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Putin, Israel, Pressure, And America

You know, little things.

Zack Beauchamp
June 25, 2012
Photo of an Ilyushin IL-76, a Russian plane used to put out fires in Israel.(By Flavio/Flickr.)
Photo of an Ilyushin IL-76, a Russian plane used to put out fires in Israel.(By Flavio/Flickr.)

Dan noted this morning at Daybreak that the Russian President was stopping by Jerusalem for a chat with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Walter Russell Mead, picking up on some recent arms dealing, spots a trend:

The shared interests of the two countries cover some important ground: they oppose Turkey’s ambition to become a regional hegemon, they distrust the Obama administration’s support of democracy even when that leads to Islamist regimes and they both fear the rise of Sunni Islamism as a dangerous and destabilizing force.

Additionally, the large influx of Russians into Israel after the fall of the Soviet Union creates strong human and business ties between the two countries. Both governments would like to see these ties, and especially the business connections, grow.

It’s an interesting binational connection, one that should worry you if you’re the sort that thinks the U.S. could pressure Israel into behaving on the settlement issue if only Congress would cooperate. Look closely at Mead’s speculation about Putin-Netanyahu dialogue:

Putin will find this a refreshing conversation; unlike American diplomats and their talk of universal principles and global order, it’s likely that the Israelis will speak the language of national interests that Putin prefers.

The unstated implication is that Bibi will find a conversation free of human rights discourse equally refreshing. What this suggests is that Washington’s ability to pressure Israel is directly dependent on the degree to which Israel relies on American financial and political support. Cut Israel off completely and it’ll find new friends, perhaps ones less interested in nudging Israel towards a deal with its Arab neighbors. It’s true that those new friends might not support Israel as fully as the U.S. does, but it’s not clear that this discrepancy would be enough to force Israel to accede to American terms. Thus, even in a hypothetical world of a completely compliant Congress and President, it’s not remotely obvious that cutting Israel off would make a peace deal more likely. It could even have the opposite effect. Better instead to think creatively about how America can use its special relationship with Israel than to fantasize about an impossible world where the relationship didn’t exist.

Russia-Israel Rapprochement? [The American Interest]

Zack Beauchamp contributes to Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish” at Newsweek and The Daily Beast. His Twitter feed is @zackbeauchamp.