Marsha B. Cohen
On September 11, 2001, after two terrorist attacks occurred on U.S. soil, Israeli political figures anticipated that the Americans finally be able to empathize with Israel’s vulnerability to terror. In the hours immediately following the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Israeli leaders envisioned a massive U.S. retaliation in which Israel was uniquely equipped to be a partner, even a mentor, of the U.S. (1)
“The fight against terror is an international struggle of the free world against the forces of darkness who seek to destroy our liberty and our way of life,” then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon declared in a televised statement just after midnight on September 12. “I believe that together we can defeat these forces of evil.”
A spate of Israeli pronouncements proclaimed Israel’s own foreign policy priorities. They drew upon a decade of Israeli assertions of Iranian complicity in all things terrorist, and warnings of imminent Iranian nuclear weaponization. A war of civilizations had begun. 9/11 was just the first strike of Islamic fundamentalists. The next might be a nuclear attack by Iran.
The pronouncements constituted the opening salvo in a months-long back-and-forth about how the U.S. would frame its new “global war on terror.” Would the U.S. choose to court the cooperation of regimes in Muslim majority countries — even enlisting governments like Iran who might sympathize with the dangers of transnational terrorism – in preference to its steadfast strategic partner and loyal ally. Israel?