US relations with Israel from 1948 to the present days

Seminar Paper 2013 16 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Region: Near East, Near Orient




The History of US Israeli relations

The US Israeli relations prior the Six Day War.

The relation between Israel and United States from 1967 to the end of the Cold War.

The US Israeli relations from the end of the Cold War to 9/11

George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2001 to 2013.

The conclusion

Bibliographical reference


Israel–United States relations are an important factor in the United States policy in the Middle East, and for this reason the US government has placed considerable importance on the maintenance of this close and supportive relationship. One of main expression of US support for Israel has been foreign aid. Since 1985, the US has provided the Jewish state with nearly $3 billion Dollars with Israel being the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2004 and the largest cumulative recipient of aid since World War II.

But financial aid to Israel by the United States government is not all that US provides to Israel, Israel is also provided with enormous diplomatic, political and legal support by his most important ally.

The US support for Israel has stirred up anger at the US in the Arab World as the US is perceived by many people in the Islamic world not as an honest broker in the Middle East peace process but as a country which turns a blind eye towards Israel’s occupation of Arab territories and thus allowing Israel to violate rights of Palestinians, denying them their land and thus preventing a creation of an independent Palestinian State.

Some experts even believe that US support for Israel had been a main motivation for 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington and that continuing US aid to Israel will lead to more hatred of the United States in the Arab world, especially after the Arab spring in which many pro American allies like Hosney Mubarak of Egypt were toppled and replaced by the governments which are not perceived friendly neither by Israel nor by the United States.

Indeed the situation in the Arab countries especially after the political changes after the Arab Spring and with ongoing war in civil war in Syria has made the situation for Israel in the region even more volatile. Since no one knows how the changes in the Arab World will impact not only the relations between United States and the Arab countries but also relations between United States and Israel.

Therefore the goal of this written assignment is not only to explore the history of US relations with Israel from 1948 to nowadays and also take a look at the important factors in the strong bond between Israel and the United States of America and how the US Israeli relation might be affected by recent changes in the Arab world and which changes have occurred in this relation since President Obama took office in January 20 th. 2009

The History of US Israeli relations

Unlike many people tend to believe; the relations between United States and Israel have always been complicated. Yet despite all the differences and different approaches especially on the issue of the peace in the Middle East the alliance between the United States and the Jewish State has been a very stable one since 1948, the year the Israel was found.

Indeed the bond between the US and the Zionist movement goes back far prior 1948.

The US Israeli relations prior the Six Day War.

Since 1917 the year in which the Balfour Declaration was issued promising British support for the creation of the Jewish homeland in Palestine, the Zionist idea and their longing for a Jewish state have enjoyed a great deal of support by many US government officials.

Indeed the Congress passed the Lodge-Fish resolution, the first joint resolution stating its support for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" on 21 September 1922.1. However despite this resolution and the fact that then US president Woodrow Wilson and his successors were all sympathetic to the Zionist cause, they did not have a clear stance on this issue as they did not want to get involved in the conflict between Arab and Jews in Palestine who at that time was under the British rule

The US president Roosevelt was not in favor of the Jewish state in Palestine since he was interested in maintaining good relations with Arab countries especially with Saudi Arabia which became a major US oil supplier during the Second World War2. The Roosevelt’s opposition to the Jewish State grew even stronger after meeting with the Saudi King ibn Saud on February the 1 .1945, who warned Roosevelt that US support for the Zionist cause would have a negative impact on US Arab relation and would endanger the oil flow from Arab countries to the United States, putting at risk the dominant position of the United States in the Middle East. David Niels one of Roosevelt’s top advisers even claimed that Israel would not have been created if Roosevelt had lived longer3.

The Roosevelt’s successor Harry S Truman was very sensitive to the idea of Zionism, despite facing opposition from leading American politicians such as Secretary of State George Marshall and Defense Secretary James Forestall who feared that US support for the Jewish state would jeopardize its relations with Arab and Muslim countries4. But despite such strong opposition the United States of America was the first country to recognize the state of Israel on May the 12 th. 1948.

Despite his recognition for the Jewish state, President Truman imposed an arm embargo on Israel during the Arab Israeli war on 1948/1949 since he did not want to start a new arms race in the Middle East. The US government at that time assumed that delivering weapons to Israel would provoke Arab countries to ask for Soviet or Chinese weapons5.

During the Eisenhower Administration (1953 -1961) the United States was focused more on countries such Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey than on Israel since it wanted to prevent these countries from getting under the influence of the Soviet Union and assumed therefore that being too close to Israel might jeopardize its policy of containment. Indeed France and not the United States was a major arm supplier to Israel at that time6.

The Suez Crisis of 1956 as Israel, together with Britain and France invaded Egypt to counter the threat from Egypt after it had received weapons from Czechoslovakia and privatized the Suez Canal, caused a major rift between United States and Israel since president Eisenhower put pressure on Israel as well as on Britain and France to withdraw its troops from Sinai Peninsula. The reason behind this action was the wish of Eisenhower administration to get Egypt on its side which caused fears in Washington that Israel’s occupation of Sinai Peninsula would trigger Egypt into siding with the Soviet Union7.

The relations between Israel and United States remained basically the same prior to the Six Day War as Kennedy and Johnson administration did not want to offend the Arab states by being too close to Israel, although J. F. Kennedy was the first US president who agreed to sell defense weapons to Israel in 1962 since he saw Israel as one of the important US allies in the Middle East and regarded the commitment to Israel’s security as an essential part of US policy in the Middle East8.

