Despite overwhelming cultural, religious, diplomatic and military reasons for the United States to support the Jewish state financially, over the decades, enemies of Israel have found a string of excuses to oppose a close U.S.-Israel relationship.
Some inveterate diehards, for example, still cite the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty back in 1967—which was rigorously investigated and found to have been a tragic error. Modern critics of Israel argue that for decades, Congress and U.S. presidents—both Democrat and Republican—have been unduly swayed by the “Jewish lobby.”
Yet the logic of the nations’ unbreakable relationship is obvious and compelling. U.S. support over the past 40 years has been consistent—because presidents and representatives have understood the profound value of investing in America’s most consistent and powerful ally in the Middle East. Current events in the region have only raised the stakes on which this relationship is based and underscored its value.
The humiliating retreat under fire by the United States and its allies from Afghanistan as the Taliban took over—even as Islamic State (ISIS) regroups—has shown that the wider Middle East is still a truly treacherous place for American interests.
Among the failing societies, radical jihadist groups and bloodbaths engulfing nations—like Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Iraq—one rock of stability remains in the region, whose interests and goals line up almost completely with those of the United States.
The State of Israel has served as America’s most reliable partner in the region throughout its history, whether during the Cold War—where many nations vacillated between the Soviet and the Western spheres—through two Gulf Wars, and up to the recent return of fundamentalist Islam and terrorism.
U.S.-Israeli security cooperation dates back to the 1960s, when Washington came to see the young Jewish state as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the Middle East and a counter to Arab nationalism. While that bipolar world no longer exists, Israel remains a critical counterweight in the region against radical Islam—whether Iran, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda or ISIS—that threatens American interests.
Furthermore, Israel’s forces have prevented the proliferation of nuclear weapons in a region where extremist organizations frequently conquer nation-states. In 1981, the Israeli Air Force conducted a surprise attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak. While the United States objected to the attack, American leaders said in retrospect that it was a vital initiative.
In an interview in 2005, Bill Clinton expressed support for the Osirak attack: “[E]verybody talks about what the Israelis did at Osirak, in 1981, which, I think, in retrospect, was a really good thing. You know, it kept Saddam from developing nuclear power.”
Best of all, Israel’s ability—and willingness—to defend democracy and other Western diplomatic and economic interests has increased dramatically over the past 20 years. Israel’s advanced cybersecurity, weapons technology and intelligence gathering are among the most sophisticated in the world.
The IAF prevented the genocidal Assad regime in Syria from acquiring nuclear weapons by attacking a nuclear site there in 2007. Recently, Israel has conducted more than 1,000 air raids on Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies who are expanding the Islamic Republic’s hegemony in Syria.
Israel and the United States also cooperate on sophisticated military defense technology, like the Iron Dome, David’s Sling and Arrow anti-missile defense systems. These systems have been used to defend Israel, in addition to American forces and allies in the region. Many of these technologies, created with Israeli knowledge and innovation, are exported to American allies.
The Jewish state’s military industry has pioneered many other advanced technologies that are transforming the face of modern war, including cyberweapons, unmanned vehicles (such as land robots and aerial drones), sensors and electronic warfare systems, and advanced defenses for military vehicles. The United States and its allies daily enjoy the fruits of Israeli innovation.
But the State of Israel is not just a reliable ally and partner—it is also a vital outpost for America’s interests. While the United States does provide Israel with billions of dollars, this is not aid or assistance. it is part of a common long-term investment, based on America’s need to enhance its power against common threats facing both countries.
“It’s about time we stop apologizing for our support for Israel,” then-Sen. Joe Biden told the Senate in 1986. “There’s no apology to be made. It is the best $3 billion investment we make. If there weren’t an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”
American arms industries benefit because agreements between the two countries stipulate that the majority of funds the United States provides Israel has to be spent in America, helping military businesses and providing jobs for countless Americans.
Many of the arguments against this close relationship—largely centered around objections from Arab nations—have dissipated, especially since the signing of the Abraham Accords peace agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. Antagonism to the Jewish state in the region has been replaced by the understanding of moderate Sunni Muslim leaders that Israel is an asset in the battle against Iran and growing Islamist terrorism.
This new outlook puts the United States, Israel and much of the region on the same side for the first time. In fact, Israel actively helps many of these countries, whether containing ISIS in the Sinai desert or buttressing the Jordanian leadership.
Finally, with the pullout from Afghanistan and the winding down of an American presence in Iraq, the United States will lose tremendous abilities that come with “boots on the ground,” chief among them intelligence capabilities—a field in which Israel excels.
With Iran on the cusp of nuclear weapons capability, the United States and its allies are well served by the State of Israel. One of Israel’s primary missions is to ensure the Islamic Republic does not acquire nuclear weapons—a potential horror for the entire world.
Fortunately, Israel has become a regional superpower, which in protecting itself from vicious enemies also opposes U.S. adversaries. As the United States turns its attention to China, this is precisely the kind of strategic asset it needs in the Middle East—one that has America’s back.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.