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The Unbreakable Bond: America’s Role as Israel’s Protector

By Olusoji Daomi Esq.

It was March 1948, Harry Truman was president of the United States one morning he had a guest. An old friend named Eddie Jacobson, a Jew. Now Jacobson had a favor to ask. He wanted Truman to meet Chaim Weizmann. He was a top leader of the world Zionist organization also a future president of Israel. At first Truman was not pleased, he was a known anti-Semite. His letters to his wife were filled with anti-Jewish bias but that morning Truman relented. He agreed to meet Weissmann and when he did he promised US support for the state of Israel. Month later he did just that. On May 14 1948 the state of Israel was declared. 11 minutes after the declaration, Truman signed a press release. He was the first world leader to recognize the new Jewish state. His own diplomats could not believe it. Some of them apparently burst out laughing. They thought how could an anti-Semite support Israel? But in 1948 that was how things played out. It is been 75 years since then. Today Israel and the US are special allies. Many biographers credit Eddie Jacobson for Truman’s decision. Maybe it did play a role. But favors do not lead to military aid worth 150 billion dollars. Only strategy does. So how exactly did that strategy emerge? Why are America and Israel best buddies?

The 1950s made one thing clear where Stasia would be affected by the Cold War. Arab nationalism was on the rise but Washington mistook it for communism. So US Presidents hunted for allies. They wanted to contain Soviet influence in the regions. Saudi Arabia and Iran were their top choices. The Saudis were on board. Iran was not.

So in 1953 the CIA plotted a coup. They installed the pro-Western Shah of Iran. Where was Israel all this time? Not really in America’s radar. And sometimes on the opposite side. Like in 1956, that was when Israel, Britain and France hatched a plan. They target Egypt and the Suez Canal. Egypt’s President was Gamal Abdul Nasr. He was a celebrated Arab leader. In 1956 he nationalized the Suez Canal. Britain was appalled. They plotted with Israel and France. The plan was to invade Egypt, take over the canal and topple Nasr. Just one problem though. The United States disapproved. When the fighting began, President Eisenhower of the US put his foot down. He refused to support the invasion. So in the end, the plan failed. Eisenhower’s successor was John F. Kennedy. He too put pressure on Israel.

By the 1960s Israel was building nuclear weapons. All top secret stuff. But Kennedy wanted Israel to stop. Do not build nuclear weapons, he said. But all of this would change in 1967. That was when Arab countries waged war on Israel and they had another thing coming. In six days Israel routed the Arab armies. It was a comprehensive victory. Even the Americans had to take notice. At that point, their fortunes were very different. America stuck in Vietnam. Israel beating back the Arabs. And that too without any Western support. So Washington was thoroughly impressed. They thought, here is our best chance. A strong military to project our interests in West Asia. No split leadership, no clan rivalries, no kings or emirs with tantrums. Israel was a democracy like the US. From that point on, there was no looking back. In 1973 there was another war. Arab neighbors attacked Israel again. But this time the US was much more proactive. They sent tanks, fighter jets and ammunition. Many say America saved the day. That without America support, the Arab armies would have won. So now the relationship was a win-win. America armed Israel in return Israel protected American interests.

After 1979, that became more important. There was a revolution in Iran in that year. The protests in Shah was toppled. So one US ally gone. In his place came the Ayatollah, a leader who made America public enemy number one. So Washington needed Israel even more. But this plan had a problem. Israel’s neighbors did not need Israel. They supported Palestine. None of them even recognized the Jewish state. So the US went about fixing that. In the mid 1970s, that was Henry Kissinger’s job. First he talked to Israel on Syria, then to Israel on Egypt. He negotiated an end to the 1973 war. Even got Israel to give up some of its land. And this work continued under the next administration, that of Jimmy Carter. In 1978, he hosted a historic meeting. The venue was the Presidential retreat at Camp David. Israel was represented by Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. It took 13 days to trash out an agreement that was called the Camp David Accords. It had three parts. Palestinians would have self-rule in West Bank and Gaza. Egypt and Israel would sign a peace deal.

