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Israel’s Unsurprising Response to Crimean Annexation

Ha’aretz reports [1] that the Obama administration is annoyed that Israel puts its own interests first:

White House and State Department officials in Washington have built up a great deal of anger over Jerusalem’s “neutrality” regarding Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. Senior figures in the Obama administration have expressed great disappointment with the lack of support from Israel for the American position on the Ukraine crisis and with the fact that the Israeli government puts its relations with the United States and with Russia on the same plane.

The U.S. doesn’t have to be happy that Israel isn’t taking the anti-Russian line that it wants on Ukraine, but it is a little odd that anyone in Washington expected a significantly different response. The administration is free to be disappointed with Israel’s reaction to the annexation of Crimea, but no one should have been surprised by it. This is hardly the only example of how dysfunctional this patron-client relationship has become, but it is an instructive one.

Even if it weren’t the case that Russian-Israeli relations have become much stronger in recent years, it would be odd for Israel to condemn another state for laying claim to territory outside its recognized borders. Like many other states that don’t want to rile Russia over matters that don’t directly concern them, Israel isn’t going out on a limb to uphold a principle that it doesn’t take seriously. Even if a significant number of the current government’s supporters weren’t Russian-speakers with connections to Russia and other former Soviet republics, Israel has no particular interest in upholding the sanctity of other states’ sovereignty and territorial integrity. Israel has violated both on more than a few occasions over the decades and reserves the right to do so in the future, so why exactly is it going to denounce Russia for doing things that are in some ways less egregious than its own past actions? Israel stands to gain nothing by antagonizing Russia on this issue, and it knows that risks nothing by disappointing Washington. Besides, the U.S. isn’t obliged to agree with Israel on how best to address Iran’s nuclear program, and has correctly pursued the current diplomatic course over Israeli objections. Why would we expect Israel to line up with the U.S. on an issue that matters even less to Washington? We shouldn’t, so why are so many people in the administration oblivious to this?

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22 Comments To "Israel’s Unsurprising Response to Crimean Annexation"

#1 Comment By A. G. Phillbin On April 14, 2014 @ 2:16 am

Not only should US foreign policy makers not be surprised that Israel’s interests diverge from U.S. interests in the case of the Ukraine, but, were they not busy being arrogant and ignorant (especially historically), they would understand that a nation of Jews has every reason to be skeptical of Ukrainian nationalism. It was Ukrainian nationalists in WWII, anxious to ingratiate themselves with the invading Nazis, who initiated a vicious pogrom in Lvov, and aided the SS in finding Jews as well. There were no Russian pogroms in WWII. Did they think the Israelis would want the Ukrainians to taste such “freedom” again?

#2 Comment By Labropotes On April 14, 2014 @ 6:36 am

It’s obvious that Russia has become the US media’s new whipping boy. It could pick on China or Saudi Arabia but it has chosen to vilify Russia. The Western media’s absurdly biased tone against Russia is to the pro Israel tone — never clearly report any fact that goes against the narrative. I think Israel is using America, and so NATO, as a proxies to torment Russia and so has no reason to stick its own neck out. Its using our neck and our wealth to make its point — don’t thwart Israel’s interests in Syria and Iran. The worst thing to happen to Israel’s interests would be an awakening of nationalism in the US that would prevent such manipulation.

#3 Comment By Freed Ocra On April 14, 2014 @ 7:06 am

Given the increasingly Russian character of the Israeli population the sympathy for Putin’s annexation of Crimea is to be expected. That’s their business, not ours.

And surely no one is surprised anymore when Israeli leaders thank us for the hundreds of billions we’ve lavished on them by spitting in our face? I only wish we’d wake up and cut them off the US dole.

#4 Comment By David44 On April 14, 2014 @ 10:08 am

I suspect that no one in the White House is at all surprised by this, but by publicly expressing annoyance they can achieve a much broader and more desirable objective: namely to make it clear to Israel’s supporters in the US that Israel and the US _do_ have divergent interests on many matters, and hence to make it a little less likely that when the US pursues a policy which Israel happens to dislike, there should be no cries of betrayal from those who claim to believe that the US should never disagree with Israel on any point.

#5 Comment By VikingLS On April 14, 2014 @ 10:28 am

Maybe the Israelis aren’t very enthusiastic about the open anti-Semitism in the new government in Kiev?

#6 Comment By KXB On April 14, 2014 @ 10:34 am

Given that Israel has launched airstrikes on its neighbors with great regularity, we should take some small comfort in that Russia took Crimea without firing a shot.

