Keep Calm, the U.S.-Israel Relationship Will Carry On

The strategic relationship between the United States and Israel has weathered rough spells before, and it will survive the current discord between its two leaders.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Body language: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.Credit: AP
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

What is the state of relations between Israel and the United States? Terrible, if you ask those who are attempting to overthrow Likud in the present election campaign. Some will even go as far as to say they have never been worse, that this is all Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s doing, and for this alone he deserves not to be reelected. After all, that relationship is one of Israel’s greatest strategic assets – maybe even the most important of them all. Where would we be without the backing of the United States, they ask rhetorically.

Well, not so fast. There have been some rough patches in Israel’s relations with the United States over the years, years when Israel was considered a burden rather than an asset in Washington, D.C. There was an embargo on the shipment of arms from America to Israel during the War of Independence, while Israel was fighting for its life against great odds.

There was the brutal pressure applied by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion to withdraw the Israel Defense Forces from Sinai and the Gaza Strip after the Sinai Campaign in 1956, a decision Eisenhower regretted in later years.

There were years when the United States refused to sell weapons to Israel, years in which France was Israel’s major supplier of arms. There was Henry Kissinger’s “reassessment” after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the freezing of F-16 deliveries after the 1981 destruction of the Iraqi nuclear reactor by the Israel Air Force.

But ever since Israel’s lightning victory in the Six-Day War in June 1967, Washington gradually began to see Israel as a strategic asset. The relationship warmed and solidified.

Not only did the United States and Israel share common values and ideals; it was now recognized that they also shared common strategic interests. That was the case during the years of the Cold War, and since the United States became the leader in the War on Terror. That is the case today, and it will continue as far as the eye can see.

The intimate working relationship among the military in both countries, among members of the intelligence communities, technological cooperation, and commercial relations, give daily proof that the relationship between the Americans and Israel is excellent.

It is so good because it is of mutual benefit to both countries. This is the opinion of those engaged in frequent contact on the working level, and this is the opinion of the vast majority of the members of Congress – Republicans and Democrats alike. That is why it is truly unshakable.

So what is the hullabaloo about the supposed deterioration in the relationship? The conjecture that Israel may be losing the support of the Democrats; that support for Israel in the United States will cease to be bipartisan and be limited to Republicans.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Those spinning this theory seem to be unacquainted with the development of bipartisan support for Israel in the United States. For years, support for Israel came primarily from the Democrats, and it was only in recent years that it spread to the Republican camp and became truly bipartisan.

The claim that this bipartisan support will now be eroded because Israel’s prime minister has accepted an invitation by the Speaker of the House of Representatives to address a joint session of Congress, on the agreement taking shape between the United States and Iran, underestimates the firmness of the U.S.-Israel relationship. It also ignores the fact that reservations in the United States regarding this agreement are bipartisan, and come from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Regardless of their party preference, all Israelis who realize that the agreement taking shape with Iran is dangerous for Israel should be hoping that the prime minister’s address to Congress will be effective, and can rest easy knowing that the U.S.-Israel relationship is in excellent shape, and will continue to be so after his appearance before Congress. It is of benefit to both countries.

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