Israel’s disastrous raid in international waters Monday on a Turkish-flagged flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza has resurrected a long-running debate over whether Washington’s close alliance with the Jewish state really serves U.S. strategic interests.
Ironically, one negative answer was provided in Jerusalem Tuesday by none other than the head of Israel’s vaunted foreign-intelligence agency, Mossad.
Noting, among other things, the disappearance of the Soviet and Western blocs with the end of the Cold War, Mossad chief Meir Dagan told members of the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that "Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden."
That view was emphatically re-asserted the following day by one of Washington’s most highly respected and centrist Middle East analysts in an essay entitled "Israel as a Strategic Liability?" that instantly became must-reading for regional specialists both in and outside the administration of President Barack Obama.
"At the best of times, an Israeli government that pursues the path to peace provides some intelligence, some minor advances in military technology, and a potential source of stabilizing military power that could help Arab states like Jordan," wrote Anthony Cordesman, a long-time fixture of the foreign policy establishment at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
"It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States, as well as the United States to Israel, and that it (has to) become far more careful about the extent to which it test(s) the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews," he went on, noting the Israeli government "should be sensitive to the fact that its actions directly affect U.S. strategic interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds…"
"This does not mean taking a single action that undercuts Israeli security, but it does mean realizing that Israel should show enough discretion to reflect the fact that it is a tertiary U.S. strategic interest in a complex and demanding world," he wrote.
"Israel’s government should act on the understanding that the long-term nature of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship will depend on Israel clearly and actively seeking peace with the Palestinians – the kind of peace that is in Israel’s own strategic interests," he added.
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