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Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv University - Aviad Kleinberg (Dept of History) wants Israel to stop liking America,7340,L-3546353,00.html

We love you, George

Embarrassing flattery showered on Bush shows nature of Israel’s elite

Aviad Kleinberg

United States President George W. Bush’s latest visit to Israel can teach us many things. We discovered, for example, that he is a very likeable man, yet it is unclear how he became the leader of a global superpower. We could also see that Israel’s government elite is in love with this likeable man.

Bush is a typical example of the give-Israelis-everything-they want approach, which rewards American presidents with popularity even when they cause quite a bit of damage (think back to Bill Clinton’s mediocre performance at the Camp David summit and its grim results.)

The Israeli Presidential Conference attended by Bush could also teach us much about ourselves. What was more conspicuous than anything else was the obsequiousness in the face of the American president. It was not the Israeli gratitude in and of itself that caused me discomfort. It is indeed possible that a leader who fails in one area does significant and appropriate things in other areas. For example, Bush has a very impressive record of offering aid to Africa – much more impressive than that of his popular predecessor.

Yet what caused my sense of discomfort (not to mention slight nausea) was the absence of any limits, or what I would call lack of self respect. The flattery showered on Bush was embarrassing and exceedingly exaggerated – bowing down to the ground where a handshake would do.

Bush was repeatedly presented as a leader who has no equal, a cosmic savior almost. He is our father, our king, and the US is our beloved and loving mother. We love and adore our beloved mother and father. Our gratitude knows no boundaries.

During the Presidential Conference we saw propaganda films that gave an almost pornographic expression to this reckless love. The prime minister’s somewhat repetitive speeches, which included a superlative-filled and ceaseless flow of flattery, were interspersed time and again with constant asides. Olmert would look up from the paper before him and lavish some more fond remarks upon President Bush, as well as friendly winks that hint at things that he and George did behind the scenes, and oh, how great that was.

Something deeper

When the prime minister stood by Bush, he couldn’t keep his hands off of him. He just didn’t stop hugging him, slapping his shoulders, and shaking his hands time and again. Olmert is in love.

There was something both infantile and Nouveau Riche-like in all those situations, something embarrassing, just like there was something embarrassing in the entire Presidential Conference – a colossal model of tastelessness, exaggeration, and obsequiousness in the face of the wealthy and powerful.

Yet to me it appears there was something deeper there. The 60-year-old State of Israel is a military and economic power that refuses to let go of its mother’s bosom. It developed complete dependency – mental, ideological, and economic – on the great mother overseas. And this is worrisome.

It is very doubtful whether the US is a proper model for the State of Israel. It is even more doubtful whether the American geopolitical thinking, at least in its current manifestations, does not constitute genuine danger for its small ally. The big boys can allow themselves to ignore complexity – when you’re driving a tank on the street, it doesn’t really matter if you look in the mirror when you turn. Let the others worry. Yet when you’re small, it would be good to develop broader vision.

Yet there was something else worrisome about this sycophancy. I suspect that ultimately, more than it expresses cold geopolitical calculations, it is yet another symptom of giving in to the wealthy and powerful.

Why did the State of Israel need Sheldon Adelson to finance the event, and why was it willing to grant this man a front row seat and a spot at the podium in return for his donation? Isn’t it clear that the upgrade he was granted in exchange for his money was a sort of permissible political bribe? Not because Israel would not be able to produce such event without his help (in national terms, the costs were ridiculously low,) but rather, because the flattery, rubbing shoulders with the rich, and scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch yours mentality have turned into a second nature for our elite.



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