When Israel became a country, I was already a teenager.
I remember the liberation of the concentration camps by Allied Forces and the dawning realization of the scope and horror of the Holocaust that is really beyond any human mind’s ability to comprehend.
I remember the migration of survivors to what would become Israel.
I remember the newsreels of the 1948 Arab Israeli War after Israel declared its independence.
I remember 1967, and 1973 when I was already well into my chosen profession.
Over the years, I have covered Israel in many ways. I have done on-the-ground reporting in the country. And I have covered its fraught relationship with much of the world and its special relationship with the United States, from the United Nations and Washington. I have also covered the plight of the Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza, and the summits that sought to give them peace as well.
I know Israel has been a long, and stalwart ally of the United States. I know, like every country in the world, it is a complicated place filled with people who have very different visions for its future. I have seen its image shift from a land of kibbutzim to a tech hub. I have seen it elect liberals and conservatives. I have seen those who seek peace and those who would provoke war. I have seen Israel do things that even many Israelis feel is unjust, like build settlements. I have also seen Israel held to a far different standard than its neighbors.
I know there are many arguments, good faith arguments, about what the relationship between the United States and Israel should be in these complicated times. You will find fierce debate on this topic in Israel, and certainly among American Jews.
We need to have this debate. We need to open our minds to nuance about a very complicated topic. Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, and the United States cannot afford to have a delicate balance become yet another one of the firecrackers of distraction and destruction that President Trump seems to light with such glee. And yet of course, here we are. To be sure, this has been going on for a while. Prime Minister Netanyahu has staked his political future for several years now in currying favor with American conservatives, even though American Jews vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. And Donald Trump, always looking for how division can add to his political power, has sought to politicize the issue.
The damage done this week will ricochet for years. And it leaves me with such sadness. This is not statecraft or sanity. It’s action driven by passionate ignorance. Like so much, it’s about seeking short-term tactical advantage at the expense of long-term stability.
I do believe that Israel and the United States will continue to be strong allies. But it will require repair on both sides, and what will emerge will be different from the past. When you consider what is happening in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, it cannot help but all be different.
Like so much today, all this pivots around the wake of destruction created by President Trump. As he lectures Americans about what he thinks Israel should do and should be, as he inserts himself in Israel’s internal politics, as he tries to paint the Democratic Party and thus most American Jews as anti-semitic, a certain word comes to mind: Chutzpah.