Reversing the Trend of US Distancing: A Vital Step for Israel’s National Security
Recent geopolitical developments in the Middle East, such as Tehran’s renewed relations with Riyadh under Chinese auspices, underscore the declining influence of the United States in the region. This trend carries potentially significant implications for Israel’s national security and its standing in the region. While global factors have contributed to the weakening grip of the US on the Middle East, it is crucial for the Israeli government to take proactive measures to reverse this direction and re-establish a strong partnership with its main ally. By addressing the factors that have strained American-Israeli relations, Israel can safeguard its own security and regional stability.
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American-Saudi Relations: The Changing Landscape
The process of US withdrawal from the Middle East can be traced back to the failures of the Bush Administration’s attempts to impose democracy in the region. The subsequent vacuum created opportunities for extremist groups like ISIS and Iran to gain influence. The US’s increasing energy independence further strained its relationship with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Events such as the Houthi attack on Aramco’s oil facilities in 2019 and the murder of Jamal Khashoggi worsened tensions. The cooling of relations between the Biden Administration and Saudi Arabia has practical implications, such as the Kingdom’s defiance of US expectations regarding oil prices. These developments, coupled with China’s growing influence, have led the US to shift its attention to East Asia, diminishing its focus on the Middle East.
China’s Rise and the Clash of Values
China’s deepening foothold in the Middle East, as exemplified by its warming relations with Saudi Arabia, highlights a fundamental difference between China and the US. China prioritizes economic empowerment without ethical considerations, while the US seeks to promote its values alongside its economic interests. The Middle East’s authoritarian rulers are less interested in the struggle for democracy and Western values, making China an appealing alternative. China’s economic incentives and indifference to regional regimes’ domestic policies provide it with leverage. Iran’s rapprochement with China, facilitated by economic considerations, further weakens US influence and isolates Israel in its confrontational approach to Tehran.
Israel’s Interests and Troubling Policies
Israel’s national interest lies in maintaining American involvement in the Middle East. However, certain aspects of Israeli policy exacerbate the strain on US-Israel relations and accelerate the American withdrawal. The Israeli government’s assault on democratic institutions contradicts American liberal-democratic values and undermines the moral alliance between the two countries. Israel’s destructive approach to the Palestinian issue, characterized by annexationist rhetoric, the repeal of the Disengagement Law, and a record number of Palestinian casualties, further hampers American engagement in the region. By adhering to fanatical positions, Israel undermines its own interests and contributes to the distancing of the United States.
The Way Forward: Rebuilding the Alliance
The United States has an opportunity to leverage the Abraham Accords by involving countries like the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Morocco to advance the Palestinian cause. By relying on the regional consensus over the Arab Peace Initiative, the US can draw in Saudi Arabia and ensure Israel’s regional integration. Israel must recognize the need to facilitate enhanced US regional influence, as relying on China is not a viable geostrategic option. To achieve this, the Israeli government must abandon policies that undermine liberal democratic values, preserve Israeli democracy and economic robustness, and safeguard Israel’s security.
To reverse the trend of US distancing in the Middle East, the Israeli government must take proactive steps to address the strained relationship. By abandoning policies that undermine democratic values and adopting a more constructive approach to the Palestinian issue, Israel can reinforce the alliance with its main ally. This is crucial not only for Israel’s national security but also for regional stability. The claim that Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East guarantees a strong alliance with the US is doubtful. Israel must recognize the importance of supporting liberal democratic values and helping the US restore its dominant position in the region to ensure its own long-term security interests.