THE BLOG

Israel Needs to be Put in Time-Out

Before I began blogging on The Huffington Post, I've stated on various occasions on my personal blog that it's been a long time coming the U.S. showed some tough love towards Israel.

Today, after reading Larry Derfner's op-ed in the Jerusalem Post, I felt like writing about it again here. But first, an excerpt from Derfner's piece:

"The forces of the Right now run this country without any domestic challenge, and however many votes the expats add to their margin will be nothing more than coals to Newcastle. The Left, the peace camp, can no longer hope to change the country from within. From within, the Right continuously grows more confident; the smearing of Naomi Chazan and the New Israel Fund is only the latest evidence.

For the Left, the domestic political arena is scorched earth. We have to go outside, we have to turn our sights abroad. We have to convince the liberal West and liberal Diaspora Jews that if they go on letting Israel off the hook for the occupation, this country is only going to get more fearful and aggressive, more xenophobic, more intolerant of criticism, more of a danger to itself and others."

As one of the few remaining leftists still around in Israel, I'd like you all to know that a lot of us are losing hope. We feel beat. Like the battle is almost over.

And this is where America comes in. I've always viewed what most of us have come to know as the "Special Relationship" between Israel and the U.S as nothing more than a parent-child relationship.

The problem is, the way America has acted over the past few decades reminds me of a parent who has lost control over his child. A parent who has become an enabler, or one of those couples you see on "SuperNanny" with kids who have their folks wrapped around their fingers. The current relationship between Obama and Netanyahu couldn't be a better example of this. "You want me to freeze the settlments, Dad? Sure! No problem". And naughty boy just goes on building...

There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the main ones is the behaviour of American Jews throughout the years.

As Henry Siegman wrote in the Times:

"The Israeli reaction to serious peacemaking efforts is nothing less than pathological... This pathology has been aided and abetted by American Jewish organizations whose agendas conform to the political and ideological views of Israel's right wing."

Yoel Marcus, the Haaretz pundit, told it like it is in this op-ed:

"The politicians have been lucky over the generations that the United States supports Israel. During one of my visits to South Africa, a tough Afrikaner said to me that if they had had 5 million Afrikaners in America, they would never have given up South Africa. Maybe this is so and maybe not. But there is no doubt that the American Jews' strength has caused even those presidents who have not especially loved Jews to support Israel, or will win their support for Israel in the future."

So, in a way, American Jews over the years have have enabled American administrations to become enablers themselves. Which is why, for the sake of American Jews and Barack Obama's administration, I searched for some no-nonsene parenting tips, and wound up on the official SuperNanny website. Let's get to it, shall we?

There are steps you can take to prevent or defuse a conflict and help your children learn valuable lessons about respect and cooperation....

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1) Be reasonable
Make sure that what you're asking of your child is reasonable. For example, a preschooler might feel overwhelmed by being asked to clean up a room independently. But if you say, "Let's do this together", and offer encouragement along the way, it's a do-able task.

US-Israel relations: Don't ask for an immediate withdrawal from the territories. Take it slow, ask for a settlement freeze for starters. We can take it from there.

2) Forewarn your child
A lot of grumbling can be prevented if you give children a 5 or 10-minute heads-up notice that they need to finish what they're doing so they can put their toys away, get ready for bed or whatever the task at hand is.

US-Israel relations: You're pretty much set here. You've been asking for a settlement freeze for way over 10 minutes.

3) Acknowledge your child's feelings
When kids grumble, they often just want to be heard. So simply say something like, "Yeah, I know doing dishes isn't much fun. But it will feel good when they're all done and you can go play".

US-Israel relations: This is where you can chime in with "Yes, Bibi, I know this freeze might shake up your coalition, but think of how good it'll feel to get out of Hebron!"

4) Offer choices
As much as possible, offer your child choices. For example, you can't waver from the expectation that your children will complete their homework every evening. But you can offer choices as to exactly when and where they do the work.

US-Israel relations: "You can freeze the settlements or end the siege on Gaza. Choose."

5) Clarify consequences
If your child refuses to do what you've asked, calmly state what the consequence will be if he doesn't comply within a stated time (usually 5-15 minutes, depending on the child's age and the situation). Without getting carried away by anger, make sure the stated consequence fits the situation. For example, if a child doesn't help with the dishes when asked, he might lose his TV privileges for the evening.

US-Israel relations: Let's elaborate a bit here. I don't believe in cultural boycotts, since most of those in Israeli culture are leftwing liberals to begin with. I also know that cutting off U.S. security aid is bad for everyone, especially at a time when the U.S. job rate is so low. Most of you might not know this, but about 75% of the 3 billion dollars a year Israel gets as aid must be spent on U.S.-made equipment. That's thousands of American jobs we don't want to touch right now.

But what about those loan guarantees? The guarantees that help Israel get low-interest loans from other countries, because she'll always have someone to fall back on if she fails to pay up. Recently, the U.S. MidEast envoy George Mitchell semi-threatened Israel with cancelling these guarantees. But what most of you probably didn't hear about was Israel's Treasury Minister's reaction to that, which was more or less like: "That's OK. We don't need the guarantees, we can get the money by ourselves". In that case, I recommend this to be the first sanction given.

6) Give them time to comply
When kids are resistant, too often we parents move in closer and increase the volume and intensity of our demands. Then our child matches that intensity by increasing his or her resistance. By stepping back instead, we allow our child to save face and 'choose' to cooperate.

US-Israel relations: You've been a bit too generous here. And that's an understatement.

7) Follow through
If your child still doesn't do as you ask, impose the promised consequence swiftly and matter-of-factly. Shouting or bombarding a child with angry words does no good at this point. He or she needs to see that you meant what you said. Period.

US-Israel relations: Just do it already! Don't beat around the bush, just tell Bibi: "OK, no more loan guarantees. And that's just the beginning. Got it?"

8) Move on
Once the consequence has been imposed, move on without bearing a grudge. Let your clearly stated expectations and carefully chosen consequences speak for themselves and allow your child see that he or she can start fresh the next time.

US-Israel relations: Basically, you've got enough of your own domestic problems, move on to those.

To sum things up, in an era where the Middle East is the cause for so much violence, where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has affected your lives in America in too many ways to be counted, the Obama administration and America's Jews need to get their act together and help us out here in Israel.

We need to be put in time-out.

Because we've been one, naughty country.