Since before its establishment, Israel sought a positive relationship with the United States. As a small country, with a small population in relation to its much larger and hostile neighbors, Israel sought a powerful ally that could provide diplomatic, economic, and military support. During the Cold War, Israel became a close ally of the United States, and in 1983 that friendship evolved into a strategic relationship. With an unraveling of turmoil, the spread of nuclear weapons, advent of terrorism, and local insurgencies, Israel’s reliability as a friend is part of America’s strategic interest. While Washington and Jerusalem do not differ on the common democratic bonds that tie them closely, leaders in both countries have often differed on several issues. These have included Israel’s access to a nuclear weapon, the level and timing of force Israel uses to protect its citizenry, and disagreements about how Israel manages its relationships with its Arab neighbors, particularly the Palestinians. The American people have repeatedly endorsed strong support for Israel’s well-being, with a particularly large segment of Christian America supporting that view. Most American Jews and members of Congress have developed a particular closeness to Israel and its people. Vast amounts of scholarly, archival, and popular materials exist in describing the texture of the US bi-partisan relationship with Israel.
In understanding fully the complexity of the US-Israel relationship, we recommend reading the memoirs, biographies, and autobiographies of the political leaders on both side of the relationship. Those items are not included here. Some of the Israeli leaders are covered in our Israel Leadership theme. Primary sources that could be consulted include US presidential libraries, the national archives of both countries, and the published Foreign Relations (FRUS) documents of the US and those on line or housed at the Israel ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are literally hundreds of hearings of the US Senate and House of Representatives where the US-Israeli relationship or particular issues in the relationship were discussed. By using those hearings and the written testimonies included in the official record, one will find invaluable analyses of the relationship. By far the most prolific think thank of superbly published materials on the relationship are the items regularly published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/
The US-Israeli relationship is recollected by diplomats and civil servants who engaged in managing the relationship. One of the most accessible sources of oral interviews is The Foreign Affairs Oral History Collection of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (US State Department). See http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/collections/diplomacy/
Finally, here on our US-Israeli Relationship theme, one can find key agreements signed by the United States and Israel that cover the post 1967 war period.
Ken Stein, January 2021
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