Other Arab neighbors would follow Egypt’s template. The next year, a peace deal was signed. Egypt recognized Israel. It was the first Arab country to do so. But other Arab countries were not thrilled. They kicked Egypt out of the Arab League. So the plan was only partially successful. In the next decade came a new president, Ronald Reagan. He focused on the military aspect of this relationship. In 1981, he signed an agreement for strategic cooperation. America was now giving $1.8 billion to Israel. $1.8 billion every year. In return, they hoped for restraint. But they were wrong.

The next year in 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon. And a lot hasn’t said about this. Arab countries say the US supported this invasion. That Israel would never have done this without Washington’s permission. But officially, the White House denied it. Reagan’s own aides were split. Some wanted to reign in Israel. Others wanted to give the green light. At first Reagan chose option one. He criticized Israel’s bombing of Beirut. Even sent peacekeepers to keep Israel at bay. But in 1983 that changed. Extremists attacked US Marines in Beirut. More than 200 of them were killed. Now Reagan had two options again. Either deploy more troops to exact revenge or let Israel do the dirty work. And since the Pentagon would not give him troops, he chose the second option. Let Israel do the dirty work. He signed another agreement for Israel And this was much broader. The two sides now held join drills, developed fighter jets together, conducted bombing practice. At one point Israel hosted voice of America transmitters. They would blast US propaganda into southern Soviet Union. Peak Cold War stuff.

In 1987 they signed another deal. This time Israel was declared a major non-nature ally. All of this had one major consequence. Israel’s weapons industry became massive. In 1983 they sold weapons worth 9 million dollars to the US. By 1988 it was worth 240 million. This tells you how rapid the growth was. If the 80s was about arms, the 90s was again about peace. The first intifada was underway. It was a message to not ignore the question of Palestine. Plus in 1991 the Cold War ended. So the US could put more pressure on Israel. It wasn’t easy though. Israel’s government was hard right. They were not willing to make any concessions. At one point the Americans were fed up. Especially James Baker. He was the US Secretary of State.

Back channels had more success. Like the one in Oslo. Representatives from Israel and Palestine talked in secret. They agreed to a two-state solution. In 1993 the agreement was formalized. US President Bill Clinton hosted a White House settlement. Israel was represented by Prime Minister Rudsak Rabin and Palestine by Yasir Arafat. The two men shook hands and signed the documents. The next year in 1994 Jordan recognized Israel. It was the second Arab country to do so. So things were looking up. Peace was looking possible. But extremists on both sides had other plans. One such extremist assassinated Prime Minister Rabin. Everything went back to square one. In the 21st century, the US and Israel have come closer. There are many reasons for that. Like 9-11 which involves Saudi terrorists. Riyadh was supposed to be an American ally yet they could not stop it. The Iran was going nuclear. So Washington needed a strong stable ally. Once again only Israel fit the bill. It was never a perfect relationship though. Like in the early 2010s President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could not stand each other. Obama signed a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu trashed it in the US Congress. But through it all, the support never wavered. The US continues to protect Israel at the UN Security Council. They have used the veto more than 50 times for Israel even during Obama’s time.

Then came President Donald Trump arguably Israel’s best friend in Washington. He recognized Israel’s control over goal and heights. He also shifted the US Embassy to Jerusalem. Despite all this America’s concern remains the same. Arab-Israel rivalry. Washington has invested billions into this relationship. But like any investor they want returns. Maximum returns. And for that Israel has to be mainstreamed. It has to be at peace with Arab countries. Everything they do is aimed at that political endgame. The normalization deals, the so-called West Asia Quad, the Europe-India Railway Corridor. It’s all about mainstreaming Israel. And you have to admit Washington is a confident investor. They have risked the wrath of the Arab world in sticking with Israel. Even now during the Gaza war, but 75 years is a long time to wait for returns on an investment.
So at what point does Washington count its losses? Israel will be hoping never.

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