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Groveling before Pakistan
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Ira Sharkansky


Groveling Before Pakistan,  September 3, 2005

By Ira Sharkansky
The Jews are less a pariah people than in the past, but Israel is a pariah country. Jews in western democracies (where almost all of them now live) can aspire to social acceptance and elite status in all the economic fields which a generation ago were largely closed to them. Yet Israel still struggles for acceptance.
Last Thursday, the 12 noon news on Israel radio reported that Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was in Islamabad, and about to announce the opening of diplomatic relations with Pakistan. A hour later the Pakistani authorities said that there had, indeed, been a meeting, but that Pakistan could not recognize Israel until the Palestinians had created their state with its capital in Jerusalem. Silvan Shalom praised his success in achieving a meeting with Pakistani officials, and indicated that the road was open to improved relations.
Israel's groveling in order to achieve recognition from Pakistan is one indication of its pariah status.
Another indication appears in a New York Times review of a book described as a" brilliant contribution to the American foreign policy debate." The theme of Taming American Power, by Stephen M. Walt, a professor of international relations at the Harvard Kennedy School, is to place " its readers in the minds of the leaders and citizens of other states, including the country's rivals. This is something that really ought to be among the most obvious duties of all foreign policy analysts."
Where does Israel come in?
According to the reviewer, "The most controversial part of the book is Walt's analysis of the role of national lobbies in the United States, particularly the Israeli lobby. Walt does not condemn this lobby for acting in Israel's interest. Lobbies exist to influence policy. But he does bring out just how damaging the results of Israeli influence have been, both in terms of direct harm to American interests and in creating Muslim perceptions of American bias, hostility and hypocrisy. ''It is one thing to pay a price for taking steps that are clearly in the U.S. national interest,'' he writes, ''but it is quite another matter to place U.S. security at risk doing something primarily on behalf of some other country.'' For raising this vital issue, on which so many others are silent, Walt deserves special thanks."
I have not read the book, so I cannot say how closely the review follows the text. My guess is that the reviewer, Anatol Lieven, is Jewish. Not a few Jews have joined the campaign to define Israel as a pariah state. The last sentence quoted is Lieven's, and notes his special thanks for Walt's raising a vital issue.
I would argue with the image of the United States putting its security at risk primarily for the benefit of Israel. It suggests that Israel and its American friends have sneaked around in American politics, in order to distort United States government actions for their special interests.
Professor Walt and Anatol Lieven need to learn something about international relations. Lots of countries, including the United States, have long acted at least partly for the benefit of others. Why else did the United States enter World War I, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, not to mention a host of Latin American countries. Partly to guard the interests of the United States, to be sure, but also (according to American announcements) to assure the future of the other countries.
Likewise American aid of various kinds to Israel has been meant to benefit the United States as well as Israel. At one time it was to assure the strength of an anti-Soviet bulwark in the Middle East. More recently it has been help an ally deal with the same Islamic terror that threatens the United States.
What does Israel do for the United States? Not a little. In exchange for American support, Israel moderates its response to Palestinian violence. Stephen Walt and Anatol Lieven should realize that Israel could have dealt much more forcefully with Palestinians if it did not concern itself with how its actions would affect the posture of the United States in the Middle East. If Israel was only concerned with a simple view of its own security, it could have used enough military power to cause most people of Gaza to flee over the border to Egypt, and most Arabs of the West Bank to flee over the borders to Jordan, Syria, or Lebanon.
But alas, Israel is restrained by its own innate morality, as well as a concern to maintain at least minimally good relations with Egypt and Jordan, and to earn points for decency among other Western democracies.
It bothers me to think of Israel groveling for acceptance among the likes of Stephen Walt, Anatol Lieven, and the government of Pakistan.
I am most understanding of the benefits of gaining even minimal public acceptance from Pakistan. A meeting between the foreign ministers of Israel and Pakistan adds to the complexity of the Islamic world, and breaks its depressing homogeneity. That is good both for Israel and the United States.

Sharkansky is a member of the political science department at Hebrew University in Jerusalem