Almost everyone agrees that the US is a strong supporter of Israel.
- Apologists for anti-US terrorism claim that such attacks are caused by our relationship with Israel.
- Antisemites claim that the US strongly supports Israel and that it is because our government and media are controlled by Zionist Jews.
- Every presidential candidate talks about our traditional strong support for Israel and the need to continue it. Congress periodically passes resolutions by huge majorities which express support for Israel.
- And the Jewish establishment in the US preens itself in the most fulsome way on the closeness between the US and Israel, which it believes is a result of its efforts.
But the fact is that US policy is not especially pro-Israel. Let’s look at the facts.
First, what about the huge amount of aid? In 2006, Israel received about $240 million in civilian economic aid (down from $477 M in 2004), and $2.4 billion in military aid. The administration plans to increase military aid to $3 billion next year. Both the civilian and military aid must be spent primarily in the US, and much of the ‘civilian’ aid is for military purposes.
The effect of this aid is to make Israel’s military policy a captive of the US. As you recall, the big questions during last summer’s war were “how long will the US let this go on?”, “did Condoleeza Rice authorize a ground attack?”, and similar.
The US has never flinched from using its leverage, as when it forced Israel to absorb Scud strikes on Tel Aviv in 1991 so as not to upset the charade that the US had Arab ‘allies’ with it in the Gulf war; nor when President George W. Bush placed an embargo on helicopter parts at the beginning of the second intifada in response to targeted killings of terrorists (the embargo was lifted after 9/11).
Benefits to the US include a market for military products, real-world testing of these products, and a proxy military force in the Middle East.
While Israel certainly needs to be able to counter weapons provided to Syria and Iran by Russia, the US is responsible for arming two of the major potentially hostile powers in the region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Note that the proposed large increase in military aid to Israel is in part to ‘balance’ a huge ($20 billion) arms deal with the Saudis.
Historically, US foreign policy has not been nearly as pro-Israel as either AIPAC or Al-Qaeda would have us believe. For example, Eisenhower and Dulles threatened to get Israel sanctioned and expelled from the UN 1956, and forced ben Gurion to withdraw from Sinai while refusing to guarantee her freedom of passage in the straits of Tiran — the same issue that became the casus belli for the 1967 war, when LBJ refused to force Nasser to back down.
The US has never accepted the Israeli annexation of Jerusalem, and has resisted moving its embassy to West Jerusalem — where the Knesset is and which has been in Israeli hands since 1948 — for years.
In general, US policy toward Israel has been designed to gain influence with the Arabs rather than to help Israel — hence the seemingly irrational push today for an impossible ‘peace process’.
On the other hand, US policy toward Saudi Arabia — including going to war to protect her oil reserves in 1991, and selling her military hardware that, from an Israeli point of view, upsets the regional balance of power — has always been positive, despite Saudi actions against US interests.
Mearsheimer and Walt to the contrary, the Jewish lobby has not been nearly as successful as both its enemies and friends believe, and US policy toward Israel has generally followed the various administration’s views — and sometimes those of the pro-Arab State Department — regarding US interests.
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