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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Loyalty of Israel's True Friend

By Melanie Phillips

In New York last week, I was talking to American Jews anxious about the very difficult relationship between President Obama and Israel's newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We wait to see whether the Obama administration will carry out its post-election threat to throw Israel under the bus if the declaration of a Palestine state comes to a UN vote. The idea, however, that the nation of America would sever its relationship with Israel is a very different matter. For Israel has a special place in America's heart.


Last Monday, Senator Ted Cruz declared he would run for the Republican presidential nomination. Speaking at Virginia's Liberty University, said to be the largest Christian university in the world, Cruz declared: "Instead of a president who boycotts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, imagine a president who stands unapologetically with the nation of Israel."

Can you imagine any British politician using support for Israel as a way of gaining voter approval? Can you imagine Church of England folk applauding? Last week, Senator Tom Cotton told the Senate that America's alliance with Israel was not one that existed between particular statesmen or parties but "between the American people and the Israeli people". "Under no circumstances", he declared, "will I or Congress allow the Obama administration to abandon Israel."

In the same week, Senator Marco Rubio delivered a blistering speech tearing into Obama's six-year record of hostility towards Israel, culminating in the President's tantrum after Netanyahu's victory.

Israel, said Rubio, was "a nation with a special and unique purpose unlike any other nation in the world". It had repeatedly offered a state to the Palestinians whose response was to incite terrorism. "Yet these are the people we are pressuring Israel to make a deal with," he cried. "The conditions for peace do not exist with a people who teach their children that killing Jews is a glorious thing". No people on earth, he said, more wanted peace and had more suffered from violence than the Jews. Israel needed America's unconditional support. "Because if America doesn't stand with Israel, who would we stand with?"

Can you imagine MPs voicing such sentiments - and being heard with equanimity? These senators are all Republicans. After the row over Obama's reaction to Netanyahu's Congress address and re-election, concern has been expressed that bipartisan support for Israel may be eroding with the Democrats and Republicans dividing into opposite camps.

However, the American people remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. This is largely because of the great mass of biblically-faithful Christians, for whom the Jews and the state of Israel are indeed God's beloved people (albeit to be converted at the end of days) and promised land.

Beyond these Christians, most Americans believe Israel represents their values and serves as the front line of their defence. More profoundly, they identify with Israel because they feel America is also a special and blessed land with a mission to the world. For sure, this support is now under attack. Jewish students are running the gauntlet of anti-Israel aggression on US campuses. The coverage of Israel by the New York Times is a breathtaking display of sustained journalistic malice and distortion.

Despite all this, those who want to destroy the US /Israel relationship face an obstacle. For the real "Israel lobby" is not America's tiny Jewish community. It is America itself.


Melanie Phillips is a columnist for The Times


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