The United States and Israel: The Limits of the Special Relationship. By Ben-Zvi Abraham. New York: Columbia University Press, p. The relationship between Israel and the United States has arguably defined A special relationship: the United States and Israel .. into a Jewish state, that Britain in decided to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine. Israel–United States relations refers to the bilateral relationship between the State of Israel and . US backing of a Jewish state would harm relations with the Muslim world, limit access to Middle Eastern oil, and destabilize the region. The United States has played a special role in assisting Israel with the complex task.
Days into the war, it has been suggested that Meir authorized the assembly of Israeli nuclear bombs. This was done openly, perhaps in order to draw American attention, but Meir authorized their use against Egyptian and Syrian targets only if Arab forces managed to advance too far. Meir asked Nixon for help with military supply. After Israel went on full nuclear alert and loaded their warheads into waiting planes, Nixon ordered the full scale commencement of a strategic airlift operation to deliver weapons and supplies to Israel; this last move is sometimes called "the airlift that saved Israel".
However, by the time the supplies arrived, Israel was gaining the upper hand. Kissinger realized the situation presented the United States with a tremendous opportunity—Egypt was totally dependent on the US to prevent Israel from destroying the army, which now had no access to food or water. The position could be parlayed later into allowing the United States to mediate the dispute, and push Egypt out of Soviet influences. As a result, the United States exerted tremendous pressure on the Israelis to refrain from destroying the trapped army.
In a phone call with Israeli ambassador Simcha DinitzKissinger told the ambassador that the destruction of the Egyptian Third Army "is an option that does not exist". The Egyptians later withdrew their request for support and the Soviets complied. After the war, Kissinger pressured the Israelis to withdraw from Arab lands; this contributed to the first phases of a lasting Israeli-Egyptian peace. President Ford responded on 21 March by sending Prime Minister Rabin a letter stating that Israeli intransigence has complicated US worldwide interests, and therefore the administration will reassess its relations with the Israeli government.
In addition, arms shipments to Israel halted. The reassessment crisis came to an end with the Israeli—Egyptian disengagement of forces agreement of 4 September With the May election of Likud 's Menachem Begin as prime minister, after 30 years of leading the Israeli government opposition, major changes took place regarding Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories.
The two frameworks included in the Carter-initiated Camp David process were viewed by right-wing elements in Israel as creating US pressures on Israel to withdraw from the captured Palestinian territoriesas well as forcing it to take risks for the sake of peace with Egypt. It led to Israeli withdrawal from Sinai by Likud governments have since argued that their acceptance of full withdrawal from the Sinai as part of these accords and the eventual Egypt—Israel Peace Treaty fulfilled the Israeli pledge to withdraw from occupied territory.
Reagan administration — President Ronald Reagan meeting Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ephraim EvronIsraeli supporters expressed concerns early in the first Ronald Reagan term about potential difficulties in US—Israeli relations, in part because several Presidential appointees had ties or past business associations with key Arab countries for example, Secretaries Caspar Weinberger and George P.
Shultz were officers in the Bechtel Corporationwhich has strong links to the Arab world; see Arab lobby in the United States.
However, President Reagan's personal support for Israel, and the compatibility between Israeli and Reagan perspectives on terrorismsecurity cooperation, and the Soviet threat, led to considerable strengthening in bilateral relations.
InWeinberger and Israeli Minister of Defense Ariel Sharon signed the Strategic Cooperation Agreementestablishing a framework for continued consultation and cooperation to enhance the national security of both countries. In Novemberthe two sides formed a Joint Political Military Groupwhich meets twice a year, to implement most provisions of that agreement.
Joint air and sea military exercises began in Juneand the United States constructed two War Reserve Stock facilities in Israel to stockpile military equipment. Although intended for American forces in the Middle East, the equipment can be transferred to Israeli use if necessary. US—Israeli ties strengthened during the second Reagan term.
Israel was granted " major non-NATO ally " status ingiving it access to expanded weapons systems and opportunities to bid on US defense contracts. Since then all customs duties between the two trading partners have been eliminated.
However, relations soured when Israel carried out Operation Operaan Israeli airstrike on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Baghdad. Reagan suspended a shipment of military aircraft to Israel, and harshly criticized the action. Relations also soured during the Lebanon Warwhen the United States even contemplated sanctions to stop the Israeli Siege of Beirut. The US reminded Israel that weaponry provided by the US was to be used for defensive purposes only, and suspended shipments of cluster munitions to Israel.
