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Israel Relations: A Closer Look Essay

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Without a doubt, the U. S. – Israel relations have been bolstered by almost 60 years of maintaining commitment to Israel’s security and well-being. In fact, this “pact” has been a cornerstone of U. S. policy in the Middle East since Israel’s creation in 1948, in which the United States played an important, supporting role. Israel and the United States are closely bound by historic, religious, political, and cultural ties, as well as by many other mutual interests. Over the years, U. S. economic and security assistance has been an acknowledgment of these enduring ties, and a signal of a strong and long-lasting American commitment to Israel.

Bowles (2004) revealed that, in 2003, the “U. S. Congress approved $2. 76 billion in its annual aid package for Israel. The total amount of direct U. S. aid to Israel has been constant, at around $3 billion (usually 60% military and 40% economic) per year for the last quarter century”. Aside from the nearly $3 billion in direct aid, Israel is gifted another $3 billion using “indirect aid”, which accounts for “military support from the defense budget, forgiven loans, and special grants”.

Going back to the years when the World War II broke, the Anglo-U. S. , Canadian-U. S. , Mexican-U. S. , German-U. S. , Japanese-U. S. , and Soviet-U. S. relationships have all been important for the U. S. government to consider. It is but a wonder why the relationship of the United States with Israel, a country neither large, close, powerful, hostile, richly endowed, nor culturally very near has been at least as special as any of them, and often more special than most.

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A unique but also fortuitous combination of acknowledged and unacknowledged values, interests, and memories, the whole of the relationship has regularly seemed to exceed the sum of its parts (Schoenbaum, 1993, p. 3). Despite the numerous debates regarding the issuance of foreign aid to Israel, it is said that this aid is less a symbol of the U. S. -Israel relationship than it is a real benefit to the United States and Israel. The United States provide foreign aid to Israel to maintain its security in a very tough region in the Middle East and a very important part of the world in order to advance critical U.

S. interests. If that aid were reduced to a point that Israel would not suffice to be able to protect itself, buy the equipment it needs and maintain the peace in their country that is surrounded by hostile countries. Thus, this foreign more serves to become a goodwill to the “one and only” ally in the region and neglecting it would be dangerous to the United States. History According to Druks (2001), it was John F. Kennedy who sought to establish a balanced policy towards Israel. In fact, Kennedy tried to persuade both the Israelis and the Arabs that he was fair to them all.

He wrote to the Israelis and to the heads of the Arab governments that he wanted to see good relationships established with Israel and with all the Arab governments. Kennedy “wanted to give the impression that he was seeking a dialogue with them, a continuing dialogue and that they should feel free to write to him personally and not even through regular State Department channels. ” He also wanted to show them that he “was sympathetic to all their legitimate aspirations and he did not want to give the impression that he was siding with them in their conflict with Israel.

” This was the time President Kennedy established a new and “special relationship” with Israel. He was the first president to sell arms to Israel and the first to guarantee Israel’s security, not just once, but on at least three different occasions. During Kennedy’s May 1961 meeting with David Ben-Gurion, he said: “I was elected by the Jews. You know . . . I have to do something for them” (p. 1). After the World War II, political instability is pulling away less developed countries, as it is disrupting world markets.

Seeing opportunities, less developed countries also offer marketplace opportunities. In order to progress, they need to acquire the goods and services that more industrialized countries can provide. To foster this demand, the United States and the other industrialized countries provide developmental assistance to poorer countries. These contributions include direct foreign aid and also indirect assistance through international organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank.

Since World War II, the United States has been far and away the leading source of aid to the developing countries of the world. One premise of classical diplomacy is that there are no universally self-evident principles of justice, right and wrong, or truth that nations are morally obligated to pursue. Hence, the national interest is not only a legitimate goal of foreign policy, but, in the view of political realists, the only defensible goal. States function and are morally obligated, in this view, to protect the interests of their societies.

Widespread public support that has existed for policies that we in the mainstream West regard as obscene such as genocide (the systematic slaughter of an entire racially, religiously, or ethnically defined people) (Goldhagen, 1997). As it planned for the organization of the international system after World War II, the United States did not see a significant role for itself in the Middle East. The prevailing assumption was that the region would continue to be of more consequence for its allies, particularly Great Britain and France, and there was no anticipation of a Soviet threat to the region that might engender a U.

