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Democrats Inflict “Rule or Ruin” Policy on Israel

Posted on Tuesday, December 20, 2022
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AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

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Between the protest movement sweeping Iran, the dangers posed by a continued political deadlock in Iraq, and Chinese efforts to extend influence in Saudi Arabia, the Biden administration has more than enough real problems on its plate in the Middle East. Yet the White House still seems determined to create a crisis in American-Israeli relations where none existed.

This “crisis” is the supposed threat posed by the inclusion in Benjamin Netanyahu’s new cabinet of two ministers from the Religious Zionist party, which the media and American Democrats have decried as “far-right extremists” for their hardline Jewish nationalist stance.

This crisis is a myth. In fact, what is happening is that liberal Democrats are reflecting the emotions of many of their supporters, whose support for Israel as a Jewish state only exists so long as that state practices the “right” kind of Judaism – namely, a type that is indistinguishable from social liberalism. When Israel deviates from this approved ideology, whether on policy or by returning someone like Netanyahu to power, Democrats view it as their duty to exercise American pressure to return Israeli politics to the “right track.”

Barack Obama never had an easy relationship with Netanyahu, and the Biden administration, along with congressional Democrats, made no secret of the fact that they welcomed his defeat and hoped he would not return. But the current level of interference in Israeli politics by the White House is unprecedented both for its scope and the lack of relationship to reality.

In particular, American liberals have raised the alarm about Itamar Ben-Gvir, a Religious Zionist whom the White House has suggested they cannot work with due to “his party’s racist rhetoric and positions against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and the Arab minority in Israel.”

But concerns about Ben-Gvir’s supposed racist views seem to exist outside of actual evidence or events. Ben-Gvir was, for example, filmed embracing the ambassador of the United Arab Emirates at a reception. Ben-Gvir has also been celebrated as a “superstar” in the UAE.

The Biden administration has also expressed alarm at the supposed anti-LGBT stance of the incoming Netanyahu government. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, for example, told J Street, a prominent liberal Jewish advocacy organization, that “We’ll continue to express our support for core democratic principles, including respect for the rights of the LGBT community and the equal administration of justice for all citizens of Israel.”

But again, these supposed concerns don’t match up with reality. According to reports, Netanyahu has been floating the appointment of Israel’s first openly-gay Foreign Minister or Knesset speaker.

These examples demonstrate the gap between two universes: the first, a universe of abstractions and fantasies in which the Biden team operates, and the second, in which the rest of the world goes about the business of engaging with reality.

It is hard not to feel that there is something personal behind the opposition of so many Democrats to the inclusion of the Religious Zionist party in Israel’s government. It would be easy to ascribe it to antisemitism, and for some Democrats such as Ilhan Omar or Rashida Tlaib, that may be true. However, antisemitism does not explain the reaction of Jewish politicians, and Jewish advocacy groups such as J Street.

Conservatives and even some mainstream Jewish supporters of Israel are quick to question whether organizations such as J Street are anything but “anti-Israel” at this point, and they are correct to do so. But these organizations nevertheless represent a substantial segment of the American Jewish community. For that community, support for Israel as a Jewish state has always been tied to their own Jewish identity, and that meant that it was conditional not on Israel having a Jewish identity, but the same sort of liberal Jewish identity they do.

In practice, this meant that Israel was expected to reflect the liberal desires of the American left. In hindsight, it is remarkable how long the relationship was able to last, given the gap between the expectations placed upon Israel by American liberals, and the realities facing the Jewish state.

For decades, however, Israel was able to present itself as progressive, highlighting the role of women in the military, and later gay soldiers. However, as American progressivism became ever more extreme, the demands became impossible to meet. American progressivism became anti-nationalist, anti-religious, and anti-democratic. In the former case, American liberals came to see any nation-building exercise which involved any tradeoffs whatsoever as an original sin. A political tradition which called for statues of Abraham Lincoln to be torn down could not be expected to celebrate David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel. They might accept that Israel was created in a process which involved some Palestinians losing some land (ignoring the vastly greater number of Jews displaced from the Arab world) but they expected Israelis to constantly flaunt their guilt for it. Israeli’s defiant pride in their nation’s history was offensive to the American left.

Secondly, the idea of separation of church and state transformed into a belief that any laws or policies informed by religion were inherently oppressive. Nowhere was this more evident in the United States than the absurd legal challenge to Florida’s 15-week ban on abortion where plaintiffs claimed restrictions on abortion were an infringement on the freedom of their Jewish beliefs. The implication was that opposition to abortion could only be motivated by religious views, and hence policies deriving from it violated the religious beliefs of others.

These dynamics meant that American liberals often weighed in emotionally in Israel’s clashes between the Ultra-Orthodox and Secular factions, but in a more extreme way than Israelis themselves. The Ultra-Orthodox influence in politics, especially to liberal Jewish-Americans, was toxic and bordered on illegitimate.

The third and final shift occurred during the Trump years as many on the American left adopted a “rule or ruin” approach to politics in which “democracy” was when the “correct” outcome was produced. As Donald Trump’s election was the “incorrect” outcome, they expected foreign leaders to prove their virtue by opposing Trump, not embracing him.

