February 28, 2014
When MK David Rotem disparaged the American ambassador, saying, “When were you ever on Israel’s side?” he reminded me of Shmuel Flatto-Sharon, the eccentric MK in the late 1970s who once turned to the Labor benches and asked, “What have you done for the state?” For a man wanted by French police who found refuge through the sympathies of Menachem Begin and immunity through his Knesset seat, such a remark required a lot of chutzpah.
True, Begin once took the American ambassador to task, saying, “We are not your vassals,” but this is the same America that helped us with the Yom Kippur airlift as well as in obtaining peace afterward. Our big mouth has not rested nor slept ever since.
Naftali Bennett, a big mouth in his own right, said just last week in a BBC interview that “Jews have been in the land of Israel way longer than the British on British land.” It is poor plagiarism, stolen from Benjamin Disraeli’s statement in the British parliament: “When my ancestors were receiving their Ten Commandments from the immediate Deity … the ancestors of my opponent were herding swine in the forests of Great Britain.” Ben-Gurion also plagiarized Disraeli with a similar statement.
It’s hard to believe we still are waging a quixotic war about the fact that we are Jews and our state is Jewish. When the United Nations approved the partition plan, it spoke of a Jewish sate, and the United States was the first to recognize it. There is no need to heap superfluous words on what we have gone through since establishing the state. The question at hand remains how the Palestinians and we can live in peace via a just division of what was once Palestine.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, the two powers that contributed the most to strengthening Israel’s army are the U.S. and Germany. The Gordian knot between the United States and us exists because the power of the Jewish vote, common values, and Israel being a strategic and sane asset in a region beset by radical Islam, based upon the thinking that it would know how to do its part in moderating this mad region.
And what motivates Germany? We think that because of the Holocaust we deserve everything, but there’s a limit to these guilt feelings. The generation that witnessed and suffered is dwindling. Germany in truth fulfilled Chancellor Adenauer’s pledge to Ben-Gurion in a meeting in the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York in 1960 to guarantee Israel’s security over and above the reparations. We received from Germany Patton tanks while that great friend France was hitting us with an embargo. Germany helped us build a huge factory to produce our tanks, and above all we received and continue to receive state-of-the-art submarines to meet present and future dangers.
Angela Merkel was born in July 1954 in Hamburg, nine years after World War II. Her generation didn’t experience Hitler or the Holocaust first hand. Unlike Margaret Thatcher, who was nicknamed the Iron Lady, Merkel in her third term as chancellor more resembles a nice aunt who became rose to the height of leadership. She has a controlling hand in all the important organizations, including the European Parliament in the person of Martin Schulz, whose appearance in the Knesset upset Bennett so much.
Her strong and value-laden leadership is no less important than America’s, and her influence in Europe is priceless; if it weren’t for her, according to an Israeli diplomat, they would tear us apart. We have never heard from Merkel any hint that pressure should be applied to Israel or that Bibi should be pushed out. And it is not only that she does not support the economic boycott of Israel, rather that she made the gesture of offering us consular services in countries with which Israel has no diplomatic relations.
The good news from her visit here is that there is no deep crisis between Bibi and Merkel. And the bad news – in the eyes of Israeli leaders – is that both Merkel and Obama believe that the time of decision has arrived. With all due respect to ourselves, we do not rule the world.