What Israel Does For The US

May 27 2011 @ 3:31pm

Noah Millman outlines the "psychic benefits" of the American-Israeli relationship:

Israel has been a particular friend to America in one respect. When we want to assert our exceptionalism, Israel has consistently supported that assertion. Much of the rest of the world wants to subject American power to something resembling a system of laws and norms through institutions like the International Criminal Court. America, for understandable reasons, has resisted this, even when parts of the system were our own creations, designed to legitimate our own supremacy by limiting its absolute scope. We can debate whether our resistance is wise or not, but my point is that Israel has been consistently supportive of our resistance – again for obvious reasons. The psychological component of this comraderie is that we are simultaneously able to maintain our sense of ourselves as boundless and universal, and relieved of some of the burden of our solitude in such a position.

Nicely put. But I would not discount the religious themes underpinning this, which are very potent in the current GOP. Evangelicals view Israel and America as uniquely sacred entities, united in an eschatological struggle between good and evil. Each country is thereby exempted from the usual international laws and rules, because G-d himself has anointed both of them in a pre-ordained battle of existential power.

When Romney preposterously declares that Obama has thrown Israel under the bus, he is sending a message to evangelicals. Allegedly betraying Israel at this pre-apocalyptic hour is the work of Satan. Any partition of the chosen land is the goal of the anti-Christ – hence the incomprehension and shock at any mention of the 1967 borders. Just as the early Puritans saw their new land as a new Zion, so did the first Zionists in Israel. And you cannot rationally negotiate with these kinds of convictions. Alas, in Israel, the pre-existing population didn't die en masse by unwitting biological warfare. Hence the need, as Palin and Huckabee have urged, for a much more aggressive Jewish settlement of Judea and Samaria.

These are profound psychological affinities and beliefs. They were deepened by 9/11 and the rise of Jihadism. The American and Israeli Zionists are flummoxed and terrified by the Arab Spring because it scrambles this Manichean dichotomy. The whole idea that the US should make strategic decisions about its worldly self-interest, when an other-wordly imperative demands a different approach, strikes them as bizarre. Like the settlers in Judea and Samaria, these American theocratic exceptionalists are not a majority; but, like the settlers, they are redefining one political party and thereby redefining America.

I fear this apocalyptic thinking is self-fulfilling. Which is why it chills me. And why a Palin presidency which would unleash this dynamic into a vortex of religious global warfare terrifies me.