S. response. However, the rivalry for hegemony in the Middle East began soon after the end of World War II, with the Soviet-supported challenges to postwar regimes in Greece, Turkey, and Iran. Responding to Soviet political-military challenges and seeking to prevent Soviet hegemony or even spheres of influence in the region became a tenet of U. S. policy and encouraged the initial United States involvement in the northern tier states, the promulgation of the Truman Doctrine, and the U. S. aid program for Iran.

When the Soviet Union later expanded its activities in the Arab-Israeli and Persian Gulf sectors, the United States obsession with these machinations led to a determination to counter these moves. These responses were codified in policy doctrines such as those of Eisenhower ( 1957) and Carter (1980) designed for the Middle East and those of Nixon and Reagan that had significant applications in the region. These approaches saw the dominant threat to the Middle East as Soviet-Communist in nature and framed its policy accordingly (Reich 1995, p.

35-36) Because of considerations of geography, demography, resources, and history, each nation develops a set of interests, some of them considered vital, that are unique to that nation. Moreover, the interests of nations naturally come into conflict. Israel, being an important ally of the growing unrest again U. S. , in the Middle East is a strategic initiative that would be beneficial. Hence, conflict among nations is normal. What is good for some nations logically conflicts with what is in the interests of other nations.

The goals of foreign policy, therefore, ought to be framed in terms of such interests, rather than in terms of abstract principles of justice or universal morality. To obtain support in the Middle East is the prime reason why U. S. is supporting Israel. More concretely, the special relationship is expressed in the level of U. S. military and economic aid to Israel over many years. Its exact scale is unknown, since much is concealed in various ways. Prior to 1967, before the “special relationship” had matured, Israel received the highest per capita aid from the U. S. of any country.

Commenting on the fact, Harvard Middle East specialist Nadav Safran (1978) noted that this amounts to a substantial part of the unprecedented capital transfer to Israel from abroad that constitutes virtually the whole of Israel’s investment–one reason why Israel’s economic progress offers no meaningful model for underdeveloped countries (p. 110). It is possible that recent aid amounts to something like $1000 per year for each citizen of Israel when all factors are taken into account. Even the public figures are astounding. For fiscal years 1978 through 1982, Israel received 48% of all U.

S. military aid and 35% of U. S. economic aid, worldwide. For 1983, the Reagan administration requested almost $2. 5 billion for Israel out of a total aid budget of $8. 1 billion, including $500 million in outright grants and $1. 2 billion in low-interest loans (Lendemann 1982-3). In addition, there is a regular pattern of forgiving loans, offering weapons at special discount prices, and a variety of other devices, not to mention the tax-deductible “charitable” contributions (in effect, an imposed tax), used in ways to which we return (Stauffer, 1981).

Not content with this level of assistance from the American taxpayer, one of the Senate’s most prominent liberal Democrats, Alan Cranston of California, “proposed an amendment to the foreign aid bill to establish the principle that American economic assistance to Israel would not be less than the amount of debt Israel repays to the United States,” a commitment to cover “all Israeli debts and future debts,” as Senator Charles Percy commented (Chomsky, 1999, p. 10).

When the Lebanon War sparked in 1982, the Israeli government charged its armed forces with the task of placing Israel’s Galilee population center “beyond the range of fire of the terrorists. ” The name of the operation was Peace for Galilee. Israeli forces were not to attack the Syrian army unless the Syrians attacked first. From the start, Israel announced that its goal was a peace treaty with an independent Lebanon, with Lebanese “territorial integrity preserved.

” This war, from start to finish, was most difficult for Israel and it became a testing ground for U. S. – Israeli relations. Although the Israelis received some encouragement from the Ronald Reagan administration to wipe out the “scourge” of terrorism, they would be held back from completing the job by that very same administration. According to one close friend and political advisor to Menachem Begin, the prime minister had been encouraged by the Reagan administration to go into Lebanon and wipe out the terrorists.

Reuben Hecht, friend and advisor to Begin, was present when Secretary of State Alexander Haig insisted that “the boys of Begin will do the job. ” The United States hoped to see Lebanon restored as an independent state, free of the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and free of a threat from Syria to make Lebanon part of a greater Syria. Begin seemed to believe that the destruction of the terrorists and the Syrian threats in Lebanon would not only secure Israel’s northern frontier, but that it would also improve U. S. –Israel relations.

Apparently, Israel could do the job that the United States was not in a position to do, politically or militarily. Moshe Arens, Israeli defense minister and another apparent witness to the events, claimed that the United States did not encourage Israel to go into Lebanon. Arens maintained that Israel was motivated by its own defense needs and no other considerations. Ariel Sharon, who was Begin’s defense minister at the time of the incursion into Lebanon, claimed in his memoirs that the United States had not given Israel the green light to invade Lebanon (Druks 2001, p.

