What is “a marriage of true minds” between the U.S. and Israel?

March 24, 2017
President Donald Trump, right, reaches to greet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after a joint news conference at the White House on Feb. 15. Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters
Trump is not your friend anymore, top Fatah official Jabril Rajoub warned Israel on the Ides Of March, a notorious day for betrayals. “I think Netanyahu did not sleep{Friday}night when Trump called Abu Mazen,” Rajoub boasted to the Jerusalem Post at a briefing on Wednesday, March 15 in Jericho about Abbas’ friendly conversation with Trump and invitation to Washington.      
Many friends of Israel, who worried that a close connection  between Trump and Netanyahu will offend America’s liberal Jewry — they voted for Obama and against Trump!– might have felt relieved. Last month, in anticipation of  Netanyahu’s meeting with Trump, Israel’s P.M was admonished in the Jewish press both here and in Israel: Be careful. Be cautious. Be cool.  If you get too close, you’ll catch the cooties. My daughter heard the same advice in third grade from the “in crowd” of her new school about the girl who first asked her for a playdate. 
Since I was a kid in Romania and my father was imprisoned for his politics causing me to be excluded from birthday parties, I’ve thought a lot about the meaning of friendship and what distinguishes a true friend from a false one. 

The Bard, I tell my students, is the best expert on the subject.  I believe that the fundamental principles Shakespeare outlines in Sonnet 116 apply as much to friendships between countries as between individuals.

“Let me not to the marriage of true minds/Admit impediments. Love is not love/Which alters when it alteration finds/or bends with the remover to remove. /O no! It is an ever-fixed mark/That looks on tempests and is never shaken…” Sonnet 116 defines a profound and lasting human bond, and not just one between a man and a woman – the poem was actually written for a male friend – as an irrevocable commitment governed by integrity, honesty and loyalty.

“A marriage of true minds” reflects shared values of the highest moral order. With characteristic British eloquence, Prime Minister Theresa May, during her January 26 speech to Congress, quoted Winston Churchill to highlight the roots of friendship between Great Britain and the U.S: democratic governments based on “the great principles of freedom and the rights of man …which through the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas corpus, trial by jury and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.”  It is loyalty to these core principles, Prime Minister May argued, that forged the unshakable bond between our two countries as they stood side by side through history’s “tempests” to emerge victorious in two world wars and to demolish the iron curtain during the exceptionally close Regan/Thatcher years.
The same core values articulated by Prime Minister May were invoked by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu at their February 15 meeting in Washington when the two leaders redefined the friendship between their two countries that was shaken during the stormy years of the Obama administration.   “The partnership between our two countries,” Trump declared, is “built on our shared values” and “has advanced the cause of human freedom, dignity and peace.” And Netanyahu responded in kind: “Israel has no better ally than the United States. And I want to assure you, the United States has no better ally than Israel.”

Although both men expressed personal warmth towards each other, they also made it perfectly clear that they were articulating the terms of friendship between two nations, not two individuals – an important distinction. Confusion between the political and the personal can be an “impediment” to the “marriage of true minds” between two nations. During the Obama administration, the personal and the political got very mixed up.

Even during his last interview on the subject, President Obama defended his policy towards Israel in personal terms. “Bibi Netanyahu had a good friend in me,” America’s 44th president said, “but he didn’t always recognize it.” Is this a fair assessment? Does a good friend belittle you in public, trash you in private, befriend your adversaries, betray your allies, silence you and stereotype you? What friend listens patiently as President Obama listened to French President Sarkozy kvetch about Bibi, “I can’t stand him. He’s a liar,” and then adds fuel to the fire: “You’re tired of him. What about me?” (CNN November 8, 2011). What friend silences his friend like Barack tried to silence Bibi when Bibi wanted to express his views on the Iran deal to Congress?

Such personal attacks were not accidental but deliberate. Throughout his presidency, Barack Obama used his key weapon – the personal narrative — to justify his duplicity towards America’s best friend. The Bibi narrative enabled him to preserve both Jewish votes and Jewish funds. “This administration has been Israel’s greatest friend and supporter,” John Kerry claimed in defense of the backstabbing U.N abstention that outraged almost the entire Jewish community. “The Israeli prime minister publically supports a two-state solution, but his current coalition is the most right wing in Israeli history…I don’t think people in Israel, and certainly the world, have any idea.” The Obama administration never had a problem with Israel — O no, only with the sly, greedy, pushy, loud-mouthed Bibi and his right wing gang. 
In reality, Barack Obama’s attitude towards Israel and Netanyahu was a reflection of his political views. During his June 4, 2009 Cairo speech, President Obama previewed the alterations he planned to make in America’s traditional stance. Suddenly the common ground between U.S and Israel was not in their shared democratic values but in their shared history of oppression. “For centuries black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation.” Drawing a deliberate parallel,  Obama counselled the terrorist organization, Hamas, “in order to fulfill the aspirations of the Palestinian people” to choose a form of resistance to “the occupation” based on the peaceful model of protest against racist oppression practiced by Martin Luther King. Obama’s advice did not stop Hamas from building tunnels and launching 4,594 rockets and mortars into Israel in 2014. 
In Sonnet 116 Shakespeare uses the metaphor of the star that is the guiding light to lost ships (wandering bark) to symbolize the devotion to high ideals that drives true friendships. In the Cairo speech, Obama renounced America’s historic commitment to championing democracy throughout the world and replaced it with moral relativity. “…Each nation is grounded in the traditions of its own people. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone.” During the next eight years, Obama altered U.S foreign policy to empower the mullahs of Iran and do nothing to help Iranian protesters during the Green movement; to encourage the tyrannical Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi and discourage the anti-Islamist regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi; to befriend the communist dictatorship of Fidel Castro and deny asylum to Cuba’s political refugees. 

In the first few minutes of the meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Trump, the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the democratic principles upon which their governments are based. In several succinct sentences, Israel’s P.M got to the core of the Israeli-Palestinian problem. A peaceful solution – a solution that Trump recognized must be worked out between the parties themselves — depends on that one crucial ingredient required of any positive human relationship: acceptance.  Palestinians must accept Israel’s right to exist. Can you live in harmony with someone who wants to wipe you off the face of the earth?

The president of the U.S greeted the prime minister of Israel with the hospitality, consideration, and respect due to a good friend, an honored guest, and a democratically elected leader of a free people. Two weeks later, during his February 28 address to Congress, America’s 45th president captured his administration’s reset of the U.S-Israel relationship in a single, powerful sentence: “I have imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals who support Iran’s ballistic missile program and reaffirmed our unbreakable alliance with the state of Israel.” 
No matter how friendly, the meeting between Trump and Abbas will not alter the U.S-Israel alliance that was reasserted on February 15: the marriage of true minds between U.S. and Israel depends not on the ephemeral chemistry between two elected leaders, but on the everlasting compatibility between two great nations.  
Irina Eremia Bragin is English Department Chair at Touro College Los Angeles. She is the author of “Subterranean Towers:  A Father-Daughter Story.” You can follow her @bragin_irina
Did you enjoy this article?
You'll love our roundtable.

Editor's Picks

Latest Articles

More news and opinions than at a
Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.