US-Israel Ties: Conventional Wisdom Challenged
Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought”
“Israel Hayom” Newsletter, September 22, 2011
The suggestion that US-Israel relations are trending downward is a derivative of baseless conventional wisdom, as reflected in a recent study by Haim Malka, the Deputy Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
For example, conventional wisdom assumes that the recent turmoil, on the Arab Street, has deteriorated Israel’s geo-strategic standing. However, the New Middle East Disorder threatens the survival – and exposes the tenuous nature and reliability – of every Arab regime. It underscores Israel’s unique stability, credibility, capability and unconditional alliance with the US. Israel’s added-value to the US is further enhanced by the pending US evacuation of Iraq and Afghanistan, which will shorten Washington’s strategic arm, possibly triggering an eruption of additional regional volcanoes.
While vital American interests remain intact, they face intensified threats, deeper Middle East penetration by Russia and China and
the rapid disappearance of dependable Arab allies. Israel is the only Middle East ally which could effectively extend America’s strategic hand without requiring a single American serviceman. Therefore, the regional upheaval necessitates expansion of the mutually-beneficial US-Israel strategic cooperation, such as:
The upgrading of port facilities in Haifa and Ashdod for the Sixth Fleet.
The prepositioning in Israel, for American use, of US combat aircraft, missiles, missile defense and counter-terrorism systems; closer cooperation between the defense industries of both countries;
Equalizing Israel’s ally-status to that of Australia and Britain; etc.
Conventional wisdom contends that US public support for Israel is declining. Nevertheless, a September 15, 2011 public opinion poll, published by the Capitol Hill newspaper, The Hill, reaffirms that support for Israel is an important issue for Americans, transcending religious, partisan, gender, age and economic lines, also among Independents, who constitute the most critical American voting bloc.
For instance, 63% of independent voters consider (a positive) US policy on Israel to be very, and somewhat, important. 76% of independent voters assume that President Obama is either
supportive (26%), or not sufficiently supportive (50%), of Israel.
According to 2010-2011 Gallup polls, support for Israel is rising, placing Israel consistently among the 5-7 most favored nations, while the Palestinians are lumped with the least favored Iran and North Korea.
Conventional wisdom presumes that the Palestinian-oriented tension between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu reflects a downward turn of strategic cooperation. Still, US-Israel strategic and commercial cooperation catapulted dramatically between 1948 and 2011, while Israeli Prime Ministers were bullied by US Presidents.
For instance, Truman imposed a military embargo to foil Israel’s declaration of independence. LBJ threatened Israel against preemption – and against annexation of East Jerusalem – in 1967. Reagan leaned on Israel to prevent the bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, imposed a military embargo, opposed Israel’s war against the PLO in Lebanon and formally recognized the PLO.
And, Bush 41st opposed any pro-Israeli legislation in Congress and tried to cut financial assistance to Israel. In retrospect, since 1948, the frequent episodes of Palestinian-oriented tension between US Presidents and Israeli Prime Ministers, have been nothing but bumps on the path of an unprecedented surge in strategic cooperation.
Conventional wisdom supposes that US-Israel relations evolve, largely, around the Palestinian issue. However, the unique US-Israel ties have been nurtured mostly by shared Judeo-Christian values, which transcend contemporary democracy and peace. These values were instilled by the 17th century pilgrims, inspired the rebellion against Britain, coalesced by the Founding Fathers and forged the current US systems of government, education, law and morality.
Shared values have facilitated fertile collaboration in the face of mutual regional and global threats, while disagreements persist on the Palestinian issue. In addition, the US has leveraged Israel’s innovative manpower. According to George Gilder, one of America’s high-tech Gurus: “The US defense and prosperity increasingly depend on the ever-growing economic and technological power of Israel…We need Israel as much as it needs us.”
Irrespective of conventional wisdom, the two-way-street, mutually-beneficial relationship, between the leader of the Free World and its sole soul-ally in the Middle East, trends towards a dramatic enhancement in the face of dramatic mutual threats and challenges.