Democracy or Militarism: Israelis Now Free to Choose

Israelis are now freed by the U.S.-Iran nuclear accord–freed psychologically, politically, and in terms of security–to choose a new future.

It is dawning on a few, and in Israel it is dawning on many, that the U.S.-Iran nuclear accord has the potential for dramatically altering the U.S.-Israeli relationship. To the degree that Iran and the U.S. can begin to cooperate, the knee-jerk U.S. submission to right-wing Israeli pressure will be proven to have been a mistake. Patriotic Americans should rejoice if the U.S. cures itself from this crippling restraint on its independence, and the militarist right-wing in Israel represented by Netanyahu will obviously mourn its loss of power over the U.S. But what should be the attitude of reasonable, moderate, peace-loving Israelis who aspire to have a successful and safe democracy?

Two clear choices seem to face Israeli society at the moment: become the exceptional Mideast democracy that some Israelis have always desired or continue the long slide down the slope toward garrison state militarism and fascism that even many Israeli security officials now fear will be Israel’s future. The issue is not alleged pro-Israeli or anti-Israeli attitudes of U.S. leaders. The issue is the type of society that Israel decides to have: domestic democracy and foreign policy based on peace go together. The nuclear accord is good for Israel not just because nuclear war in the neighborhood is a really dumb excuse for a foreign policy but because it opens the door to Israel returning to what some of that new country’s proponents might argue were its true roots: the ideal of being a small and free homeland. In the wave of ethnic war against the indigenous Palestinians and the development of a foreign policy based on superior force, that ideal has been swept under the political rug.

The challenge for Israelis today is not to try harder and harder to interfere in U.S. domestic affairs but to reform their own country.With their military supremacy now secure for many years into the future, Israelis are free to make the choice.

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