Undemocratic Israel: Why the US Still Supports it?
Since the declaration of the establishment of Israel on 14 May 1948 during the Cold War, it has been highly supported by the Western countries, especially the US.
Since the declaration of the establishment of Israel on 14 May 1948 during the Cold War, it has been highly supported by the Western countries, especially the US. The US constantly insists that Israel is a democratic state and it is always highly-ranked in the democracy indices that are mainly controlled by the US. But Is Israel a really democratic state or is it a myth to maintain its survival and US interests in the region?
To determine whether a state is democratic or not, it is important to understand the main components of democracy. Components of democracy include the rule of law, free and fair elections, and civil rights. In this context, Israel always violates theses without being punished, checked, or warned.
First, rule of law entails the equality of citizens before the law regardless of their race, color, religion, and ethnicity. It prevents the state from being despotic, arbitrary, and undemocratic through the separation of power between the main branches of government, and guarantees checks and balances among them. Despite the fact that Israel has institutions such as parliament (Knesset) and a supreme court, they do not function democratically and lack transparency. Until this moment, Israel does not have a constitution to limit its power. Power is concentrated in hands of the Prime Minister, which undermines the separation of power among the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. Moreover, citizens are not equal before the law. The Israeli government privileges Israeli Jews over all others as it perceives itself a Jewish State. It issues laws that are religious-based representing only the Jews. This is in addition to the regular discrimination against and illegal killings of the Palestinians, illegal and arbitrary arrests and detention of Palestinians and the air, land, sea blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Second, Israel does not hold free and fair elections that encompass all sectors of society. The Knesset undermines the ability of Palestinians to represent themselves in parliament. Israeli politicians, during every election, intimidate the Jews from voting for liberal parties that coalesce with the Palestinians, claiming that they undermine the Jewish identity of Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared before that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people only”. The Israeli Central Election Committee (CEC) once banned two Arab political parties and a candidate for a third party from participating in elections due to their stance against Israeli policies. Therefore, Israel regards anyone against its policies as a “traitor” and those people are “outlawed”, which goes against the freedom of expression which is a prerequisite of democracy. It has also been argued that the Israeli Parliamentary system and the 3.25% electoral threshold instead of 2% undermine the power of Arab political parties. For example, in 2015 the Arab parties decided to come under a unified slate to gain more seats in the Knesset. However, they gained only 13 seats of 120 seats which is below 20% of the Arab population representation.
Third, Palestinians do not enjoy civil rights as Israeli Jews do. The Adalah’s Discriminatory Laws Database includes over 65 Israeli laws that discriminate against the Palestinians because of their national belonging. These laws deprive Palestinians of their rights as citizens, such as their right to housing, education, health care, political participation, religious rights, culture and language rights and others. In 2018, the Israeli government issued “The Jewish Nation State Law” that enshrines Jewish superiority and claims that only Jewish People have their right to self-determination in Israel and the Palestinian territories, abandoning the Arabic Language as an official language, and promoting Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.
Despite the above, however, the US shows absolute support to Israel and insists that it is the only democracy in the Middle East. According to the Freedom House index and the Economist, Israel scores 76 from 100 and 7.84 from 10 for the year 2020 respectively. The US-Israeli relations has always been the strongest than any other international relationship through history. It supports Israel politically, economically, militarily, and financially. The US blocks any UN resolutions condemning Israel for its violations. There are three main reasons for this.
First, Israel is considered to be a linchpin for the US Middle East strategy. Since the Cold War, the US used Israel as a tool to prevent the spread of the Soviets’ influence to the Middle East as a part of its containment policy. Oil is of great importance to the US as the ME contains more than 50% of the world’s oil. Therefore, after the Cold War, the US established itself as the manager of the ME to guarantee stability. This could only be accomplished by supporting countries such as Israel, KSA, and Egypt. Hence, it established itself a mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
Second, Israel is perceived to be of great importance to the American public. Their support to Israel is of religious roots. Some American Jews and evangelical Christians share the same religious values of Israeli Jews. Therefore, these two groups have an oversized impact on American politics. The two groups are highly concentrated in Florida and Pennsylvania, two swing states in American elections. Hence, one of the factors for the success of a presidential candidate is their pro-Israel foreign policy.
Finally, the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is one of the most influential and strongest lobbying Jewish group in the US. It has a huge impact on US politics, foreign policy, and decision making, pushing it towards a pro-Israeli direction. The AIPAC practices its power over the most important institutions in the US, mainly the Congress, the executive branch, and supreme court. They practice their power in two different ways. Politically, by pressuring the congress to take policies that are pro-Israel and through the media, by promoting positive speech on Israel and also through pro-Israel research centers and think-tanks.
All in all, one could conclude that the US foreign policy is strongly directed by the Israel lobby. US support to Israel will remain despite being undemocratic and violating internal and international law, as long as it serves US interests.