The current reaction to Netanyahu’s return combines all three dynamics. To the left, Netanyahu himself represents a “failure of democracy.” He was an “authoritarian” leader who embraced Donald Trump and allied himself with the Ultra-Orthodox faction, and hence “deserved” to lose. He was “rightfully” being prosecuted by the courts, and his obstruction of those efforts proved that whether or not he went to jail was a test for Israeli “democracy.” A test, that, by returning him to Balfour House, Israel would fail.

The makeup of Netanyahu’s cabinet is also, in this view, a test of Israeli “democracy.” For American Democrats, Israeli leaders should appoint ministers based on their relations with the ruling party in Washington. Including the Religious Zionist party shows that Israelis are not “mature” enough to feel the proper guilt and shame for their existence. Without that maturity, how can the United States help them? Why should it? Or so the left sees it.

There are few better encapsulations of this worldview than what Congressman Brad Sherman of California, a liberal Democrat, tweeted as the election results were beginning to come in:

Sherman does not choose to dwell on the views themselves, or why enough people voted for them to make the Religious Zionists Israel’s third largest party. Rather, he merely asserts that these nebulous “views” are contrary to the principles of a “democratic and Jewish state.” The formulation is odd.

Democrats argue that Ben-Gvir’s views run contrary to the idea of a “democratic” state because he views Israel first and foremost as a Jewish state which should not hide its Jewish nature. Ben-Gvir has, for instance, called for an end to the ban on Jews entering the Temple Mount, a policy put in place out of fear of Palestinian violence and diplomatic anger. In the words of the Congressional Research Service, Ben-Gvir “openly support[s] policies to favor Israel’s Jewish citizens over its Arab citizens and annex the West Bank.” These, ostensibly, are the ”threats to democracy.” Yet American liberals do not seem to ask themselves why excluding the third largest party, which nearly doubled its support from the last election, would not threaten democratic values even more.

Sherman’s remarks only make sense if you conflate Israel’s “Jewish” identity with Sherman’s own liberal American Jewish identity and that of many of his constituents. With Israel as with politics here in the United States, in liberals’ view, the threat to “democracy” lies in the “wrong” government being formed. The election results and voters got it wrong, and hence the error has to be corrected in the formation of the government. Ben-Gvir should not have won so many seats, but having done so, it would only compound the “error” for Netanyahu to award him the office to which those seats would entitle him.

Blinken’s remarks at J Street echoed this worldview. “Thank you for embodying the principle of Tikkun olam not only in your work on Israel but across the social justice causes that you champion, causes that our administration shares and is committed to defending and promoting with you at home as well as around the world, including LGBTQ rights and women’s rights, religious freedom,” he told the hosts. Missing was Judaism, or Israeli security.

George W. Bush once spoke of the “soft bigotry of low expectations.” There is an equally pernicious bigotry of “high expectations.” Catholic Democrats would be mocked if they claimed that the only true Catholicism was its most liberal form, and Democrats express outrage when Catholic prelates suggest denying communion to politicians who reject Church teachings on abortion. Yet, groups like J Street, endorsed by figures such as the sitting Secretary of State, are willing to proclaim themselves the true representatives of Judaism and imply that all other Jews, including the electorate of the world’s only Jewish state, are in error if they fail to embrace their “principles.” There are multiple ways to be a Catholic or Muslim state, but evidently only one way to be a Jewish one.    

This arrogance from Biden and his allies on the left is backfiring. The very nature of U.S. interference almost requires Netanyahu to reject it. Not just in cases such as the Religious Zionist ministers, but also where he would otherwise have acted in ways Washington wanted when it came to appointments. The U.S. ambassador urging the Prime Minister not to do so likely made it far harder for Netanyahu to resist the claims of the Religious Zionists, who could now argue that Israeli democracy, not their own personal careers, were at stake when it came to what offices they received. The prospects of former Ambassador Ron Dermer, a close Netanyahu ally, Obama critic, but yet an individual with a good working relationship with everyone in Washington, to be Foreign Minister have been harmed by Blinken, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and the US Ambassador lobbying in his favor.

The current “crisis” in relations between Israel and the Biden administration is really about the wider crisis in American domestic politics, where every institution must be political, and to fail to be political or political in the correct way is to be illegitimate. If something does not change, the same bitter divisions which exist within the United States will emerge in our relations with the wider world.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.

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Tony Blackwell
Tony Blackwell
1 year ago

I pray for Israel and ask the govt. of Israel to ignore the idiots currently in charge of the US. God is on your side and so am I.

Nick
Nick
1 year ago

And the Democrats lecture the rest of us about anti-semitism. And How that is a problem from the radical right. See the Democrat rule number two; if they are accusing you of it they are already doing it themselves. Rule one is if their lips are moving they are lying

Granny
Granny
1 year ago

Obama contributed to the campaign against Netanyahu 8 years ago and actively campaigned against him. What could we possibly expect from this administration.

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

Excellent article.

