‘Trading Places’ between Israel and the US

A classic film teaches us the ironies of a role reversal.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 9, 2010. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, March 9, 2010. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg
Steve Rosenberg is principal of the GSD Group and board chair of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. He is the author of Make Bold Things Happen: Inspirational Stories From Sports, Business and Life.

As the 40th anniversary of the classic film “Trading Places,” starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd, approaches, it seems an opportune moment to explore a hypothetical scenario: What it would look like if the State of Israel and the United States were to trade places on the world stage?

While this may seem far-fetched at first, examining the ironies and parallels can provide a fresh perspective on global politics and diplomacy.

In “Trading Places,” a wealthy Wall Street investor loses his wealth and status, while a homeless man unexpectedly rises to prominence due to a bet by the Duke Brothers, who own an investment firm based in Philadelphia.

Applying this concept to a hypothetical Israel-U.S. role reversal, Israel—a small nation with a history of adversity—would be a global superpower. Conversely, the U.S. would face the challenges and limitations typically experienced by Israel.

In the realm of international relations, Israel adeptly navigates complex diplomatic ties, delicately balancing relationships to maintain its position. Should the U.S. trade places with Israel, it would encounter similar challenges. It would have to adapt to a regional dynamic in which alliances and conflicts require nuance and careful consideration of national security. Can you envision a world where sirens go off in border towns in Arizona, Texas, California and New York because rockets are incoming from Mexico and Canada?

There would also be a shift in national security and defense strategies. Israel’s unique security concerns arise from its small size and location in a volatile region. The U.S. would have to deal with these concerns, necessitating a reevaluation of its defense policies and a heightened focus on regional stability to ensure the safety of its citizens.

Despite its modest size, Israel has established itself as a global leader in economic and technological innovation. Israel thrives on groundbreaking advancements. By trading places with Israel, the U.S. would need to embrace this new reality, grappling with the challenges of fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in a smaller, resource-constrained context.

One of the most significant ironies of a role reversal would be the U.S.’s transformation into a central player in the Middle East, akin to Israel’s current role. This would thrust the U.S. into the complexities of continued violence against Israel by Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad,  requiring the forging of new alliances and the careful balancing of regional interests. It would provide the U.S. with a firsthand understanding of the arduous task of brokering peace and the far-reaching consequences of its decisions.

Moreover, the U.S. would encounter a different kind of media scrutiny. Israel faces intense criticism in the international media, often built on lies and fabrications. Thus, the U.S. would gain insights into countering negative stereotypes, managing global public opinion and addressing complex narratives.

While the notion of a hypothetical role reversal between Israel and the U.S. is a mere thought experiment, it offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the intricate dynamics of global politics and diplomacy. Exploring the ironies of this scenario invites us to consider the challenges and opportunities that would arise if the world’s power dynamics were rearranged.

Ultimately, this exercise underscores the importance of empathy, understanding and comprehending another nation’s experience, which can only be gained by walking a mile in its shoes. The main characters in “Trading Places” learned this the hard way. Maybe the world would learn to appreciate Israel differently if this fiction became a reality. I bet you a dollar we won’t find out.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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