How pro-Israel is the US?

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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3 Responses to “How pro-Israel is the US?”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    A rare disagreement here. Consider the U.N. Israel without U.S. support would be totally isolated at the U.N. and subject a long time ago to sanctions.
    The U.S. does pay a price for its support for Israel in terms of the hostility this causes throughout the Islamic world. This does not mean that there are not other, perhaps more important reasons why the U.S. is hated in Islamistan.
    Also, there is cooperation between the U.S. and Israel in many areas. The fact that the world perceives the U.S. as guarantor of Israel’s existence does mean something in terms of ‘deterrence’.
    I agree that there are many instances where the U.S. could have done better in its relation to Israel.
    But all in all the U.S. has been, and hopefully will continue to be a good friend, to Israel.

  2. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I didn’t say that the US is not a better friend to Israel than, say, Norway or France.

    My point is just that the much-vaunted “close relationship” is not as close as both friends and enemies of Israel suggest.

    I hope that Israel does not rely too much on American guarantees, because — as happened in 1967 — they may not count for much when the going gets really rough.

  3. Abe Bird says:

    People use to picture Israel as a small and weak ‘land of the desert country’ as they imagined she was 60 years ago. But as times went by, Israel built a huge and rich platform of advancement and projects that led the country well safe and firm into the 21st Century passing and jumping over many other bigger countries into the family of industrialized countries. Now the Israeli market is quite a rich and complicated and produces most of the needed materials for the state. Israel’s science, agriculture, technology, medicine, is one of most progressing on earth. No wonder that evaluation degrees Israel among the few developing countries.

    US Israel relations are based on mutual interests and values. Values are the most non-permanent virtue among nations-states, though these relations will stay close as long as both strategic interests will be the same. No one can predict for how long this kind of relation will be kept in high level, and both sides should give a thought how they relate each other when tackled with fundamental and basic diversion spot. If it is taken in advance by both sides the crisis will be smaller than if the possibility of ignoring.

    As for the updated relations between the US and Israel, one only can bless the close partnership in many areas. And that is not because the US invest money in Israel but mostly because both parties mutually contribute each other with science know-how cooperation and advanced technologies.

    In this areas Israel contribute much more than relative to hers inhabitants size. The US also enjoys the strategic status of Israel and the roll she plays to halt wars in the ME. It is very ironic that against our imaginary feelings Israel roll in the ME is first to be a stabilizer. If Israel wouldn’t exist at all the western countries should have invented here at the first place, but as she is already exists some of those western states allow themselves to use her in order to get free entrance to Arab oily states. The US gets a large Israeli assistance, mostly far from foreign observation eyes, in military and intelligence. Most people can’t count that kind of help.
    Much more than one needs the other, both countries need each other for their own unique interests.