181-182). By June 1982, four days after 30,000 troops of the IDF had crossed into Lebanese territory, the main coastal cities had been captured and Israeli tanks had taken up positions on the outskirts of Beirut. Syrian ground forces stationed in Lebanon put up some resistance to the Israeli advance, while the Syrian air force suffered heavy losses as the Israelis demonstrated their overwhelming superiority in the air.

A cease-fire between the two sides was brokered by the USA on June 11, but fighting with Palestinian forces intensified as the Israeli army tightened its siege of west Beirut: water, electricity, food and medical supplies were cut, while Israeli artillery and aircraft maintained a relentless bombardment. Ariel Sharon announced that the siege would be lifted only if PLO combatants surrendered or left the city. This the PLO finally agreed to do on 21 August, as part of an arrangement that also provided for the deployment of a multinational force (MNF) to supervise the withdrawal and protect the civilians of west Beirut.

By the end of the month the PLO had evacuated its forces from the city. A second Israeli objective was also achieved on August 23, when the Lebanese National Assembly was persuaded to elect the pro-Israeli Phalangist commander, Bashir Gemayel, as the new Lebanese President. On September 14, Gemayel was assassinated in a bomb explosion at his party headquarters. Two days later the IDF command apparently allowed right-wing Christian militias into the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Chatila to ‘mop up’ remaining resistance.

Over a 48-hour period the militias killed an estimated 1,500 civilians. International outrage at the massacre forced the Israeli Government to launch an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the events in the Palestinian camps (Khalidi 1986, p. 168). Unfortunately, U. S. inter¬vention on the side of the Gemayel Government had concomitantly strengthened Lebanese Muslim, and wider Arab, perceptions that the USA lacked the credibility to be an honest regional broker.

Deepening anger at the Western role in Lebanon found violent expression in simultaneous suicide bombings of the headquarters of the US and French contingents in Beirut, in which 241 US Marines and 58 French soldiers were killed. Two extremist Shi‘ite groups linked to Iran claimed responsibility for the attacks, although US officials also ascribed a degree of culpability to Syria and the USSR (both of which denied any involvement). Shortly afterwards a bomb attack on Israel’s military headquarters in Tyre caused 60 deaths.

Israeli military aircraft bombed Palestinian and Druze positions in retaliation for the attack, and the Israeli authorities appealed for closer military co-ordination with the USA. The announcement of a policy of ‘strategic co-operation’ between the USA and Israel was denounced by Syria, which demanded a general mobilization of its forces on November 7. Continued faith in military support from the USA and Israel allowed Gemayel’s Government to resist calls from Syria and its Lebanese allies for the abrogation of the agreement and for constitutional changes.

Renewed attacks on the US contingent of the MNF in Lebanon, and further US bombardments of anti-Gemayel forces around Beirut, caused increasing disquiet among the USA’s European partners in the MNF. At the beginning of February 1984, further heavy fighting in Lebanon prompted the resignation of the Lebanese Government and the disintegration of the Lebanese army along sectarian lines. It was during these wars in Lebanon that U. S. galvanized their relations with Israel.

The “special relationship” is often attributed to domestic political pressures, in particular, the effectiveness of the American Jewish community in political life and in influencing opinion. Another issue is the argument much overestimates the pluralism of American politics and ideology. No pressure group will dominate access to public opinion or maintain consistent influence over policy-making unless its aims are close to those of elite elements with real power.

These elements are not uniform in interests or (in the case of shared interests) in tactical judgments; and on some issues, such as this one, they have often been divided. Nevertheless, a closer look will illustrate the correctness of the assessment that the evolution of America’s relationship to Israel “has been determined primarily by the changing role that Israel occupied in the context of America’s changing conceptions of its political-strategic interests in the Middle East. ” (Safran 1978, p. 571). Relations in the Recent Times

At present, U. S. – Israel relations span in bilateral cooperative institutions in numerous fields have been established. Foundations in the fields of science and technology include the Binational Industrial Research and Development Foundation (BIRD), the Binational Science Foundation (BSF), the Binational Agricultural Research and Development Foundation (BARD), and the U. S. -Israel Science and Technology Commission. The U. S. -Israel Education Foundation (USIEF) sponsors educational and cultural programs.

