by Gideon Levy.
Israel doesn’t know when to stop, and it could pay dearly as a result.
An elephant and an ant will meet in Washington on Monday for a critical summit. But wait, who here is the elephant and who the ant? Who is the superpower and who the patronage state?
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A new chapter is being written in the history of nations. Never before has a small country dictated to a superpower; never before has the chirp of the cricket sounded like a roar; never has the elephant resembled the ant – and vice versa. No Roman province dared tell Julius Caesar what to do, no tribe ever dreamed of forcing Genghis Khan to act in accordance with its own tribal interests. Only Israel does this. On Monday, when Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu meet at the White House, it will be hard to tell which one is the real leader of the world.
For the past few years the Israeli cricket has been chirping “Iran,” and the world responds with a muffled echo. It isn’t that Iran is only an Israeli problem, but North Korea could endanger Japan just as much as Iran endangers Israel – and the world has not come running to Japan’s side. Netanyahu’s Israel has dictated the global agenda as no small state has ever done before, just as its international standing is at its nadir and its dependence on the United States at a zenith.
To the miracles of the rebirth of the Hebrew language after two millennia, the establishment of a thriving country of immigrants in the Land of Israel in such a short span of time and the invention of the kibbutz, we must now add another, much more deserving of a place on the list of the seven wonders of the world than the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, than the Roman Colosseum or the Great Wall of China: Israel’s wondrous power in the face of the United States. There is no rational explanation.
Israel features in the American presidential campaign as no other foreign country does, with the candidates vying for the sobriquet of “biggest Israel-lover” to the point where it often seems to be the main issue. Rich Jews like Sheldon Adelson donate enormous war chests to candidates for the sole purpose of buying their support for Israel, while the president of the United States, who won with a message of change, was forced to fold up, at lightning speed, the flag of planting peace in the Middle East simply because Israel said “No.” If last week a British member of the House of Lords was forced to resign from Parliament after daring to criticize Israel, in the United States she would never have even considered making her views known.
Israel is teaching the world a lesson in international relations: Size doesn’t matter. When it comes to foreign policy Europe toes the U.S. line much more than tiny Israel does. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also taught the world that it’s possible to tell the American president “No,” bluntly and explicitly, and not only remain alive but even to gain in strength. So Obama begged for an extension of the settlement construction freeze – so what? Netanyahu will take care of it: He took the issue off the agenda.
When he goes to the White House on Monday he will make a new demand: Either you or we (attack Iran ), putting the leader of the free world in a tight spot. Obama does not want to ensnare his country in another war or in an energy crisis, but when Netanyahu hath demanded, who will not fear?
This would appear to be a good thing, a reason to marvel at the prime minister. A cat may look at a king, but it doesn’t always end well. One day, perhaps, even in brainwashed America the questions may begin: another war? Is it right to put more American soldiers in harm’s way for an interest that is more Israeli than it is American? And perhaps we should also make demands from the small protege?
For now, Obama may be unable to prohibit Israel from a military adventure in Iran without offering serious quid pro quo. After all, we are talking about the prime minister of Israel. But one day the rope could snap and the whole thing could blow up in the face of power-drunk Israel: Israel doesn’t know when to stop, and it could pay dearly as a result.
Gideon Levy is a prominent Israeli journalist and author of the weekly column Twilight Zone in the Israeli paper Ha’aretz. He is also an editorial board member of Ha’aretz. Between 1978 and 1982 Levy served in the Shimon Peres office when Peres was the leader of the Labor Party.