14 November 2023

West’s Israel Quagmire

West’s Israel Quagmire


How do we account for the steadfast and unwavering Western support for Israel, which has long transcended fanaticism? Be it labeled a conspiracy theory or a simplistic explanation, three theories have consistently surfaced over the years. Initially, there’s the notion that Israel serves as a form of redemption for the West following the Holocaust. Second, it is commonly asserted that the West, particularly the United States, deems Israel essential in Middle Eastern geopolitics. Lastly, the formidable influence wielded by the Israel lobby, extending its grasp from Washington to London, Paris to Berlin, encompassing substantial political, economic, and intellectual power. This narrative suggests that this influential network spans the globe, playing a pivotal role in economic and intellectual discourse and interactions. Each theory possesses its own distinct dynamics, such as the existence of Christian sects that establish ideological and theological kinship with Zionism, concomitant with the line of Judeo-Christian tradition. Similarly, Israel’s undeniable role in upholding the age-old geopolitical status quo in the Middle East, coupled with the Israel lobby’s function as a global intermediary and promoter of the security and geopolitical needs of various nations.

For those fervently advocating or opposing these theories, especially when it comes to Washington’s support for Israel, rational explanations remain elusive. None of these three theories adequately clarifies what has been relinquished in exchange for support to Israel, not to mention the national interests at stake and the considerable pointless geopolitical costs that must be borne. The three theories fail to sufficiently explain the rational reasons behind the support for Israel and do not account for the sacrifices made in its name, including national interests and significant geopolitical costs.

West’s the “last taboo”

During Edward Said’s time, he grappled with the challenge of rationalizing and explaining the unwavering US support for Israel based on rational and interest-driven arguments. He referred to this situation as a “taboo.” Said characterized this support, which he described as the “last taboo” of America or the West, as a burden that the Middle East has carried for decades. This hefty cost has been exacted through occasional denial of even the most basic democratic demands in the region to safeguard “Israel’s security.” Simultaneously, it has involved the inadvertent nurturing of armed transnational non-state actors by exploiting the suffering of Palestinians.

Therefore, we have not yet arrived at a satisfactory and rational answer to the “Israel issue.” This was once more confirmed on October 7th. The relentless Western support for Israel, taking a different form this time, has given rise to a thoroughly irrational backdrop. The Israel taboo has turned Western political, media, and intellectual elites into mere stenographers for the apartheid government. The discourse originating from these elites is not only conspicuously disgraceful but also profoundly ill-advised. The arguments they staunchly present in support of Israel’s actions are marked by a glaring absence of fundamental common sense and ethical coherence. On one side, the Israel issue jeopardizes whatever fragments remain of the delicate international rules-based system. On the other side, it subjects both regional and global geopolitics to a substantial stress test. 

The ongoing crisis remains a complex challenge to address. This complexity is evident not only in the moral and rational dilemmas the West faces regarding the Israel issue but also in the credibility of leadership. The U.S president Biden’s self-designation as a “Zionist,” Secretary of State Blinken’s statement of being “in Israel as a Jew,” and the French President Macron’s absurd proposal to repurpose forces combatting ISIS against Hamas underscore the the gravity of the Western predicament. In a period when the global political and economic system is grappling with a severe downturn, the unwelcome prevalence of frivolity has profoundly influenced Western governments and leaders. This callous political apathy, which has grown to a point where it seems oblivious to the possible geopolitical upheaval and security crisis arising from the Gaza attacks, transformed by Israel into a campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide, should be a cause for alarm not solely within the Middle East but across the entire world. Ensuring the stability of regional and global geopolitics is an issue of the utmost significance, one that cannot be entrusted to the sole discretion of Israel. It is self-evident that no nation is adequately prepared for the apocalyptic scenario in which Prime Minister Netanyahu’s messianic delusions have ensnared major power rivalries, regional equilibrium, and a precarious security framework. 

The tragedy of Western elites

It is increasingly apparent that both Washington and Europe have found themselves ensnared in the “Israeli quagmire” from which they cannot easily extricate themselves. Biden, even at the risk of jeopardizing his electoral prospects, appears to be aligning himself closely with Israel. In a closely contested race with Trump, he finds himself living through a warning he once issued to Netanyahu about the dwindling days of their reign. What’s even more troubling is that, by systematically renouncing his earlier visionary commitments before assuming office, he is raising doubts about America’s geopolitical standing in the global system. Alongside a profound “morality bankruptcy,” he is further unsettling the delicate equilibrium of global geopolitics. In addition to squandering all the diplomatic capital accrued during the Ukraine crisis, he is injecting further turmoil into the ever-fluid global alliance landscape. Biden and the entire American political leadership, by offering Israel an unequivocal carte blanche for the entirety of the United States’ geopolitical influence, are fueling the expansion of global geopolitical instability. Their actions are gradually propelling nations towards another alternative, the Global South, which, much like the United States, exhibits minimal concern for global stability and peace.

In a world where a fundamental axis of values, responsibility, and law that should be the bedrock of global geopolitics, the economy, and international relations is glaringly absent, we are left with nothing but a realm governed by the bleak adage “Homo homini lupus.” This world turns a blind eye to the stage humanity has reached, despite the considerable costs it has borne. The possibility of Israel’s brutality becoming a reference point for international relations is an alarming development, reminiscent of how the West remained silent in the face of both yesterday’s Holocaust and the unfolding brutality in Gaza today. With a glaring lack of moral responsibility, these actors not only accelerate the erosion of the global rule-based order but also jeopardize the interests of their respective nations and regional and global security. Biden, continuing the path set by Trump, is forging a volatile axis where Putin’s historical revisionism converges with Xi’s insatiable quest for unrestrained power.

