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Monday, September 28, 2009

Some History of Israel and the United States Friendship

 Roots of Israel-United States Relations

The Christian belief in the return of the Jews to the Holy Land has deep roots, which pre-date both the establishment of Zionism and the establishment of Israel.The British Balfour Declaration of 1917 advanced the Zionist movement and gave it legitimacy. The U.S. Congress passed the first joint resolution stating its support for a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people on September 21, 1922.

President Woodrow Wilson didn't officially support Zionism but was sympathetic to the plight of the Jews. Then, in May, 1942, the Zionist movement made a demand "that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth." (Michael Oren, Power, Faith and Fantasy, Decision at Biltmore) After World War II, President Truman, was faced with defining U.S. policy in the Middle East in three sectors that provided "the root causes of American interests in the region: the Soviet threat, the birth of Israel, and petroleum." (George Lenczowski, 1990, American Presidents and the Middle East )

So, on May 14, 1948, President Truman -- encouraged by active support from civic groups, labor unions, political parties, and members of the American and world Jewish communities -- became the first country to extend de facto recognition to the State of Israel, 11 minutes after Israel declared itself an independent nation. Then, Truman's De jure recognition came on January 31, 1949.

Today and Israel-United States Relations

The United State Congress places considerable importance on the maintenance of a close and supportive relationship. The main expression of support for Israel has been foreign aid, which Congress monitors closely along with other issues in bilateral relations. Congressional concerns have affected different administrations' policies over the last 60 years.

These "bilateral" (political and cultural relations) relations have evolved from an initial American policy of sympathy and support for the creation of a Jewish homeland to an unusual partnership that links a small but militarily powerful Israel, dependent on the United States for its economic and military strength, with the U.S. superpower trying to balance competing interests in the region.

Israel is one of the United States' two original (1998) major non-NATO allies in the Middle East. Currently, there are seven major non-NATO allies in the Greater Middle East -- Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Bahrain. While the MNNA status does not automatically include a mutual defense pact with the United States, it does confer a variety of military and financial advantages that otherwise are not obtainable by countries not in NATO such as

  • entry into cooperative research and development projects with the Department of Defense on a shared-cost basis
  • participation in certain counter-terroism initiatives
  • purchase of depleted uranium anti-tank rounds
  • priority delivery of military surplus 
  • possession of War Reserve Stocks 
In April 1996, President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Shimon Peres signed the U.S.-Israel Counter-terrorism Accord. The two countries agreed to further cooperation in information sharing, training, investigations, research and development and policymaking.

At the federal, state and local levels there is close Israeli-American cooperation on Homeland Security. 

Israel was one of the first countries to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in developing initiatives to enhance homeland security. Among many areas of partnership include preparedness and protection of travel and trade. American and Israeli law enforcement officers and Homeland Security officials regularly meet in both countries to study counter-terrorism techniques and new ideas regarding intelligence gathering and threat prevention.

 Public Opinion About Israel-United States Relations

Israel is the one country that a majority of Americans feel favorably toward and say that what happens there is vitally important to the United States. (“The Camp David Accords: A Case of International Bargaining” Shibley Telhami, Columbia International Affairs Online)

Israeli attitudes toward the U.S. is overwhelmingly positive; Israelis, more than the citizens of any other developed country in the world, support the United States. In every way of measuring a country's view of America (American ideas about democracy; ways of doing business; music, movies and television; science and technology; spread of U.S. ideas), Israel came on top as the developed country who viewed it most positively. (Defense Security Cooperation Agency news release, July 14 2006) 

The Present Danger and How It May Affect Israel-United States Relations

With Tehran's construction on a new uranium-enrichment plant and recent test firing of Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles, both of which can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles, putting Israel, U.S. military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance, Iran is flexing its military might. (September 25) reports that Israel views Iran as the world's greatest threat and continues to keep a military option on the table. Many question if President Obama can step in the middle of a proposed Israeli air strike.
Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the U.S. president is on weak ground as the revelation over the nuclear site makes an Israeli strike appear more likely.

"He will strongly urge Israel against military action, but Israel will do whatever is in the best interest of Israeli security, and I don't think that Barack Obama will have the political capital to prevent an Israeli strike if Israel chooses to go down that route," Gardiner said.

Dan Gillerman, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, told FOX News Friday that Israel is prepared to take military action if sanctions don't work -- and suggested that it was prepared to act alone.

"Israel is always close to a strike, because Israel cannot afford to be asleep," Gillerman said. "Taking words from your president, yes we can. And if absolutely necessary, and if all other options are exhausted, yes we will. Israel cannot live with a nuclear Iran."

Meanwhile, according to, senior Obama administration officials said they had the international support necessary to impose the crippling sanctions needed if Tehran does not stop construction on a new uranium-enrichment plant and allow immediate inspections.

What is next in Israel-United States relations? The world waits and worries until the situation can be resolved -- hopefully, by peaceful negotiations before any further terrifying escalations.
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