What Are Friends For?

It is not easy to see how Israel’s friends can help divert it from the isolating and self-destructive policies it has pursued in recent years. The senseless assault by Israeli commandos on a Turkish ship trying to break the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of nine political activists, is only the latest disproportionate Israeli response to the security threats facing the Jewish state.

Israel’s actions have been widely, and rightly, condemned. However violently the “Free Gaza” activists on the ship reacted to the commandos, the outrage throughout the Middle East and Europe at Israel’s use of lethal force is justified. Turkey, once the Jewish state’s staunchest Muslim ally in the region, has withdrawn its ambassador and pressed for UN sanctions against Israel. Increasingly it looks as though Israel will lose Turkey as a strategic military and diplomatic partner, which will seriously weaken Israel’s security. U.S. efforts to win support for stronger sanctions against Iran—which could truly threaten Israel’s existence if it acquired a nuclear weapon—have also been seriously damaged. To the extent that the U.S. government fails to moderate Israeli actions, other countries in the region are unlikely to join an effort to punish even a rogue Iran. Ongoing U.S. efforts to mediate “proximity talks” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have also been set back. More perversely, the popularity of Hamas—the radical Islamic group that seized...

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