Does Israel control US foreign policy?

Posted on | augustus 3, 2011 | 1 Comment

Does Israel determine US foreign policy or does Israel simply have inordinate influence in comparison with any other US allies in the world? There are those who argue that from the presidential election of 1948 when Truman ran knowing he needed the votes and the money of Jewish voters until the Obama administration, which is far more dependent on Jewish votes and money than Truman, Israel has enjoyed immense influence over US foreign policy toward the entire Middle East.

Others have argued that Israeli influence really starts with the Six Days War in 1967 and it takes off when Henry Kissinger was crafting US foreign policy for Richard Nixon. Another group of scholars adhere to the theme that Israel served US foreign policy very well during the Cold War as part of the containment strategy, and it has served US policy well during the ‘war on terror era’ – some placing it from Reagan to the present, others from George W. Bush to the present. Still others maintain that it is a hyperbole to argue that Israel determines US foreign policy, which in essence has multiple dimensions and domestic and foreign influences.

Israel is not a conventional client state of the US in the sense that Palestine was for the British Empire. There is no comparison between Israel as a client state of the US and the patron-client relationship between US and Panama – let us say as an example. There is agreement among most scholars that the US-Israel relationship is like no other in history. Here are some of the things that make the US-Israel relationship unique.

1.Political and Ideological factors: 
For the past 60 years, the US has viewed Israel as a pro-West, pro-democracy country of mostly white European Jews trying to survive among non-white Arabs immersed in traditional institutions. The ideological/political compatibility is surface-thin, given that in essence Israel has never resolved the issue of whether it is a secular or religious state – always judging by its actions, especially toward the Palestinians. Israel has been useful to the US as a frontline state in the Middle East, but it has also caused major problems from the Suez crisis until the present when it defies its US patron on the issue of expanding settlements in Palestinian territories.

2. Shared strategic interests. 
US and Israel have shared strategic interests as some in Tel Aviv and some in US would like to define them. However, ‘shared strategic interests’ has been a stretch at times and Israel has tried to define the ‘shared’ aspect on behalf of the US, using the enormous influence of American Jews and the powerful Israeli lobby.

3. Foreign Aid.
It is estimated that the US has provided more than $140 billion (2004 dollars) in foreign aid to Israel from 1948 to 2005. No country in the world has received as much foreign aid from the US as Israel. Considering that Israel is an advanced country comparable to South Korea in terms of development, why does the US treat it like a sub-Saharan African aid recipient? One possible answer is that the US provides 75% economic aid and 25% military aid so that the US can make sure that no other country determines the regional balance of power.

Such a commitment to the security of a client state is peculiar, especially when the client state seems at times to define US policy in the Middle East to the detriment of its patron’s broader interests. Is the special relationship a question of massive Jewish money influencing US politics, influence of Jewish officials in US government regardless of Republican or Democrat administration, is it a question of molding public opinion through the media in which Jews and non-Jews see US interests as identical with Israel and antithetical with Arabs, it is a question of following tradition, a combination of all such factors?

4. US diplomatic support and UN voting record. 
Regardless of Republican or Democrat administration, the US supports Israel diplomatically to the point of blindness to US broader interests and to the embarrassment of its voting record at the UN. From 1982 until 2005, the US vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions critical of Israel, when the rest of the world deemed it necessary to condemn Israel as a de facto apartheid state no different than South Africa before Nelson Mandela. This is a higher number than the total vetoes cast by all the other Security Council members. Why does the US defy the world community on behalf of Israel and to its own detriment? Fear that not doing so means defeat for the political power that is in power. Why does the US prevent the IAEA from looking into Israel’s nuclear arsenal? Is it because Israel is a US proxy, or because politically the US has no choice owing to immense pressure from various Jewish organizations?

5. High cost to US economy.
When the Soviet Union was around using Syria and Egypt as client states, it was understandable that the US would rely on Israel as a counterweight, forcing Moscow to spend more on its client states. However, US support of Israel did not come without a high cost to the US economy, as OPEC retaliated with high oil prices since the 1970s. In fact, this was a sore point with US NATO allies that had to suffer because the US blindly followed Israeli policy.

What did the US and NATO gain by supporting Israel? The US could not use Israeli military bases during the Iraq war because that would have undermined Arab support. Israel proved a burden during the war on terror because its policy toward Palestinians proved that state-sponsored terrorism was a legitimate issue that the US refused to recognize. Moreover, the US identification with Israel gave ammunition to Muslims that the US was essentially carrying out Tel Aviv’s foreign policy. That Israel has been a liability on the war on terror is something that the US cannot change unless it ends its war on terror policy.

6. Israel nuclear issue. 
That Iran and other Arab states may want to acquire nuclear programs is owing to the fact that Israel already possesses them. While the US has launched a massive anti-Iranian campaign to distract from its military occupation disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan – now in Libya as well – the world watches the duplicitous US foreign policy with regard to Israel that goes unchecked as a nuclear power. That Israel demands striking Iranian targets and the US seems to be winking at such proposals is another sign that the client may be leading the patron.

7. Israel spying on the US.
the US gives Israel access to intelligence it denies to its Nato allies and has turned a blind eye to Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. It is well publicized that Israel has given military technology information to China and it has spied on the US and offered intelligence to US rivals. State Department inspector-general has criticized Israel for ‘unauthorized transfers’ of intelligence to third parties, but US policy remains unaltered. It is well known that the General Accounting Office has accused Israel of carrying out ‘aggressive espionage operations against the US’, but US policy does not alter.

What conclusions can we reach from how the US-Israeli relationship has been operating in the last half century, and what are its prospects? It is indeed a special relationship that is like mother (US) and child (Israel), with the child often influencing the mother to act as the unruly child wishes. It is an unhealthy relationship for the US and Israel, which now seems to be infected by the Arab uprisings and the people are more concerned about their living standards than they are about foreign and defense policy issues.

The anachronistic US-Israel relationship belongs in the past and it has no relevance in today’s world that has changed drastically since Truman. It is up to the US mostly, but also to Israel to redefine the inter-dependent relationship that no longer serves either country’s best interests. The best way to do that is by starting with a recognition of a Palestinian state and then begin toward rapprochement with the ‘new Arab’ regimes now emerging.

AUTHOR: Jon Kofas
E-MAIL: jonkofas [at]


One Response to “Does Israel control US foreign policy?”

  1. Hugo
    augustus 4th, 2011 @ 08:20

    Israel is a criminal State fullstop.
    The Palestinians have been the victims since Israel created itself. The Israelis are murdering Palestinians every day and it is never reported except on Al-Jazeera. (But not many Westerners watch it).
    Furthermore most of the Israelis are not semitic, they are descendants of Ashkenaze converted European Jews, they have no right to be in Palestine and if they are still there it is because of the U.S. where a lot of Israeli-Americans are in Government.
    The world is being ruled by these Jews.

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