#7 Comment By Moxeyheller On April 14, 2014 @ 11:14 am

The current Israeli government enjoys wide spread support amongst the one million former Russian citizens who obviously have more influence than the billions of dollars given by the US government

#8 Comment By Noah172 On April 14, 2014 @ 11:38 am

it is a little odd that anyone in Washington expected a significantly different response

Considering the extraordinary support which gentile America gives to Israel — in treasure and more importantly in blood — it is quite reasonable for us to expect Israel to take our side in a diplomatic dispute (not that I approve of our taking sides in the Crimean affair, but that’s another matter).

Israel may be kinda sorta friendly with Putin because the latter, by shoring up Assad, is keeping the ghastly Syrian civil war aflame, and thus leaving Syria too divided and weak to be a threat to Israel.

they would understand that a nation of Jews has every reason to be skeptical of Ukrainian nationalism

Who should be skeptical of whose nationalism?

Ever heard of Lazar Kaganovich? He, a Jew, was one of Stalin’s closest henchmen, and one of the few Old Bolsheviks to survive the purges. He was one of the principal executors of Stalin’s collectivization and grain seizure program in Ukraine, which led to the death by starvation — Holodomor in Ukrainian — of some 3 to 8 million Ukrainians in less than a year (1932-33), one of history’s greatest genocides (and, you might notice from the date, one that occurred earlier than the Holocaust).

Maybe the Israelis aren’t very enthusiastic about the open anti-Semitism in the new government in Kiev?

Are you joking? Even David Frum, of all people, admits (based on his interviews with Ukrainian Jewish leaders) that “anti-Semitism” in modern Ukraine is virtually non-existent.

#9 Comment By Connecticut Farmer On April 14, 2014 @ 11:38 am

We should take a cue from Israel and butt out of the whole Ukrainian affair. It is Russia’s problem, not ours.

#10 Comment By A. G. Phillbin On April 14, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

@Noah172,

they would understand that a nation of Jews has every reason to be skeptical of Ukrainian nationalism

Who should be skeptical of whose nationalism?

Ever heard of Lazar Kaganovich? He, a Jew,

Was Kaganovich acting on behalf of Jews or Jewish nationalism, or was he acting on behalf of Stalin and the Soviet government? If the latter, then what is the significance of his being “a Jew,” in this context? Are you one of those people who thinks that people (or perhaps just “Jews”) always act out of some ethnic essence? Or do you believe in “Jewish Bolshevism?”

was one of Stalin’s closest henchmen, and one of the few Old Bolsheviks to survive the purges. He was one of the principal executors of Stalin’s collectivization and grain seizure program in Ukraine, which led to the death by starvation — Holodomor in Ukrainian — of some 3 to 8 million Ukrainians in less than a year (1932-33), one of history’s greatest genocides (and, you might notice from the date, one that occurred earlier than the Holocaust).

And for this, how many Ukrainian Jews do you believe deserved to die? And that’s assuming that this very accurate “3 to 8 million” figure was something that wasn’t occurring throughout the USSR. Were no Russians or other Soviet nationalities starving due to forced collectivization?

If this is how you make historical judgments, you are sociopathic.

#11 Comment By Athens or Bust! On April 14, 2014 @ 12:21 pm

Yes. The sabras don’t much care, and the immigrants are mostly Russians who, to put it delicately, don’t share our “Western” outlook.

#12 Comment By Noah172 On April 14, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

A.G. Phillbin,

My point in mentioning Kaganovich (I could have mentioned any number of other high-ranking ethnically Jewish Communists) was to give you a mirror image of the mindless tribalistic grudge-holding of your first comment in this thread.

You imply that modern Jews should not trust modern Ukrainian nationalists (virtually all of the latter being born after 1945 and in no way responsible for any persecution of Jews) because of the actions of some (only some) Ukrainians during the war. (BTW, it was quite understandable that Ukrainians and other peoples suffering under the Soviet yoke would in desperation ally with the invading Germans, as the latter represented the only hope of liberation from genocidal Communist tyranny; it’s not like Churchill and Roosevelt gave a damn for the life and liberty of Eastern Europeans.) If Israelis should, as you seem to think, make their foreign policy based on such aging grudges and prejudices, why shouldn’t Ukrainians? Or anyone else, for that matter?

Kaganovich and other ethnically Jewish Communists may not have been Jewish nationalists, but their involvement in Communism was nonetheless rooted in their belief that Communism served Jews’ collective interests in that it would, in theory, eliminate the religious, ethnic, and class distinctions which formed the bases of historical hostility toward Jews.

