With the attention he’s been receiving, you’d think Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu held political office in the United States. American news media exploded last Wednesday, with the results of Israel’s latest elections. Their prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was re-elected by voters. This has been met by dismay from some U.S. government officials concerned about Netanyahu’s conservative policies, and media scrutiny of the election. However, beyond the media outcry and the political posturing in Washington, there is nothing that indicates that Netanyahu’s re-election will impact the U.S. public. Indeed, the American people should have no interest in Israeli politics.
Many people point to Israel’s conflict with Palestinians, an issue that has received much American attention in recent years, as the main reason for our political involvement with Israel. However, this premise is problematic for many reasons.
Firstly, the idea that our government has a “human interest” in protecting the rights of foreign populations is ludicrous. Despite its rhetoric, our government has no interest in helping the Palestinians. If we had any intention of influencing Israel to grant Palestine sovereignty, our government would not be supplying the Israelis with the billions of dollars in military aid that we do currently. If American leadership has any legitimate interest in human rights abroad, why then is Saudi Arabia, a notoriously conservative theocracy that enforces sharia law, one of our largest trading partners? The American public hears plenty of rhetoric about “protecting freedom in the Middle East” when, in reality, our administration only focuses on protecting resources and business interests abroad.
Furthermore, the physical conflict between Israel and Palestine is not one our country should be influencing or subsidizing — the situation is far too complicated with ancient claims to land and “he-said, she-said” disputes to have one clear solution to it. While Israel should be condemned for their treatment of the Palestinians, it is important to remember that Palestine’s hands are not clean either, with groups such as the Palestine Liberation Organization having been allied with terror group Hamas as recently as 2014. All things considered, this is not a situation that any foreign power should involve themselves in, much less fund, like our government has been doing.
Another argument for political involvement with Israel is the necessity of maintaining their stability as a trading partner, but this premise makes no sense either as the relationship faces no real threats. Thanks in no small part to the $125 billion in military aid from the United States, Israel is more than well equipped to maintain its national security. The two nations do roughly $40 billion in trade annually, and the business relationship with Israel is less likely to change under Netanyahu who is, the status quo, than it would under a new prime minister. Granted, the Israeli government under Netanyahu has grown somewhat hostile to the Obama administration, but Israel is the dependent in the trade relationship with America, and would never think of taking action to limit commerce with us. Therefore, Israeli political activity is of little concern, because any rhetoric leveled against the United States by Israeli politicians is highly unlikely to result in action that impacts trade. Any threat to commerce is hollow because of their enormous dependence on American military and financial aid.
No, the only reason the American public is hearing about Israeli politics is because Israel is an important political tool for promoting American interests abroad. To many American people, Israel is no more important than any other country, but to leaders in Washington, they are an essential piece in our weapons trade. Aircraft and machinery alone make up over $3.5 billion of our annual trade exports to Israel, and their ties to the region make it easier to deal weapons to other countries and groups in the Middle East, like Iraq, Syrian rebels and ISIL (which actually happened). As one of the few stable countries in the Middle East, Israel is critical to our government maintaining the flow of arms to the region.
However, back in America, the makeup of the Israeli government does not matter. Our trade relationship with Israel is strong and mainly dependent on U.S. participation, and the conflict with Palestine is not one that is likely to be clearly resolved, regardless of any foreign influence. There is no real reason we should be concerned about Israeli affairs, as they have no bearing on the American people. Beyond the arms trade, there is no political motive either.
Senior Collegian Columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @seanskenn.