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The Rotten Fruit of Reflexive Hawkishness

Bret Stephens has achieved a new level of desperate “pro-Israel” hawkishness:

How does Mr. Netanyahu get out of this trap? Here’s another line I never thought I’d write: by downgrading relations with Washington.

That isn’t to say that Israel doesn’t benefit from good relations with the U.S. But the U.S., like Britain after World War II, is in retreat from the world, and Israelis need to adapt to a global reality in which the Americans are willing to do less, and consequently count for less. What Mr. Netanyahu has been doing instead is granting Mr. Obama a degree of leverage and a presumption of authority over the Jewish state to which he is not entitled and has done little to deserve. That needs to stop.

This would certainly make it easier for the U.S. to ignore Israeli complaints about its other policies in the region. If Israel chose to downgrade its relationship with the U.S., that might finally allow the relationship to become something closer to a normal one than it has been in decades. Of course, Netanyahu isn’t going to do this. He will hardly have forgotten that it was his own political fortunes that suffered when he was at loggerheads with Clinton back in the ’90s, and he isn’t likely to want to repeat that experience.

I very much doubt that Netanyahu would take such a risk for the sake of protesting U.S. diplomacy with Iran. It takes an especially fanatical hawk to think that Israel should wreck its relationship with the U.S. because Washington isn’t being bellicose enough, but that is what Stephens is saying. Perhaps reflexive support for hard-line policies becomes an end in and of itself at some point, so that pursuing hard-line policies becomes more important than the interests of the country that is supposed to be served by them. Netanyahu would have nothing to gain by downgrading Israel’s most important international relationship to demonstrate his dissatisfaction with the U.S. over Iran, especially when the U.S. is one of the few governments in the world that shares Israel’s view of Iran’s nuclear program. It would be the very definition of a self-defeating act.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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