Another thing: My citation of Holodomor victim estimates is of figures broadly used by historians for Ukraine alone. Yes, millions of people throughout the USSR died because of collectivization, but the program in Ukraine was the most vicious and the most precisely targeted at a particular ethnic group.

And for this, how many Ukrainian Jews do you believe deserved to die?… If this is how you make historical judgments, you are sociopathic

If this is how you debate political issues, you are a melodramatic character assassin.

#13 Comment By Boston Bob On April 14, 2014 @ 1:45 pm

Which one is the “Client?”

#14 Comment By TomB On April 14, 2014 @ 2:34 pm

A million Bravos, Noah 172. Philbin is essentially trying to maintain the double-standard whitewash that one and only one ethno/racial/religious group in the world has any grudges and is the eternal victim group, free of all historical misdeeds. And it’s a further damned funny thing remembering the flood of that ethno/racial/religious group out of those communist countries skedaddling their asses to Israel when communism there did turn anti-semitic and/or did collapse. Including any number of of those who their former countries wanted to extradite for the crimes they committed as communists whose extradition Israel refuses.

Two million Bravos.

#15 Comment By James Canning On April 14, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

That Israel abstained in the UN vote was what I expected.

#16 Comment By Simon On April 14, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

Israel will not back up the United States in this solis pure with Russia because (1) the American position is obtuse, hypocritical, and historically ignorant and (2) Israel knows it can get away with taking any position that advances its own interests. There will still be 400 or more congressmen and 90 plus senators who have Israel’s back any time friction arises between the US and Israeli governments.

The Administration is frustrated by the Israeli stance because Mr Kerry has joined the long line of American Secretaries of State who have foolishly treated the Israel-Palestinian dispute as if it were the most important issue in the world. Kerry has devoted the best part of his time and energy in office to what will certainly prove to be a fruitless quest for a negotiated, permanent peace in the Holy Land. And like everyone before him, he is slowly realizing his efforts would have been better directed at any one of a dozen more important and more resolvable problems around the Globe.

#17 Comment By calder On April 14, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

There should be a poster in the every White House office and Congressional office: Other Countries Have Their Own Interests.

#18 Comment By Andrew On April 14, 2014 @ 10:16 pm

@VikingLS

Maybe the Israelis aren’t very enthusiastic about the open anti-Semitism in the new government in Kiev?

No way, say it isn’t so;-)

#19 Comment By A. G. Phillbin On April 14, 2014 @ 11:42 pm

You imply that modern Jews should not trust modern Ukrainian nationalists (virtually all of the latter being born after 1945 and in no way responsible for any persecution of Jews) because of the actions of some (only some) Ukrainians during the war.

I implied no such thing — you inferred it, because you wanted to hear that. What I was referring to is Ukrainian nationalists, such as Swoboda and Right Sector with their “wolfsengel” (spelling) emblem. Both are openly anti-Semitic, and both are admirers of Stepan Bandera. they are spiritual heirs to those Ukrainian nationalists who supported the Nazis to the point of pogroms and Jew hunting. Quit being so lazy-minded.

(BTW, it was quite understandable that Ukrainians and other peoples suffering under the Soviet yoke would in desperation ally with the invading Germans, as the latter represented the only hope of liberation from genocidal Communist tyranny; it’s not like Churchill and Roosevelt gave a damn for the life and liberty of Eastern Europeans.)

Siding with them militarily against the USSR is one thing, siding with them against a part of the civil population of the Ukraine is another. The Finns sided with Hitler against Stalin — but they refused to hand anyone over to them.

Kaganovich and other ethnically Jewish Communists may not have been Jewish nationalists, but their involvement in Communism was nonetheless rooted in their belief that Communism served Jews’ collective interests in that it would, in theory, eliminate the religious, ethnic, and class distinctions which formed the bases of historical hostility toward Jews.

So an entire community of mostly innocent people deserved to be butchered because of the misdeeds and misbeliefs of a few? I was right — you are a sociopath.

Another thing: My citation of Holodomor victim estimates is of figures broadly used by historians for Ukraine alone. Yes, millions of people throughout the USSR died because of collectivization, but the program in Ukraine was the most vicious and the most precisely targeted at a particular ethnic group.

And is your broadly precise figure of 3 to 8 million (the range is larger than the minimum figure!) an example of how you came to the broadly precise conclusion that Ukrainians were persecuted as a nationality, and not simply victims of misguided economic policy?

