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Home   »  Resources  »  Miscellaneous Resources  »  Understanding the Conflict: A ...  »  PART TWO: The Other Players

How does Israel see its role in the Middle East region?


The pre-state Zionist leadership consciously crafted an identity for the new State of Israel that was deliberately oriented towards Europe, America and the west. Part of the reason had to do with the tactical effort to win backing from one or another of the colonial powers; to do so, the putative Israelis had to convince their would-be sponsors of their potential value as a surrogate for European, American, Russian or Roman Catholic sponsors. But it also reflected the personal world view of those same leaders; while early Zionist colonies in Palestine were largely agricultural, most Jewish settlers would have been far more at home in Paris, London or New York than in the Middle Eastern hills or desert.

Throughout the Cold War Israel deliberately shaped its position as a junior partner, or surrogate, for U.S. military and strategic reach. Cynical remarks about Israel as the "fifty-first state" reflected the familiarity of the U.S.-Israeli bond. For Washington, while Cold War-driven strategic considerations were the main driving force behind the embrace of Israel, a powerful component was the sense that "Israelis are like us." There was more than a hint of racism in this assessment; it was rooted in distinguishing Israel from its neighbors. However close our ties with Egypt or Saudi Arabia, official Washington thinking went, they're still Arabs, they're not quite "like us." Official and other influential Israeli voices consistently promoted that mythology. The irony, of course, was that two-thirds of Israeli Jews were and are in fact Arabs. But racism and history combined in Israel to insure the continuing domination of Ashkenazi, or white European, Jewish leadership in Israeli government, business and intellectual circles, making it easier for U.S. officials and business leaders accustomed to dealing with Europeans, not with Arabs.


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