The recent war in Georgia should alarm officials in Jerusalem. Georgia, a small country entangled in an ongoing internal conflict, gambled on a military move while relying on American support. The gamble turned out to be a failure once the US support was proven to be unreliable, and the tiny Georgia found itself facing the Russian giant. The unavoidable outcome was a humiliating defeat that at this time raises doubts over the country’s sovereignty and independence.
Meanwhile, for four decades now, Israel has been exclusively relying on America’s friendship and support. The ties started with modest civilian assistance in the wake of the State’s establishment, continued in the form of arms supplies following the Six-Day War (to replace French arms,) grew stronger in the form of extensive civilian and military aid in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, and reached the point of virtually absolute coordination in the past decade and a half.
In the latter period, any Israeli policy, particularly in respect to the conflict with the Palestinians, was granted automatic support and acquiescence from the White House: Starting from the Rabin government’s Oslo process, through Netanyahu moves, Barak’s talks on a final-status agreement, Sharon’s path of siege and disengagement, and back to the current government’s attempts to secure a final-status agreement. This support and acquiescence came in addition to the international backing for Israel on the part of the American giant at global institutions.
The reliance on the American superpower was possible and proper in the bipolar world of the Cold War, and also in a reality whereby the United States remained the sole global power, starting in the 1990s. Yet the exclusive reliance on the US, which appeared to be a promising policy, is becoming dangerous for Israel in the new world emerging in recent years. In this world, American power no longer enjoys exclusivity – rather, the globe features several centers of power. Russia is quickly regaining its status as a global power, China and India’s power is growing quickly, and the European Union has already become an economic and diplomatic power (although in military terms it still depends on American power, via the NATO alliance.)
The Israeli conclusion from recent events in Georgia should be that it is no longer possible to rely on the US to come and save us from any trouble, and that we should simultaneously create alliances of cooperation with other global powers. As opposed to voices in Israel urging the government “not to
surprise or entangle our only ally,” Israel needs to find additional allies in the international arena. Such policy will boost Israel’s maneuverability and enable it to adopt various actions in order to address existing threats and maximize the chances inherent in the regional and global system.
The current elections campaign in the US shows that the era of automatic American support for any Israeli policy is apparently ending, regardless of the winner. Under such circumstances, it is important for Israel to maintain strong ties with other global centers of power. In a reality of ongoing conflict at home and growing external threats beyond our borders, Israel cannot remain alone in the international theater.
Yaniv Ronen is a Ph.D. candidate at Bar-Ilan University’s Middle Eastern Studies department