Back to Basics in the U.S.-Israel Relationship

(Jerusalem Strategic Tribune) Dennis Ross - In the book I wrote in 2015 on the U.S.-Israeli relationship entitled Doomed to Succeed, I analyzed and evaluated the key assumptions that drove policies in every American administration from Truman to Obama. The reality that had emerged in the relationship was that regardless of the mistakes either or both of us might make, the fundamentals of shared values and shared interests had come to ensure we would always find a way to right the ship and manage our ties successfully. But the American-Israeli relationship had not always been special. John Kennedy broke the taboo on providing Israel arms in 1962, but he had to overcome the determined opposition of the State Department and the intelligence community, each arguing that the U.S. would see its relations with the Arabs collapse if we provided Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel. (In reality, the Arabs largely ignored the sale.) Richard Nixon ordered a massive air and sealift of weapons to Israel during the 1973 war, but held off providing any arms to the Israelis for eight days, in part because he was sensitive about the possible Arab response and in part because he and Henry Kissinger believed a military stalemate would provide a basis to launch diplomacy. Nixon decided in the end that he was not going to permit Soviet arms to defeat American arms in that war. But Nixon suspended delivery of F-4 fighters to Israel in 1970, believing this would gain favor with Egyptian President Nasser - who pocketed this and moved closer to the Soviets. Mistaken assumptions guided U.S. policies for a long time. It was assumed in much of the national security bureaucracy that distancing from Israel would produce gains with the Arabs and cooperating with Israel would cost us with them. Neither was ever true. The non-radical Arab leaders were focused on their security and survival and they were never going to make their relationship with us dependent on what we did with Israel. A majority of Americans still favor Israel but the younger demographic, especially among Democrats, takes a more critical view of Israel and sees the Palestinians as victims. The Palestinians surely are victims, but that should not excuse the Palestinian leaders' own contributions to this status: rejecting credible offers that would have produced a Palestinian state such as the Clinton parameters; delivering very poor governance, whether in the Palestinian Authority or under Hamas in Gaza; and furthering corruption and division that also robs the Palestinian Authority of basic legitimacy. The writer, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, is the counselor at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

2023-04-10 00:00:00

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