The domestic position of the pro-Israeli American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) indicates the importance of Israel in domestic U. S. politics. AIPAC was rated as the fourth most influential interest group in the United States in 2000. However, Israel does not remain America’s only important ally in the Middle East. Due to strategic reasons, the oil-rich Arab Gulf countries play an essential role in U. S. foreign policy. The United States security and energy needs balances the importance of Israel in U. S. foreign, as well as domestic, policy (Akram, 2002).

The issue of Arab-Israeli peace has been the focal point of U. S. -Israeli relations. American efforts to reach a Middle East peace settlement are based on United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. UN Resolution 242 (Documents on Palestine) is the one adopted unanimously by the Security Council since November 22, 1967, the resolution emphasized the ‘inadmissibility’ of the acquisition of territory by war; and called ‘for a just and lasting peace in which every state in the area can live in security’ and for a settlement of the ‘refugee problem’.

Resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from ‘territories occupied in the recent conflict’, but crucially did not specify the extent of the withdrawal. Arguments generated by the ambiguities and omissions of Resolution 242 were to be a theme of the Arab–Israeli debate for years to come. Under the Clinton Administration, efforts have been based also on the premise that, as Israel takes calculated risks for peace, it is the role of the United States to help minimize those risks (Fernandez, 2005). During Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tenure, relations between the United States and Israel became somewhat strained.

Arab states, Egypt in particular, expressed their concern about the United States’ inability to convince the Netanyahu government to cease constructing settlements in Palestinian-occupied areas and to return to the “land-for-peace” strategy. This strategy was affirmed at the 1991 Madrid Summit, in the 1993 Oslo Accords, and the 1993 Declaration of Principles). In early January 1998, Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa accused the U. S. of failing to fulfill its “honest broker” role in the Middle East peace process.

The United States gained some favor with Arab states when it played a pivotal role in negotiating a “land-for-peace” deal in the Wye Summit in October 1998. The Wye Plantation talks began on October 15, 1998, following a ceremonial meeting at the White House between President Clinton, Yasser Arafat and Binyamin Netanyahu. US negotiators at the intensive nine-day talks included Secretary of State Albright, Special Envoy Ross, and the Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), George Tenet; President Clinton spent an estimated 70 hours in discussions.

President Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan were kept informed of progress in the discussions, the latter playing a significant role as mediator. Arafat and Netanyahu signed the Wye River Memorandum (Documents on Palestine) in the presence of President Clinton and King Hussein. In essence, the Memorandum outlined a three-month timetable for the implementation of earlier agreements, notably the Interim Agreement of September 1995 and the Hebron Protocol of January 15, 1997 (Cossali, 2002, p. 205).

Unfortunately, the United States’ inability to convince Prime Minister Netanyahu to implement the Wye Agreement further incurred the ire of Arab states. The role of the United States in negotiations with the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak climaxed with the Camp David negotiations in July 2000. Nearing the end of President Clinton’s term, the American-sponsored marathon negotiations hoped to see a final agreement before President Clinton left office in January 2001. Despite the enormous efforts and energy all parties put into the negotiations, the meetings did not produce an agreement.

Progress was made in three of four core issues: water, refugees and borders, but jurisdiction over Jerusalem proved an issue of such symbolic and religious value to both parties, that no agreement could be reached. However, for the first time, the Israeli side opened up for possible suggestions on the future of Jerusalem. In early 2001, both the United States and Israel changed its leaders. In contrast to Bill Clinton’s strong personal engagement in the Middle East peace process, George W. Bush initially chose a much more disengaged approach.

As a consequence of the deteriorating situation in Israel under the new leadership of Ariel Sharon, the United States was forced to take a more active approach to the Middle East. Since April of 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell, CIA chief George Tenet and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns have been dispatched to Israel, and the Middle East. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U. S. has been trying to restore calm in the Middle East, which it considers vital to maintaining Arab support for its war against terrorism. In November, both the U. S.

president and the secretary of state held speeches outlining U. S. Middle East policy. On November 10, U. S. President George Bush for the first time endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. On November 19, Secretary of State Colin Powell outlined his Middle East visions in a speech to college students in Kentucky. Powell promised active engagement in the peace process, and announced the dispatchment of a former marine general, Anthony Zinni, and a veteran Middle East diplomat, William Burns, to the region with instructions of not returning until a ceasefire had been established.

Nevertheless, no concrete step-by-step program to get the negotiations restarted were provided. Despite the arrival of Zinni and Burns, the violence only worsened. The peace process is dead after multiple suicide-bombings in the beginning of December triggered massive Israeli bombing of Palestinian Authority offices and police stations, and an Israeli cabinet resolution stated that Arafat was no longer relevant to Israel (Kane, 2003).

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