Friday, July 9, 2010

How the United States has benefited from its alliance with Israel Part IV


by Gil Ehrenkranz


4th part of 4



When one compares what the United States has received as a result of its informal alliance with Israel and contrasts the costs to the United States of its other alliances, one can only come to the conclusion that the United States has found itself a bargain. The Obama administration recently requested more than $96 billion to assist Iraqi and Afghanistan allies in their counterinsurgency efforts assisted by U.S. forces.[i][26]  U.S. troops are deployed in Europe to protect its allies there, and the U.S. navy patrols the Pacific Ocean to protect Japan and Taiwan.

By contrast, Israel has repeatedly announced that it wants no U.S. troops to fight for Israel.  Israel simply requests the tools to defend itself.  When compared with enormous outlays for most of the United States’ other allies, the $2.7 billion per year in military assistance given to Israel seems cheap.  Moreover, unlike some of the other U.S. allies, Israel does not harbor sworn enemies of the United States such as nuclear proliferator A. Q. Kahn or Osama bin Laden (as Pakistan does).  Osama bin Laden has been resident in Pakistan for several years now, but it does not appear that the Pakistanis are even attempting to look for him (as Hillary Clinton noted publicly in 2009).  Furthermore, the Taliban have operated without significant interference within Pakistan.[ii][27]  Whether the new $7.5 billion aid package for Pakistan alters Pakistani policy remains to be seen.

Israel does not fund Madrasas across the globe teaching contempt for non-Islamic peoples as Saudi Arabia does.  In 2003, Turkey refused permission for U.S. troops to pass through Turkey on the eve of the U.S. attack on Iraq.  In terms of voting with the United States in the UN General Assembly votes, whereas Israel votes with the United States more than 87 percent of the time, the United States is supported by Turkey 33 percent of the time, Pakistan is at 19 percent, and Egypt is at 7 percent;[iii][28]  and yet the United States continues to count these countries as allies and sell them advanced arms without any preconditions.

Israel’s importance as an American ally is often underestimated.  In part, this due to Israel’s continuing inability to articulate effectively its case in the press.  This is understandable to a certain degree given the fact that public support of Israel in the United States has always tended to be high and so Israel could take U.S. support for granted.  Most U.S. administrations tend to be pro-Israel in any case.  Thus, the necessity for a vigorous public relations campaign has never been a necessity.  Yet with Barack Obama’s election, Israelis are beginning to realize that the White House’s support can no longer be taken for granted.    What is different about the Obama administration is that he has no personal affinity for Israel and has already made demands of Israel that exceeded those of the Palestinian Authority (i.e., demanding a complete settlement freeze as a precondition to renewing peace talks).  It is just now beginning to dawn on Israel that it is facing an administration that may well be unsympathetic to Israel’s national interests.[iv][29]  As a result, the Netanyahu government unveiled a plan to explain more aggressively its positions to foreign audiences, as it suspects that it may not now have an ally in the U.S. president.

While there is little doubt that Israel has benefitted greatly from its alliance with the United States, the United States too has benefitted greatly from its alliance with Israel.  In fact, although the relative benefit it has received has been magnified over time by the ever increasing reticence of most of the other U.S. allies to assist in any meaningful way, the fact is that Israel was and remains an important ally of the United States.  Yet whether the Obama administration views the alliance this way is now open to question. In fact, the administration almost seems eager to find and to magnify policy differences with Israel as witnessed by the recent controversy over the announcement of a housing project in East Jerusalem.  In addition, how the Obama administration would react to an Israeli strike against some of Iran’s nuclear installations in unknown.  Given the administration’s record to date, it is possible that in opposing an Israeli strike, that--like De Gaulle before him--Obama may use Israeli actions of self defense as a pretext to sever the alliance.  This possibility has to be taken into account by Israel in its decision whether or not to strike Iran.



Gil Ehrenkranz is a lawyer in the District of Columbia specializing in telecommunications law and international transactions. 

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.



[i][26]  “House Passes War Funds as 51 Democrats Dissent,” The Washington Post, May 15, 2009, p. A3.

[ii][27]U.S. Says Taliban Has a New Haven in Pakistan,” The Washington Post, September 29, 2009, p. A11.

[iii][28] U.S. State Department, Voting Practices in the United Nations, 2008.

[iv][29]Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on Middle East,” The New York Times, April 14, 2010.









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