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US Must Reevaluate Its Relationship With Israel

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US Must Reevaluate Its Relationship With Israel**
**by Scott Ritter*

*December 17, 2007 *


*I* have for some time now publicly articulated my sympathy and support
for the state of Israel, even while criticizing those cases that I
believed constituted poor judgment and bad policy. My stance was based
upon my past experiences with Israel, which began indirectly in
1990-1991 when I was involved in counter-SCUD activities during
Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and continued in a much more
direct fashion as a weapons inspector with the United Nations Special
Commission (UNSCOM), charged with disarming Iraqi weapons of mass

As a weapons inspector I made numerous visits to Israel for the purpose
of coordinating with the Israeli intelligence community on matters
pertaining to Iraqi WMD. I was greatly impressed not only with the
professionalism of the Israeli intelligence services, but also with the
Israeli people and society. During my time in Israel, I was witness to
numerous horrific events, including several terrorist bombings and the
assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The resilience of the
people of Israel in absorbing these blows yet continuing to live life to
its fullest was remarkable, and worthy of admiration.

As a firsthand witness to the remarkable vigor of the Israeli state and
its people, and as someone who considers himself to be their friend, it
saddens me to see just how poorly the current Israeli government returns
this friendship, not to me personally, but to my country, the United
States of America. The government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has
embarked on policies that are questionable at best when one examines
them from a purely Israeli standpoint; they are nothing less than a
betrayal of the United States when examined from a broader perspective.

The insidious manner in which the current Israeli government has
manipulated the domestic political machinery of the United States to
produce support for its policies constitutes nothing less than direct
interference in the governance of a sovereign state. The degree to which
the current Israeli government has succeeded in this regard can be
tracked not only by the words and actions of the administration of
President George W. Bush and the American Congress, but also by the
extent to which a pro-Israel lexicon has taken hold within the
mainstream media of the United States. Witness the pro-Israel bias
displayed when discussing the situation in southern Lebanon, the air
strike in Syria, or the Iranian situation, and the retarding of any
effort toward a responsible discussion of anything dealing with Israel
becomes apparent.

One would expect such efforts to shape the domestic public opinion of a
state deemed hostile, but when the target of these Israeli actions is
its ostensible best friend, one must begin to question whether or not
the friendship is a one-way street. And if this is indeed the case, then
perhaps it is time for the United States to reconsider its decades-old
policy of strategic partnership with Israel.

It must be understood that the government of Ehud Olmert is acting in a
post-9/11 environment, with considerable facilitators in the
administration of President Bush, including the vice president. These
two factors combine to create a cycle of enablement that allows a purely
Israeli point of view to dominate American policy. If the Israeli point
of view were built on logic, compassion, and the rule of law, then this
tilt would not constitute a problem. But the Israeli point of view is
increasingly constructed on a foundation of intolerance and
irresponsible unilateralism that divorces the country from global norms.
In this day and age of nuclear nonproliferation, the undeclared nuclear
arsenal of Israel stands as perhaps the most egregious example of how an
Israel-only standard destabilizes the Middle East. It is the Israeli
nuclear weapons program, including its strategic delivery systems, that
is the core of instability for this very volatile region.

The statements by Israeli officials concerning the recent National
Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran and its nuclear program are perhaps
the best manifestation of this reality. Avi Dichter, Israel's public
security minister, has condemned the NIE as a flawed document, and in
terms that link the American analysis to a cause-and-effect cycle that
could lead the Middle East down the path of regional war. Like many
Israelis, including the prime minister, Dichter disagrees with the
American NIE on Iran, in particular the finding that Iran ceased its
nuclear weapons program in 2003. The Israelis hold that this program is
still active, despite the fact that the International Atomic Energy
Agency (IAEA) has reached a conclusion similar to the NIE's based upon
its own exhaustive inspection activities inside Iran over the past five

In threatening the world with war because America opted for once to
embrace fact instead of fiction, Israel, sadly, has become like a
cornered beast, lashing out at any and all it perceives to threaten its
security interests. The current Israeli definition of what constitutes
its security interests is so broad as to preclude any difference of
opinion. Israel's shameless invocations of the Holocaust to defend its
actions not only shames the memory of those murdered over 60 years ago,
but ironically dilutes the impact of that memory by linking it with
current policies that are cruel and intolerant. The message of Holocaust
remembrance should be "never again," not just in terms of the
persecution of Jews, but in terms of man's inhumanity to man. The birth
of the Israeli state, as imperfect and controversial as it was, served
as a foundation for the pursuit of tolerance. However, Israel's current
policies, rooted in ethnic and religious hatred, are the antithesis of

Israel at present can have no friends, because Israel does not know how
to be a friend. Driven by xenophobic paranoia and historical grievances,
Israel is embarked on a path that can only lead to death and
destruction. This is a path the United States should not tread. I have
always taken the position that Israel is a friend of the United States,
and that friends should always stand up for one another, even in
difficult times. I have also noted that, to quote a phrase well known in
America, friends don't let friends drive drunk, and that for some time
now Israel has been drunk on arrogance and power. As a friend, I have
believed the best course of action for the United States to take would
be that which helped remove the keys from the ignition of the policy
vehicle Israel is steering toward the edge of the abyss. Now it seems
our old friend is holding a pistol to our head, demanding that we stop
interfering with the vehicle's operation and preventing us from getting
out of the car. This is not the action of a friend, and it can no longer
be tolerated.

It is time for what those who are familiar with dependency issues would
term an intervention. Like a child too long spoiled by an inattentive
parent, Israel has grown accustomed to American largess, to the point
that it is addicted to an American aid package that is largely
responsible for keeping the Israeli economy afloat. This aid must be
reconsidered in its entirety. The day of the free ride must come to an
end. The United States must redefine its national security priorities in
the Middle East and position Israel accordingly. At the very least,
American aid must be linked to Israeli behavior modification. The
standards America applies to other nations around the world when it
comes to receiving aid must likewise apply to Israel.

Let there be no doubt: Israel and its considerable lobby of supporters
here in America will scream bloody murder if their aid is trimmed in any
fashion. But in the greater interest of what will best benefit the
security interests of the United States, and indeed the Middle East and
the entire world, the grip Israel has on American policymaking must come
to an end. It is up to the American people to make this change, first
and foremost by recognizing that a real problem exists in
American-Israeli relations, then by electing officials to Congress who
will deal responsibly with these problems based not on the
behind-the-scenes lobbying of Israel and its proxies, but rather the
legitimate interests of the United States.

If Israel decides it wants to be our friend, then it will change its
behavior accordingly. Absent this, America has no choice but to declare
its independence from a relationship that has destroyed our credibility
around the world and drags us dangerously down the path toward another
irresponsible military misadventure in the Middle East. If, in the
future, Israel desires to reestablish a relationship with the United
States built upon the principles of mutual trust and benefit, then so be
it. Such a relationship is something I could embrace without hesitation.
But one thing is certain: no such friendship can truly exist under the
conditions and terms that are in place today, and for that reason the
entirety of the American-Israeli relationship must be reexamined.

/A former Marine Corps intelligence officer, Scott Ritter was a chief
inspector for the United Nations Special Commission in Iraq from 1991
until 1998. He is the author of several books; "Target Iran," with a new
afterword by the author, was recently released in paperback by Nation

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