Netanyahu’s Israel, America’s difficult child


As May is the month where parents are celebrated in the calendar, with Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, one cannot help but wonder whether the US-Israel relationship cannot be framed as a very specific and somewhat dysfunctional Parent-child relationship.

The Israelis would probably dislike this analogy but is nevertheless fitting in many respects.

Being spoiled, and unfair

A spoiled child rarely understands how good he has and displays ingratitude toward his parents. 

The spoiled child believes that behaving like a spoiled brat is the best way to keep the parents’ attention and support. When the child has no friends, the parents tell him to change his behavior, or they organize playdates at their home to get him out of his isolation, only to get rebuffed by a child that says that he will not change and that he enjoys his loneliness.

Spoiled brats are not even aware of how dependent they are, until a real crisis erupts, and they understand there is no other choice but to rely on their parents.

Israel under Netanyahu behaves exactly with the Biden Administration exactly like a spoiled brat. The country will refuse any advice and make its isolation even worse. This spoiled brat has an imaginary alternative family, and he actually displays them on billboards in his room, but to his dismay these “friends” from another league” actually do not care for him, they are either indifferent or hostile when there is a need to step in, while his “nasty” parents are there, always, in times of crises.

Rebel, but not too much

The rebellious moves (“I don’t need you”, “I am own man”) are an usual feature in the parent-child relationship. It is a rite of passage all the more pleasant as it is done while enjoying a full material and emotional support.

It was expressed by Menahem Begin “We are not a banana republic” in 1982 (same sentence repeated by Netanyahu four decades later), and nobody actually plays the empty rebellion like the very Netanyahu, until very recently on Yom Hashoa in IsraelIf we have to stand alone, we’ll stand alone. When he does not do it himself, Netanyahu sends his minions to do so to claim Israel’s absolute defiance and independence. The stronger the words, the weaker those minions look but as long as it pleases their boss, they are happy to do so.

To be fair, Israel is an independent country and has always been so, but claiming one’s independence while at the same time calling for help the US administration for money, weapons, protection against the ICJ or the use of veto at the UN, is not totally consistent. Being independent, and repeating the claim that you are, are 2 different things, and this is true for Israel vis a vis the US like it is for a teenager rebelling against his parents from the comfort of his bedroom and complaining about the amount of his monthly allowance. And Netanyahu’s Israel behaves exactly like that.

Angering your parents, but without taking any risk

As angry as parents can be with their kids, they know they will step in in case of trouble, and the child knows that they can anger them as much as they want because of that.

Whenever this troubled child needs his parents, the child indeed appeals to them, and the call will be answered. The parents will show up at a police station when their children are drunk, and the US will do the same when a diplomatic move was visibly done under the influence of alcohol, drugs or, even worse, a lunatic child that lives in Miami. In both cases, some disappointment will be expressed, possibly tough words, but the troubled child will be saved by his loving parents.

Joe Biden increasingly more and more appears as a frustrated head of the family in front of his child’s irresponsibility, his lack of gratitude, but present when needed, attached unconditionally to his child against all odds, more to the image he has of this child than to what he has become, despite the pressure he’s under to cut Israel loose.

Playing with the red lines

All parents draw red lines to their kids, and warn them of consequences if they cross them. The kids are toying with these rules, and constantly checking where the limits are. 

The same can be said about the US-Israel relationship under Netanyahu, who constantly challenges the red lines laid out by the Biden Administration, be it on the humanitarian aid or Rafah. All Israeli governments have done so, but yet again Netanyahu is pushing defiance to “another league”, with all the presidents he had to deal with, from Clinton to Biden, Obama to Trump, yes even Trump.

To Israel’s dismay, when the United Stated has had enough, some anger erupts and it then complains about how unfair this anger is, most likely fueled by electoral cynicism or even antisemitism. He can get away with it because he knows he will be forgiven ultimately, because he remains the special child, always forgiven, and always supported, all the more so as his parents are separated, even estranged, and this helps him a lot.

Playing one parent against the other

In some cases, kids can benefit from having estranged parents, using guilt or competition between them to push their advantage. It is even truer when one parent is the main guardian, effectively ensuring the child’s protection and well-being, sometimes reluctantly but strongly, while the other parent, less present, less committed and less consistent in time is constantly pushing the child to second-guess the legal guardian’s authority. In return, the child knows his parents well enough to benefit from this, sabotaging his parents and hoping for the other parent to become his new legal guardian.

Netanyahu has never hidden his partisan preference for the Republicans, even if it means the end of bipartisan support for Israel, which is happening in front of our eyes. Biden’s unwavering commitment is done despite the Democratic base’s feelings for Israel, not because of it. 

Nothing is more precious for a child than having his both parents’ support, but that does not trouble Netanyahu one bit, who does not care. Like Netanyahu, a spoiled child believes he will ultimately be spoiled for ever, and he believes it all the more as he’s also the favorite child, and he enjoys it fully.

Playing to the advantage of being the favorite sibling

The favorite child receives the attention of both parents, who sometimes compete to see who can do more for him. In the meantime, the other child (let’s call her Ukraine), who has always behaved well and who is attacked by the biggest bully in the class (let’s call her Russia), must seek the attention and support of her parents, who ostensibly prefer the other child.

While the prodigal child is asked to do his homework, such as a plan for Gaza after the war and limit the damage he may have done, by restricting humanitarian aid or killing many civilians, he hardly listens and only postpones the minimum that is asked of him.

On the other side, the other child has strict limitations to the help she gets and how she can use that help , to her dismay and frustrations

Netanyahu’s Israel would be wise to actually not brag about his status as a favorite child, but to look closely at what has happened to Ukraine. Trump’s Republican Party has no spine, no principles. The aid for Ukraine has stalled for months in Congress because of Trump, and this should be a warning to Netanyahu that the new Republican Party can drop alliances in a minute if their leader has had a bad night or received a nasty tweet, and a reminder that a good status today does not guarantee anything for the future.

Diplomatic relations are no family feuds

What a spoiled child does not know or does not want to see is that the parents may at some point become tired and turn to other priorities, and that they may rebuild their life with people who are much less concerned or well-intentioned towards him, then putting him in danger.

In the Israeli case, this is actually true for both parents, both US political parties, proving here the limitations of the parent analogy. Political parties, countries change alliances, parents remain parents, except in very few situations.

Diplomatic relations are at the end of the day not unconditional, but based on interests.

The US-Israel relationship may well at some point, and sooner than expected, move from a family relationship, albeit tense, to a business relationship, oscillating between friendly and cold, based only on the interest, that can vary.

Israel may soon regret its current relationship with the US when it is no longer effective. But it will then be too late then to realize how good it had it before…


Sebastien Levi


Last Event

Press Release