sense were they distinct from their neighbors whom the retreating French and British mandatory authorities chose to label Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, or Iraqis. Recent history has demonstrated conclusively that regardless of designations that the state system may assign, Arabs throughout western Asia continue to identify strongly with their sect or tribe while feeling little or no kinship with those that the international community deems their countrymen. Progressive protestations to the contrary are unavailing. In the case of “Palestine,” the designation is particularly galling because the definitions of both the people and the state emerged from what they were not rather than what they were.
From its very inception as a concept rather than merely a geographical region, “Palestine” was precisely coterminous with that Jewish homeland; when the Jews dropped their legitimate historical and legal claims to the East Bank of the Jordan River, so too did the “Palestinians.” The flag of pre-Israel Palestine featured a Jewish star on a field of blue and white because the Jews of mandatory Palestine saw themselves as a distinct people; the Arabs did not, as they proved by failing to declare an independent Arab state in the parts of mandatory Palestine that Egypt and Jordan occupied from 1948 to 1967.
Throughout its first few decades, Palestinianism, or Palestinian Liberation was comfortable as a hate movement. Its most prominent leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, allied himself happily with Hitler, spent much of the war in Berlin, and collaborated with the Nazis on plans to export the genocidal Final Solution to the Middle East. Twenty years and three Arab/Israeli wars later, however, the situation had changed — at least from the all-important public relations perspective. While elite Western opinion of the 1960s and 70s deemed anti-Jewish hate groups unacceptable, it welcomed movements of indigenous self-determination. Yasser Arafat, with significant Soviet assistance, recast Palestinian Liberation as a nationalist movement. He did not restructure it as a nationalist movement.
Arafat’s rebranding proved persuasive. By the time of the Oslo Accords, much of the world took the Palestinian lie for granted. The idea that any or all of the twenty-plus governments of the Sunni Arab world might bear responsibility for the Arabs they claimed as kinsmen, much as Israel assumed responsibility for the Jews forcibly ejected from centuries-old communities across the Middle East, seemed unachievable. By the early 1990s, it was hardly unreasonable for then-PM Yitzchak Rabin to believe that Israel had no choice but to deal with the increasingly violent Arabs living in its midst — and that Arafat’s PLO could employ brutal techniques unavailable to the IDF. He endured the lie of a Palestinian people, invited the PLO into the Israeli heartland, and began Israel’s withdrawal from large parts of day-to-day Arab life beyond the Green Line.
Thanks to Oslo, progressivism now uses Israel as a test case for their attacks on the United States and its Western allies who find themselves dragged reluctantly into the defense of minority rights, western interests, and the cause of freedom. The fabrication at the heart of their attacks allow progressives to sound as if they occupy the moral high ground. They do not.
While Israel’s defenders — all too often a position that America occupies nearly alone — have more than enough facts at their disposal to win tactical victories, their efforts will continue to run headfirst into the foundational lie. Unless and until the United States repudiates the lie in its entirety, “Palestine” will create a Hobson’s choice for American diplomacy and strengthen progressive efforts to undermine American interests and the American idea. On one side, the United States can stand strong for the American idea, support Israel’s efforts, and feed progressive myths about injustice for indigenous people. On the other, the United States can abandon both Israel and its own foundational values in favor of the progressive values seeking to replace the American idea. It is far past time to reassert the truth — something that can occur only with concerted American leadership.
Palestinianism on the ground today remains faithful to its raison d’être: It is far, far more concerned with destroying Israel than with building Palestine; a movement and identity in which hatred of the reviled other is far more important than love of self. There can be no “two state solution” because there is no stateless nation in waiting; there are only Arabs living in the historic Jewish homeland. The United States must lead the world in allowing the population exchange that started when most Arab states ethnically cleansed themselves of Jews (and almost as often of Christians) reach its logical conclusion.
Unlike the Palestinian Authority, which has worked hard to eliminate or degrade the Christian Arabs living in its midst and has announced its plan to ethnically cleanse any territory it controls fully of Jews, Israel has never insisted upon a quid-pro-quo. Israel has never engaged in ethnic cleansing, and has demonstrated convincingly that it has no interest in doing so in the future. Israel has always welcomed those Arabs living in its midst pleased to live as full, free minority citizens of a democratic Jewish State. As to the Arab majority unwilling to embrace this offer, however, primary responsibility for their resettlement and integration must fall upon the Arab States. Perhaps now that several of them understand that they too may need to take risks to ensure their own security, forward motion is possible. Once again though, even this slim possibility can become reality only if America leads.
As in other parts of the world, America will grow stronger as each Middle Eastern group embraces even small parts of the American idea — bringing freedom to Arabs that have known little of it, and pushing responsibility on Arab governments that have demonstrated almost none.
For the United States to remain true to the first principles of its founding, it must recognize the confluence of its spiritual bond and political interests with the State of Israel. Under the American restorationism of President Trump, the U.S. has begun to make official what most Americans have long known — that the Jews are Israel’s only indigenous people, that the Holy Land is the Jewish home, and that Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal, indivisible capital. The U.S. should never pressure Israel to risk its own stability or security, or the welfare of the Jews whose protection give the state its raison-dêtre; Americans should never work to placate hatemongers. Instead, the U.S. should pressure Israel’s Arab neighbors to assume responsibility for their own people.
No truer expression of the American idea, and no greater the demonstration of America’s ongoing role as a chosen people, is imaginable.
* This is a contributed article by American Restoration Institute