William Ayers
William Ayers
1 year ago

The DemonRats hate Israel for not being woke enough but they’re not concerned with China persecuting their ethnic minorities.

sdgorton@outlook.com
1 year ago

I like both these guys just because the demoncrats don’t. Most of the people that are in this American adminstration are all traitors to the US Constitution & should be tossed into prison at Guantanamo

nate
nate
1 year ago

Why does this depraved and secular administration think it can impose itself in other nations’ business when it comes to imposing cultural depravity and immorality? Leave them alone and mind your own failing country.

Robin W Boyd
Robin W Boyd
1 year ago

What amazes me is how many Jews in the U.S. continue to support the Democrat Party while the Democrat Party continues to show disdain for Israel. It’s no wonder so many Israeli’s have no respect for American Jews.

PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

The Democrats’ approach to divide and conquer for political power and personal financial gain has been around for decades. They are just much more open and upfront about it now. They don’t fear the American people, as they have been able to do pretty much whatever they want for the last 2 years with no real pushback. Anything that is not what the Democrats want is “a danger to democracy”. Anything from what free speech means to how other nations select their own governments. It all has to be perfectly aligned and completely in sync with the current political narrative of the Democrat Party or you are a “threat to democracy” and an enemy of the United States that must be crushed from existence. It’s almost a binary equation from their perspective.

I understand where the insane impulse to subjugate or completely destroy anyone or anything that has a different perspective or set of values from the Democrat Party comes from. The Democrat Party has always been enamoured with repressive and authoritarian socialist or communist governments going back well over a 100 years now. From the days of openly be in favor of socialism to their evolution into so-called “Progressives” to mask their true socialist nature, the Democrat Party has been very consistent for all that time, if you look at how they acted and who they favored outside of the public spotlight.

First it was their idealized view of the communists in Russia, who eventually created the old Soviet Union. Absolute power and control over the people and all aspects of the economy, until news started to leak out about Stalin’s atrocities. Then they morphed into “Progressives” and took a closer look at how Hitler had used intimidation and more violent acts to not only seize power, but re-order German society to meet his global ambitions. Again, Hitler and his socialist drive that looked so endicing to American Democrats. Once again, near total control over the people and a lock on all major aspects of the economy in order to try and achieve his sick vision of the European continent ruled from Berlin. Then came Mao and his takeover of China and the rise of the CCP. Today President Xi is deeply revered by most Democrats for his unilateral control of virtually everything in China. The Democrats so deeply want to recreate that sort of total control here for themselves. Anyone standing in their way on the world stage is viewed as a potential threat and thus “a danger to democracy” in their twisted mindset. We do indeed live in interesting times, where we have one political party that is completely dedicated to essentially transforming our constitutional republic into as close of a copy to the CCP controlled China as possible. All while openly attacking any foreign allies we may still have left on the world stage. If only the America people were actually paying attention to what is going on instead of following the latest bright and shiny ball being tangled before them each and every day.

Dan
Dan
1 year ago

A most perceptive analysis!

Philip Hammersley
Philip Hammersley
1 year ago

I think the quote about “soft bigotry” actually came from either Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams. But it is definitely true. DIMMs think blacks cannot get ID cards or find their way to the polls. Hispanics can only do menial jobs or yard work for millionaire DIMMs. Why any TRUE Jew could support a putz like Biden is puzzling!

Cathleen
Cathleen
1 year ago

Biden should butt out. No country has done this to his bad self.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
1 year ago

Back off Isreal does NOT need this

Morbious
Morbious
1 year ago

Our lefties are in the process of giving away our country to turd world invaders. Israeli lefties would happily give their country away to the arabs in exchange for vapid promises. Israel is the inly country for hundreds of miles where gays are not at risk of torture and death but thats not good enough for the lefties. Lefties despise netenyahu because he’s israel first like trump was america first. They fantasize endlessly about a world that can only exist in science fiction but insist that all buy into their pipedreams. What is it about the palestinian insistence that israel is illegitimate and must cease to exist thats so tough to understand?

Max
Max
1 year ago

Israel knows that they are on their own as usual, whenever the Democrats are in charge. No matter what this administrations does with rattling its saber, Israel will do what is right in defense of their country against any hostile power that continues to threaten their existence.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

Funny how WH can’t work with an Israeli because he is too conservative but is bending backward for Chinese, Iranian and any other non Judeo Christian

Dr. C
Dr. C
1 year ago

What could one expect from the Democrat Socialist Fascist party? The third world war will in fact be over Jerusalem and it is obvious this vile Regime continues on its Godless path.

NewDay
NewDay
1 year ago

Isn’t it something how someone who can’t handle their own job wants to tell everyone else how to do theirs. Biden shows his ignorance by not supporting an important ally.

Donna
Donna
1 year ago

I find it odd that the Democrats wasted thousands of hours and taxpayer dollars on fake impeachment charges because they are so concerned about foreign influence from Russia and yet they want to forcefully exert American influence on almost every foreign nation on earth- again spending hours and thousands of our dollars.

David Slaughter
David Slaughter
1 year ago

Let’s all wake up to the open manipulation of the masses by the “elites'” narrative on so many fronts – energetically communicated, but seldom based in reality. Too many have espoused the ideology that oft-repeated lies are somehow transformed to truth. We need to stop drinking that Kool Aid!

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