#20 Comment By William Dalton On April 14, 2014 @ 11:59 pm

I would echo contributors Philbin and Noah’s comments about the history of Ukrainian-Jewish relations, even while each provides a different spin to their mutual animosities, as a significant factor in Israel’s approach to the Crimean question today. Many Ukrainians, particularly those in the Polish west, whose lands were annexed to the Soviet Union in the course of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact division of Poland in 1939, joined with Nazi forces in fighting against Stalin’s Red Army for their liberation from the Soviet Union when Hitler launched his invasion in 1941. The same was true in the Baltic Republics – particularly in Lithuania, in which many of the Soviet apparatchiks were native Jewish Communists who were instrumental in the murder and exile to Siberia of leading Lithuanians when the Soviets invaded in 1940.

The State of Israel has profited from its creation from its status as the world’s greatest victim of genocide and race hatred in the Twentieth Century. That others who might have their own grievances against Israel’s forebears would seek recognition for their own victimhood status may not be a particularly welcome development in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Neither Jews nor Ukrainians, present or past, have clean hands in the department of perfidy and betrayal of their neighbors. Americans would do well to stop assigning the white and black hats to disputing parties before assessing their particular disputes on the merits.

As for the present crisis in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, I would judge the security interests of the United States would be far better served by pressing Israel to end its occupation of what Gov. Christie injudiciously referred to as the “occupied territories”, even at the cost of seeing Israel give full-throated support to Moscow in its claims upon Ukraine.

#21 Comment By Richard Parker On April 15, 2014 @ 1:31 am

Thank You, Noah172!

#22 Comment By TomB On April 15, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

In response to Noah172 A.G. Philbin wrote:

“So an entire community of mostly innocent people deserved to be butchered because of the misdeeds and misbeliefs of a few? I was right — you are a sociopath.”

Of course not even a community of guilty people deserve to be “butchered,” but in one fell swoop Philbin exhibts both the whitewash and double standard so typical on this subject.

In the first place as even jewish historian Yuri Slezkin admits (if not celebrates) in his _The Jewish Century_ the jewish community in Russia—way generally *enough*—wildly welcomed the coming of the Bolsheviks. As did the jewish communities in Eastern Europe when the Bolsheviks took over there, despite them having already demonstrated their blood lust. (As if Trotsky’s promise of “rivers of blood” flowing wherever the Bolsheviks advanced wasn’t enough.)

Or as one Pole put it who was grabbed up by the secret police there the communists of course immediately set up when they took over after the war, it was an interesting experience being interrogated by (and tortured at the direction of) a fellow Pole who needed an interpreter to do his job because he only spoke Yiddish/Hebrew.

Moreover, it’s yet another interesting thing to see and hear the absolutely common sentiment that Germany and indeed Germans generally, even those born well after Hitler was gone, owe some special responsibility and in fact reparations for what was done during the Holocaust. Despite it obviously being the fact that only a relative very “few” were actively involved in killing jews.

Indeed, in terms of such perspectives look at the revulsion one sees in Israel at the idea of having a binational state with the Palestinians/arabs (not to mention the revulsion at the Palestinians having a true state at all) because—generally *enough*—they allegedly hate jews and want to drive them into the sea.

And look too at the rapturous reception of Goldhagen’s book _Hitler’s Willing Executioners_ totally devoted to indicting all Germans in the Holocaust. Or, to put it another way, where was the jewish rejection of its going far *beyond* mere generalization?

Peering through the whitewash and just simply using one standard to the extent that Goldhagen’s thesis is valid then so is the idea that, as another jewish historian put it, the jewish communities in Eastern Europe were Lenin and Stalin’s “willing executioners.”

And even not going nearly so far the plain truth is that the fascist and communist experience in Europe reveals that *all* men and women of every stripe were susceptible to acting like beasts to other men and women. Because at different times and under different circumstances damn near all did. *Everyone.*

To folks like Mr. Philbin however, the double standard supporting that whitewash is holy and unshakable, no matter how obvious or hurtful, such as his comments—in the face of the simply mountain of evidence otherwise, now including official documentation by those inflicting same— questioning the number of communist victims of the Ukrainian Holomodor/Holocaust and then further suggesting the same wasn’t really intentionally caused but gee, was just the result of some “misguided economic policy.”

And then contrast this with the near instantaneous response one would (rightfully) get calling into question the numbers generally used in relating the jewish Holocaust, or suggesting that perhaps the victims thereof were not targeted because of their jewishness but instead due to economic motives.

In fact in many countries anyone doing so would be lucky to escape prosecution for Holocaust denial. Without, one can’t help but know, the slightest peep of protest from Mr. Philbin who one further suspects is all in favor of such laws.

No one is entitled to a double standard. No one.