Real Friends Are Honest — Even With Israel

History Shows Sycophants Make Very Poor Allies

All Smiles: Benjamin Netanyahu bristles at any criticism or different approach. But real friends of Israel do not simply kow-tow to the Jewish State’s government of the day.
getty images
All Smiles: Benjamin Netanyahu bristles at any criticism or different approach. But real friends of Israel do not simply kow-tow to the Jewish State’s government of the day.

By Ken Schechtman

Published September 25, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

During his July experiment with international diplomacy, Mitt Romney’s encomium about the Israeli health care system provided a delicious illustration of one of our few remaining bipartisan sports: pandering to all things Israel.

“Do you realize what health care spending is as a percentage of GDP in Israel? Eight percent,” Romney intoned. “You spend 8% of GDP on health care. And you’re a pretty healthy nation. We spend 18% of our GDP on health care. Ten percentage points more.”

To appreciate the pandering, consider that Romney implicitly attacks virtually every component of Israel’s health care system when discussing health policy at home. Israel’s highly regulated system is funded mostly by taxes, and requires all Israelis to carry one of four not-for-profit government-funded insurance plans. A government board decides what is covered, and costs are controlled by comprehensive regulation.

So why would Romney endorse a system so reminiscent of what he routinely denounces? Partly, because of limited knowledge about Israel’s health policy. But more important, if you have national political aspirations in America, you must publicly support all things Israel. Whether it’s health policy or dog-catching strategies, you endorse Israel’s approach.

If you imply nuance or equivocation, you do so at your own political risk. If you suggest that America’s interests may not precisely mirror Israel’s, you fear millions in lost fundraising. And always, you fear voter accusations that you have abandoned an embattled democratic friend.

No other country fits remotely into such a paradigm. When a Lockerbie bomber was released from prison with government acquiescence in Britain, Hillary Rodham Clinton characterized it as “absolutely wrong.” As Canada pursues its Keystone pipeline and Europe its austerity programs, there is pointed debate in American political circles. Nobody suggests that disagreeing with close allies is inappropriate.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.