If Washington and Europe are unable to provide an international order imagination substantially distinct from what Putin and Xi can present to the world, there is no impediment to global geopolitics swiftly spiraling into an entirely anarchic phase. Prior to October 7th, Israel perceived itself to have attained the zenith of its geopolitical might since its inception. However, the aftermath of October 7th has seen both Washington and Tel Aviv plummet to the nadir of their geopolitical influence, marking one of the most unremarkable chapters in their history.The U.S. President, during his regional visit, confronted a notable geopolitical descent. His visit, a moment when Arab leaders who had long been in Washington’s crosshairs refrained from engaging, symbolized the depths of this decline. As Washington sought to recalibrate its global geopolitical and economic position in the face of China’s competition, it simultaneously laid the foundations for a potential “clash of civilizations” in the wake of the events on October 7th.

What is left from Western value set?

For the rest of the world, there is now scant reason to earnestly consider any value system or function set forth by the West. Israel has traditionally served as a barometer of Western attitudes. However, beyond merely being a litmus test, the events of October 7th have propelled it into an existential crisis. Washington and Europe have entered an eerie phase of estrangement, paying little heed to the judicious responses of Western public opinion and the global conscience.

Israel and the Western world will inevitably confront the political repercussions of positioning themselves in opposition to the collective conscience of global masses. More significantly and perilously, the security crises potentially incited by Israeli actions deserve paramount attention.

The Middle East has indeed been a major conflict zone throughout the 20th century, experiencing continuous wars and occupations over the past fifty years. The region has accumulated a surreal negative energy as a result of these ongoing conflicts, which has left it both exhausted and haunted by the lingering specter of war. This historical narrative involves both the United States and Israel, with the latter’s occupation and the former’s invasions playing crucial roles in the accumulation of the region’s war energy. A significant portion of this energy can be traced back to American invasions, which commenced with the Gulf War. Notably, all of Washington’s military interventions have concluded with little success. Particularly since 2003, the United States has refrained from engaging in conventional warfare in the region. This critical development underscores the diminishing significance of power asymmetry in regional conflicts. Furthermore, advancements in non-state actors utilization of technology have reshaped the nature of warfare, as evidenced in Ukraine, where 400 dollar drones can neutralize multi-million-dollar tanks. Non-state actors, employing various organizational structures, have acquired the capacity to engage in protracted warfare, either directly or through proxies, thus ushering in a new era of warfare that supersedes conventional modes. Moreover, this adaptability has been demonstrated in regions such as Iraq and Syria, where ideological and nationalistic motivations are limited and problematic. Even groups like ISIS have managed to endure for extended periods without any local or global moral support. In contrast to these dynamics, the Palestinian cause is a unique issue, rooted in both moral principles and a specific geographic location, and garners genuine support from the region and the world. Failing to recognize that Hamas is a symptom and persisting in the misguided pursuit of Israel’s destruction of Hamas could result in significant consequences for Washington.

Anyone possess a keen understanding of the global and regional geopolitical landscape, acknowledge the importance of establishing a minimal common ground at the international level, notwithstanding the myriad of challenges, and, most crucially, remain unwavering in their commitment to fundamental moral principles pertaining to humanity, are now shedding light on the “Israel trap” ensnaring both Washington and Europe, along with its potentially hazardous ramifications. Returning to the fundamental question, it appears that Western leadership, despite the numerous admonitions from global conscience, will grapple with the arduous task of breaking free from the Israel taboo. This “ultimate taboo,” conspicuously absent within their own societies and beyond, is set to persist under Western political elites. The Western leadership, interpreting the events of October 7th as a direct assault on their interests, have, in their frantic responses, transmuted an issue that is geopolitically lucid into a quandary of moral and psychological dimensions. Rather than engaging in a discourse of the occupation as a root cause, they have unequivocally expressed their belief that ending what has transformed into a full-scale massacre, replete with war crimes, humanitarian assistance, ceasefires, and the tragic loss of innocent lives, runs counter to Israel’s interests. Western standing corroborates Freud’s concept of the taboo: “primeval prohibition forcibly imposed (by some authority) from outside, and directed against the most powerful longings to which human beings are subject.” 

Currently, it is abundantly clear that the “Israel taboo,” an enigma that transcends mere explanation by the national interests of the United States and European states, cannot be dismantled through logical and ethical discourse. The situation has grown so tragically intricate that endeavors to communicate Washington’s geopolitical priorities to the U.S. have undergone a remarkable transformation. It’s remarkable that, despite the presence of nearly 13,000 lobbies in the United States, the one most crucial for the American politics and interests appears conspicuously absent. In Washington, and similarly in other Western capitals, unless an “American lobby” emerges swiftly, one capable of curbing the mythological fantasies of Netanyahu, while instilling a pragmatic geopolitical perspective and prioritizing their own national interest or fostering a political narrative that cares global stability, the prospect of an American president, even one who self-identifies as “Zionist,” doing so remains highly implausible.



The Ankara Institute is located in Ankara, Turkey. Our teams include academics, former members of the parliament, senior advisers to the Turkish prime ministers and ministers, analysts from prominent think-tanks, NGO directors, and media professionals with many years of experience. We do have extensive experience of working and partnering with leading global think-tanks, NGOs, international organizations, and governmental institutions.