How the U.S Has Benefited from its Allaiance with Israel / Gil Ehrenkranz

This article reviews Israel's value as an American ally since 1967. It highlights the actions taken by Israel on behalf of the United States, including accommodating U.S. national interests at the expense of Israeli interests. The article explores the myth of Holocaust guilt as the primary reason for Israel's creation and contrasts the actions of other regional U.S. allies with those of Israel. The steadily declining tangible support for U.S. policies by American allies in the twenty-first century has served to magnify Israel's importance to the United States.

Amidst a budding nuclear arms race in the Middle East, the Obama administration is seen by many as “resetting” the relationship between the United States and its long-time ally, Israel. This recalibration of the U.S.-Israel alliance is occurring while Israel is facing the first genuine threat to its existence since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The threat emanates from the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian quest for nuclear arms production capability is nearly complete as most analysts estimate that Iran will have mastered the ability to produce nuclear weapons by 2013.

[1] Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s repeated pronouncements of his hope that Israel will disappear are simply a more bellicose statement of the policy Iran has had towards Israel since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.[2] Yet with Iran on the verge of acquiring an ability to produce nuclear weapons, Israel can no longer afford to ignore Iranian intentions. This article will focus on the history of Israel as a partner in its alliance with the United States.


Tensions in the relationship between the United States and Israel are nothing new. While Ronald Reagan’s tenure as president is remembered as being very pro-Israel, few remember that his first two years in office were filled with serious disagreements with Israel. In 1981, he embargoed the delivery of F-16 aircraft to Israel in response to Israel’s raid on the Osirak reactor in Iraq.[3] A year later, his administration unveiled a unilateral blueprint for Middle East peace without consulting Israel. When it was finally presented simultaneously to Israel and its Arab neighbors, Prime Minister Begin was livid at Reagan’s failure to consult with Israel. Reagan also suspended diplomatic agreements with Israel following the Israeli Knesset vote to extend Israeli law to the Golan Heights. The Reagan approach to Israel began to change, however, following the almost universal rejection of his peace plan among Arab states as well as Hizballah’s attack, which killed hundreds of U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983. Thus, Reagan’s preconceived notions about the causes of Middle Eastern instability and the lack of peace did not survive his experience. To his credit, Reagan recognized this and was able to shift U.S. policy from confrontation with Israel to one of cooperation.

The Clinton administration went through a similar learning curve, albeit a much slower one. Between 1993 and 2001, no world leader was invited to the White House as often as Yasir Arafat.[4] Clinton and Secretary of State Albright clung to the belief that Arafat was interested in peaceful coexistence with Israel. This belief even survived Arafat’s continued refusal to rein in terrorist groups and his initiation of the Second Intifada. Unfortunately for Israel, Clinton did not recognize until late in 2000 that Arafat was an unreconstructed terrorist at heart.

President Obama has hinted that he would like to redefine the terms of the U.S. relationship with Israel. This is not mere speculation. While the Obama administration has reacted tepidly to serious policy challenges such as North Korean threats to use its atomic weapons and to the remarkable protests in Iran following a rigged election,[5] Obama has focused vigorously on forcing Israel to cease any construction in the West Bank, even going so far as to condemn Israel for announcing a new housing project in Jerusalem. The cessation demanded by the Obama administration has not even been balanced with any request whatsoever from the Palestinian side. Presumably, by exerting pressure solely on Israel, he hopes to encourage the Palestinians and Arab states to embrace peace with Israel. Thus far, the only effect of his policy change toward Israel has been to retard any progress toward peace, as the Palestinians and Arab states have hardened their positions. They hope that Obama can deliver Israel solely on Arab terms.

The indicia of the changing relationship with Israel can be found in Obama’s insistence on a complete halt to settlement construction and his Cairo speech to the Islamic world. Prior to the Cairo speech, even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas never predicated the resumption of peace negotiations on a complete construction freeze and natural growth of existing settlements had imposed no impediment to engaging in discussions with Israel. Yet with Obama’s call for a complete settlement freeze without any corresponding gesture on the Palestinians’ part, Abbas has decided to “pocket” this Israeli concession prior to engaging in any meaningful discussions about peace. The effect of Obama’s insistence of a settlement freeze on the Palestinians has served only to make the resumption of negotiations more difficult. But he has accomplished something that no Israeli politician has been able to do since the early 1970s. Obama has united both the Israeli left and right wings in support of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition to a construction halt. This unity has as much to do with Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo as with his demand for unilateral Israeli concessions prior to commencing negotiations.


Obama’s Cairo speech returned American policy back to the Clinton administration approach of assuming moral equivalence between the parties. Thus, each statement seeming to castigate the Arab countries for terrorist acts was balanced by a criticism of Israel. The fact that Obama was equating the targeting and murder of more than a thousand Israeli civilians since 2000 with Israeli construction of settlements was jarring to Israelis. Yet this alone would not have been enough to unite the wide range of political parties in Israel. After all, moral equivalence was part of both the Carter and Clinton administrations’ mantra, and Israel had survived those. It was Obama’s complete acceptance of Palestinian propaganda concerning Israel’s creation that alarmed Israelis most. For more than half a century, the Palestinians sought to convince the world that Israel’s creation was an act of usurpation of Palestinian land and that Israel owed its existence solely to European guilt over the Holocaust. Given that Obama’s only statement concerning Israel’s creation was in connection with the Holocaust, the Palestinians may well count Obama as their most important convert. What Obama (and those who vetted his speech beforehand) failed to realize was that Israeli independence owed far more to the fact that Jews had successfully revolted against British colonial occupation than to presumed multinational guilt over the Holocaust. Even Winston Churchill understood this point and said, “It was the Irgun Zvai Leumi that caused the British evacuation from Palestine. Members of the Irgun caused us so much trouble that we had to station eighty thousand troops in the country to cope with the situation. The military costs were too high for our economy to bear, and the Irgun was responsible for driving the costs to such a high level.”[6] Had European guilt over the Holocaust been the deciding factor, Israel would have been created immediately after August 1945. Instead, it was more than two years before a final partition plan was approved that Israel came into being in 1948. Moreover, during Israel’s War of Independence (1948-1949), no country sent troops to help protect Israel from annihilation. For its part, the United States refused to sell any weapons to Israel....


*Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the District of Columbia specializing in telecommunications law and international transactions. He has been published in Midstream Magazine, including an article concerning Israeli military options regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program.


MERIA Journal Staff
Publisher and Editor: Prof. Barry Rubin
Assistant Editor: Yeru Aharoni
MERIA is a project of the Global Research in International Affairs
(GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary University. -

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