Although the war exposed some serious differences between Israeli and US policies, such as Israel's rejection of the Reagan peace plan of 1 Septemberit did not alter the Administration's favoritism for Israel and the emphasis it placed on Israel's importance to the United States.
But, despite the US—PLO dialogue, the Pollard spy case, and the Israeli rejection of the Shultz peace initiative in the spring ofpro-Israeli organizations in the United States characterized the Reagan Administration and the th Congress as the "most pro-Israel ever", and praised the positive overall tone of bilateral relations. President Bush raised the ire of the Likud government when he told a press conference on 3 Marchthat East Jerusalem was occupied territory and not a sovereign part of Israel as Israel says.
Israel had annexed East Jerusalem inan action which did not gain international recognition. The United States and Israel disagreed over the Israeli interpretation of the Israeli plan to hold elections for a Palestinian peace conference delegation in the summer ofand also disagreed over the need for an investigation of the Jerusalem incident of 8 Octoberin which Israeli police killed 17 Palestinians.
The United States urged Israel not to retaliate against Iraq for the attacks because it was believed that Iraq wanted to draw Israel into the conflict and force other coalition members, Egypt and Syria in particular, to quit the coalition and join Iraq in a war against Israel. Israel did not retaliate, and gained praise for its restraint.
Following the Gulf War, the administration immediately returned to Arab-Israeli peacemaking, believing there was a window of opportunity to use the political capital generated by the US victory to revitalize the Arab-Israeli peace process.
On 6 MarchPresident Bush addressed Congress in a speech often cited as the administration's principal policy statement on the new order in relation to the Middle East, following the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
America, Israel and the “special relationship: an Uncertain Alliance
The centerpiece of his program, however, was the achievement of an Arab—Israeli treaty based on the territory-for-peace principle and the fulfillment of Palestinian rights.
This was both because President Bush and Secretary Baker felt the coalition victory and increased US prestige would itself induce a new Arab—Israeli dialogue, and because their diplomatic initiative focused on process and procedure rather than on agreements and concessions. From Washington's perspective, economic inducements would not be necessary, but these did enter the process because Israel injected them in May.
It was reported widely that the Bush Administration did not share an amicable relationship with the Likud government of Yitzhak Shamir.
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However, the Israeli government did win the repeal of United Nations General Assembly Resolutionwhich equated Zionism with racism. The Labor coalition approved a partial housing construction freeze in the occupied territories on 19 July, something the Shamir government had not done despite Bush Administration appeals for a freeze as a condition for the loan guarantees. Israel and the PLO exchanged letters of mutual recognition on 10 September, and signed the Declaration of Principles on 13 September President Clinton disagreed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu 's policy of expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, and it was reported that the President believed that the Prime Minister delayed the peace process.
President Clinton hosted negotiations at the Wye River Conference Center in Maryland, ending with the signing of an agreement on 23 October Israel suspended implementation of the Wye agreement in early Decemberwhen the Palestinians violated the Wye Agreement by threatening to declare a state Palestinian statehood was not mentioned in Wye. Ehud Barak was elected Prime Minister on 17 Mayand won a vote of confidence for his government on 6 July President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak appeared to establish close personal relations during four days of meetings between 15 and 20 July.
Bush administration — Mahmoud AbbasGeorge W. On 4 Octobershortly after the September 11 attacksSharon accused the Bush Administration of appeasing the Palestinians at Israel's expense in a bid for Arab support for the US anti-terror campaign. After the war, where Israel defeated the Syrians, the Egyptians and the Jordanians, the Americans came to conclude that this country, Israel, might be an effective ally at beating up on Soviet client states in the region. So for strategic reasons, the Nixon administration took a giant step towards forming a special relationship with Israel.
And as I say, this factor has to be married with the fact that large numbers of American Jews were successfully assimilated by this point, and also because Israel and the holocaust were so important in daily Jewish life. The genesis of the Israeli lobby goes all the way back to the genesis of the Israeli state.
And the staff of those two embassies was very astute, very observant about political trends within America. They were also very cognisant that there were seeds of pro-Israeli sentiment deeply planted on Capitol Hill. And the records of those embassies, which are open to public inspection at the Israel State Archives in Jerusalem, make clear that those officials realised that there was going to be an enormous battle for the mind of President Truman, and that it was their duty, as Israeli government officials, to try to shape the outcome of that debate by encouraging pro-Israel sentiment on the streets of America and by encouraging pro-Israeli statements and votes on Capitol Hill.
The idea was they needed to have a public information campaign to generate or to encourage the growth of the innate pro-Israeli sentiment among the American people. And they had a very long list of initiatives, from contacting labour leaders to contacting leaders of churches to writing letters to publishing pamphlets, working with Hollywood moviemakers to make films.
