As Israelis and American Jews drift further apart culturally and politically, the nature of the unique relationship between the two countries is changing.
Allin, a foreign policy expert, and Simon, a diplomat and policymaker, track the history of U.S.–Israeli relations and address the causes and consequences of the growing rift epitomized by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s open denunciations of President Barack Obama. The authors, who previously collaborated on The Sixth Crisis: Iran, Israel, America, and the Rumors of War (2010), both hail from the liberal Zionist camp and place the blame for the estrangement largely on the right’s embrace, in both countries, of overheated rhetoric and maximalist formulations of policy. Likud and the Republicans have abandoned compromise and rejected debate. Of the Iran deal, the authors write, “Israel’s government and its American political allies understandably preferred that there be no Iranian nuclear program whatsoever. Yet the baffling part was how they proposed that the world they lived in could be transported to this alternate universe.” The descent into the echo chamber alienates moderates and prevents even a basic understanding of the perspectives of others. During their first meeting, “astonishingly, Obama’s request [to halt settlement construction] took Netanyahu completely by surprise.” Perhaps surprisingly, it is the Democrats that have historically felt a closer bond with Israel, but as partisan rancor increases, the relationship risks becoming more transactional and less based around a common purpose, an outcome the authors convincingly warn could presage the type of discord the U.S. experiences with its ostensible allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Combining political and historical expertise with an approachable, engaging tone—Obama counseling Muhammad Morsi during Gaza cease-fire talks was “a fascinating enactment of Pygmalion, with Obama playing Professor Higgins”—the book will appeal to both casual readers interested in current events in the Middle East and those with a more extensive background in the region.
An impassioned, learned plea for the importance of shared values, rather than coldhearted calculations, as the basis of diplomacy.