But like his predecessors he did not regard Israel as a special US ally as he was also interested in building close ties with the Arab and Muslim countries in order to keep them from the Soviet influence.

However Israel’s decisive victory in the Six Day War of 1967 brought substantial changes to US Israeli relations

The relation between Israel and United States from 1967 to the end of the Cold War.

The United States tried to stop the Israel’s preemptive attack on Egypt after Nasser had closed the Straits of Tiran thus cutting Israel off from its major supply route and gathered massive force on the border with Israel in order to invade the country and liquidate the Jewish state.

But after the United States failed to exercise pressure on Nasser who was encouraged by the Soviet Union to launch the attack on Israel. The country launched an offence on Egypt on June the 5 th 1967 defeating Egypt and its allies Syria and Jordan within six days, conquering Sinai Peninsula Gaza Strip, West bank, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem which belonged to Jordan before this war.

The victory in the Six Day War alleviated Israel to the status of the most important ally of the United States in the Middle East as it proved decisively that it can inflict a humiliating defeat on Soviet clients such as Egypt and Syria thus proving the superiority of US weapons over the Soviet weapons.

This resulted in a fact that unlike in 1956 the United States was unwilling to put pressure on Israel like it did in 1956 to withdraw from the territories it occupied in 1967 due to the fact that Israel was now able to contain the Soviet Union in such important and volatile region.

Instead of putting pressure on Israel to pull its troops out of the occupied Arab territories, the Johnson administration proposed a land for peace, proposal, which meant that Arab countries should accept the security of the Jewish state in return Israel would have to exit from the land it occupied during the Six Day War.

The defeat of Arab countries during the Six Day War dashed all the hope of the United States’ government to have important Arab countries such as Egypt on its side as the Arab leaders rejected calls for peaceful settlement with Israel as they were humiliated by the Israel’s decisive victory in Six Days War. This caused these countries to turn to the USSR asking it for more weapons.

After the Six Days War as it had become very clear to the United States how significant Israel was to containment of the threat to US strategic interest by the Soviet Union and its allies, the United States became the main supplier of arms to Israel.

On 19 June 1970, Secretary of State William P. Rogers formally proposed the Rogers Plan, which called for a 90 day cease-fire and a military standstill zone on each side of the Suez Canal, to calm the ongoing War of Attrition. Although the Egypt this plan, the Israel’s government could not reach an agreement due to the fact that part of Israel’s government rejected the idea of pulling Israel s troop out of the Palestinian territories . But this plan also failed because it did not receive enough support from the Nixon administration.

The next big war between Arab and Israelis in October 1973 was next big step in the development of Israel’s relations with the United States. On October the 6 th. 1973 Israel was surprised by a simultaneous attack of the Egyptians and Syrians forces.

The Egyptian Army was even able to breach Israeli defenses advance into the Sinai and establish defensive positions along the east bank of the Suez Canal. The Syrians almost broke through Israel's thin defenses in the Golan Heights, but were eventually stopped by reinforcements and pushed back, followed by a successful Israeli advance into Syria. Israel also gained the upper hand in the air and at sea early in the war. The Soviets began to resupply Arab forces, predominantly Syria. This fact caused the Israel’s government to turn to the United States for help and ask President Nixon and Secretary of State to supply Israel with arms. The Nixon administration agreed to deliver weapons to Israel not because it was very much concerned about mounting Israel’s fatalities during this war, but rather because President Nixon feared that the victory of Egypt and Syria would undermine the US dominant position in the Middle East.

And so on October the 14th Nixon ordered the US Air Force to supply Israel with weapons, ammunition and supplies in an airlift operation called operation Nickel Grass. This operation had however a negative impact on relations between US and Arab countries as it led to the oil embargo of Arab countries against the United States, with this embargo the Arab members of OPEC wanted to punish United States of its support of Israel.

The war of 1973 had another important effect on relations with Israel and its Arab neighbors since after this war, the Arabs realized that they could not win a conventional war against Israel due to the strong militarily and economically ties with the United States. This understanding prevented further bloodshed in the region as Arab countries stopped launching wars on Israel and in the case of Egypt were even ready to start peace talks with the Jewish state.

This had led to another effect, that now not countries, but militant and radical groups like PLO and Hezbollah became the main enemies of Israel and of the United States in the Middle East.


1 John Norton Moore, ed., The Arab Israeli Conflict III: Documents, American Society of International Law (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 107–8

2 Freedman Robert Israel and US Six decades of US/ Israeli relations Westview Press 2012 , P.24

3 Freedman Robert Israel and US Six decades of US/ Israeli relations Westview Press 2012 , P.25

4 Harry S Truman Library: The United States and recognition of Israel. Online : http://www.trumanlibrary.org/israel/palestin.htm

5 Jewish Virtual Library : The 1968 Sales of Phantom Jet to Israel : Online : http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/US-Israel/phantom.html

6 Freedman Robert Israel and US Six decades of US/ Israeli relations Westview Press 2012 , P.26

7 http://articles.latimes.com/2011/mar/13/opinion/la-oe-nichols-ike-20110313

8 Shannon, Vaughn P. (2003). Balancing Act: US Foreign Policy and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., p. 55


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Title: US relations with Israel from 1948 to the present days