Eventually they got into complicated businesses like planting chairs of Jewish studies at east coast universities—all kinds of initiatives taken to try to build a popular disposition in favour of Israel. That laid the groundwork then for the emergence of what we call the Israeli lobby. The first point I would make is that the lobby is a loose coalition of individuals and groups that work actively to push US foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction.
Not all American Jews could be considered part of the lobby and furthermore, the lobby includes large numbers of non-Jews, especially Christian Zionists, who are deeply committed to Israel and in many ways are more committed than many Jews in the United States to pushing the US government in a pro-Israel direction.
Everybody who knows how the American system works understands that lobby groups in the United States are legitimate. A lobby group in the United States must have strong grounding and support in public opinion, and because there is very strong support for Israel in American public opinion, the pro-Israel lobby is able to translate this support into political power.
I want to emphasise, however, that there is also a very strong pro-Arab lobby in the United States. The two lobby groups are often competing. It is a significant factor, but my argument is that if American Israeli relations had been relying just on the power of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington, the relations would not have been that close.
Other factors, such as the value system that combined the two countries and strategic interests are far more important than the power of the lobby. The first general point that I would make is that it is very important to understand that interest groups wield enormous influence in American politics.
First of all, the people who run these organisations are very smart and very good at getting what they want. Also important to emphasise that they have no opposition: Everybody in this country who runs for congress or runs for the president understands full well that it would be a huge mistake to cross the lobby, because not only would you not get any money from organisations in the lobby, but your opponent would get lots of money, and that would not be good.
So money is a very important source of power. Just take Florida, for example. In the presidential election, it all came down to a handful of votes in Florida. Well, Florida has a large number of Jews; it also, by the way, has a large number of Cuban Americans.
That means that any presidential candidate wants to make sure that he or she does not alienate either those American Jews or those Cuban Americans in Florida. So votes also matter. And that coupled with all those factors allows the lobby to be very powerful.
One of the key aspects of the special relationship is the amount of aid—both financial and military—that the US gives Israel.
America, Israel and the “special relationship: an Uncertain Alliance - Blogs - Jerusalem Post
Egypt was given aid for the same purpose, although the amount that ended up in Egyptian hands was always slightly less than the amount that ended up in Israeli hands. Yes, because Israel is a small country surrounded by an ocean of hostile Arab enemies. The United States did not want Israel to depend on American military intervention; the basic solution would be to equip Israel with sufficient number of weapons of high quality so that it can defend itself against any threat.
Well, American presidents have had remarkably little influence on Israeli policy. The most important example of that is the settlements. Israel captured the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in and shortly thereafter it began colonising those two pieces of territory. Every American president since has opposed the building of settlements in the occupied territories.
Every president has understood that it is morally wrong, legally wrong, and not in the strategic interests of the United States. Nevertheless, no president has been able to stop the Israelis from building settlements. I could point to others as well. Many have argued that the settlement issue prevents conflict resolution and peace.
What happens post-the collapse of the Soviet Union, because clearly the cold war was very significant in forging that relationship between Israel and the United States. So with the end of the cold war, in some ways you would have suspected that that relationship might have become much more difficult. Perhaps now we can see another era. So, the focus shifted, but there was some shared reason of threat—radicalism and terror.
So you have it particularly obviously during the Bush era in the most dramatic way.
Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror. North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror. Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil. There is no question that as a result of the revolution in Iran and the subsequent hostage crisis, that the United States had bad relations with Iran.
However, the Iranians were very interested at different points in the s and even in the s in trying to improve relations with the United States, and the United States itself was interested in improving its relations with Iran. But this never happened and the main reason is that Israel was deeply committed, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to making Iran the bogeyman for the United States and for Israel in the Middle East.
The Israelis understood that in the absence of the Soviet Union there was no strategic room for a special relationship. So what was needed was to create a threat, a common threat. And since the early s, the Israelis have worked overtime to portray Iran as the second coming of the Third Reich and to make the argument that the United States cannot engage in diplomacy with Iran. I think that since the Islamic fundamentalist revolution in Iran in —79, Iran declared war on the United States, defined the United States as the big Satan.
Iran wants to export its brand of extreme Islamist revolution to the entire Middle East. They want to replace all the governments in the region and establish governments of their own kind. They want to control all the oil resources of the Middle East. This is why a combination of nuclear Iran with the extremist ideology—support for terrorism entire the world—is very dangerous, and this is why there is almost a unanimous agreement in the world that Iran should be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.