Finding cause to celebrate on a lonely birthday

Finding cause to celebrate on a lonely birthday

We celebrated the 62nd birthday of Israel on Tuesday, meaning the Jewish homeland is moving steadily through middle age. But were there a birthday party of nations, it seems increasingly obvious that an unnervingly few countries would show up.
This year’s been a tough one for Israel. The country’s increasing anxiety toward Iran looms like a thundercloud; the phrase “existential threat,” in reference to that nation, seems to flow from the mouths of journalists both American and Israeli. But no one would have expected Iran to come eat birthday cake with Israel; the United States, however, has long been an honored guest.
But a month after Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel that brought to the surface tensions between the Netanyahu and Obama administrations, relations are still strained.
In an April 18 editorial, the Jerusalem Post wrote: “After a year in office, the Obama administration has placed our strategic partnership under a shadow. By coldly escalating the Ramat Shlomo housing dispute into an ongoing, full-scale crisis, Washington has diverged from the tone of previous administrations on the status of Jerusalem, and it has damagingly publicly questioned fundamental aspects of our alliance.”
The blame for the tension is fired the other way as well.
“Easing up on access and movement in the West Bank, in response to credible security performance, is not sufficient to prove to the Palestinians that this embrace is sincere,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week.
Further, a recent BBC poll describing the global view of Israel in a generally positive or negative light revealed troubling results: 48 percent of those polled saw Israel in a mainly negative light, and only 22 percent viewed the country positively. That statistic puts Israel in a class with both North Korea and Pakistan, and only 9 percent less negative than Iran.
As The New York Times printed in an April 19 editorial, Israel’s birthday is marked by a “mood this year that feels darker than usual.”
A birthday, of course, can be a cause not just for celebration, but introspection as well.
In Israel’s 63rd year as a nation, we hope to see momentum build toward a renewed relationship with the United States — that effort coming actively from both sides. Whether the United States and Israel agree, or whether Obama and Netanyahu see eye to eye, in the upcoming year, there must be a substantial push to meet in the middle and shake hands. National isolation doesn’t suit any country well; that notion just becomes more obvious at a birthday party that is not well attended.