History Paper on American-Israel Relations from 1948 to Present

History Paper on American-Israel Relations from 1948 to Present


America and Israel maintain a unique relationship. To understand the uniqueness of the relationship, it is crucial to analyze how it began. According to Robert Lieber (11), David Ben-Gurion, an ordinary Jewish national, founded Israel in 1948. Lieber also asserts that it took fifty years since its creation for the modern state of Israel to be recognized. The recognition prompted Israel to focus on modern social, economic and political global affairs. Despite being a small country, a confluence of historical, geographical and political factors had made Israel an important nation in the world. It was hosting more than five million citizens challenging its efforts to stay informed either socioeconomically or politically. As a result, it developed close and secure ties with the United States. It also strives to share America’s democratic values, cultural, and religious affinities in attempt to strengthen the bilateral ties (Zanotti 17) . Thus, Israel recognizes the United States as an extra ordinary country.

To escape the decadence in Europe, the pilgrims fled to America. Centuries later, the uniqueness of the country continues to reflect. For example, John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address emphasized that America is unique. President Kennedy encouraged Americans to bear the burden and pay the price of affirming the United States is inimitable. Ronald Reagan also reiterated Kennedy’s message in his 1981 inaugural ceremony when he described America as a ‘shining city on a hill’ (Lieber 11).  Since 1981, applying the phrase affirms that the United States is unique.

The Clinton administration developed a foreign policy to enlarge the sphere of the United States democracies. President Clinton believed that the United States had to address issues adversely affecting human rights especially in warzones. He believed the foreign policy would be applied to prosecute persons accused of war crimes (Lieber 11). Thus, different presidential administrations have implemented measures aimed at conserving the United States’ unique, liberal, and conservative values and principles. Consequently, America has stood as the lone superpower with strong and powerful military capacity, authoritative leadership, and unprecedented economic and cultural influence.

The security of Israel often influences the United States foreign policy. Members of Congress often provide active oversight through the executive branch to demonstrate commitment to Israel’s security and to the close cooperation with the United States. This special attention that the US government gives Israel has made the Middle Eastern country the biggest recipient of America’s foreign aid. Jim Zanotti (3) also notes that Israel is a frequent purchaser of major weapons systems from the United States. Thus, the United States law addressing arms sale is always in favor of Israel’s qualitative military edge. A 1985 trade agreement improved Israel’s stature as America’s trading partner. The agreement made America Israel’s number one trading partner. This essay, therefore, will address contemporary events, political, and military relations affirming the relationship between Israel and the United States is unique. Consequently, it will discuss the domestic, economic, trade dealings, cultural, and academic events sustaining the relationship between the two unique nations.


According to Lieber (12), United States and Israel have been close for several decades. The countries maintain cooperation in various levels including diplomatic and economic ties. For example, policy makers in America consider Israel’s security when formulating and implementing policies in the Middle East. The US policy makers strive to ensure Israel can defend herself from any security threats. There have been reports of private and public disagreements between American and Israel officials. For example, the officials disagree when trying to respond and prioritize security challenges. The Members of Congress in the United States, however, strive to provide an active oversight of security dealings with Israel. Zanotti (8) also notes that US and Israeli officials often disagree. He claims that the Obama administration was uncooperative. The disagreements threatened the relationship between the United States and Israel. More so, Members of Congress criticized the administration for not giving Israel sufficient financial support. As a result, they established appropriated funding programs to benefit Israel.

The Congress, however, believes that the United States ought to scrutinize Israel’s actions sufficiently. The Congress claims that American approaches addressing challenges affecting the Middle East also affect Israel. Thus, scrutinizing Israeli actions can reduce conflicts with American administrations. For instance, the Israelis were uneasy with President Obama Policies towards Iran. Netanyahu was afraid that Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran would lead to a clash between Israel and Iran. Consequently, the current Israel Premier had claimed that Israel had been trying to stop Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability. He, therefore, believed President Obama’s policy would jeopardize Israel’s the security and missile defenses. In 2016, however, the two parties reached a new understanding in which the United States committed to provide Israel with security assistance worth $38 billion for a period of ten years (Jim 8). Thus, the two nations strive to preserve the international relations. They identify viable efforts to negotiate a ‘two-state solution’ to sustain political concessions between the two states. Ultimately, the uniqueness of Israel and the United States has ensured their interactions take a special character.

Early Stages of the Israel vs. American Relations

The decision to form Israel was not based on the notion that it had to be an outpost of Western imperialism. The decision makers acknowledged European powers remained indifferent and hostile before the British retired as the colonial rulers. The Learning Network (1) notes that Israel was not formed when conservative and labor governments in London pursued policies such as the British policy statement opposing the partition of Palestine.

Between 1945 and 1948, the labor government was experiencing an antagonistic disposition of the postwar. For example, the government consistently opposed the creation of a Jewish state. It also used force in attempts to ensure immigrants who had survived the holocaust were confined. Confinement of immigrants occurred in detention camps mainly in Germany and Cyprus. Consequently, the Truman administration needed the United States to be supportive as it was deeply hesitant. Truman had recommended more than one hundred thousand European Jewish refugees be admitted to Palestine. The recommendation fueled the hesitance. President Truman communicated his ambivalent decision to the British government (Lieber 12). The British administration, however, was neither willing nor committed to implement his proposal. The British believed that Truman’s suggestion would not be welcome in the Arab region. Departments of State and Defense, however, supported President Truman’s proposal to partition Palestine and recognize Israel.

On May 12, 1948, a meeting was organized by Clark Clifford to discuss recognizing Israel as an independent Jewish state. Clark Clifford was President Truman’s advisor while George Marshall was the Secretary of State. Marshall opposed Clark’s proposal and threatened to vote against President Truman (Lieber 12). The meeting, therefore, experienced conflicts due to confusion and frenzy. The disarray occurred as American delegates to the United Nations and the White House could not conclude the meeting. Consequently, the United States announced a de facto recognition.

The announcement occurred on May 14, 1948, a few minutes after Israel was recognized. The first agenda Israel sought involved a loan request to lift an arms embargo. Bureaucracy, however, delayed the request, until 1949 (Lieber 12). The delay did not hinder Israel and the United States relationship to evolve. Eventually, the relationship evolved slowly resting on deep-seated historical, religious, and social factors fueled by Israel’s tenacity and strategic interests. Initially, the relationship between the United States and Israel was not steady. More so, collaborations and patron-client progression relations between both parties were constrained. For example, Washington was slow in providing Israel with economic and military assistance.

In 1953, Israel and the United States experienced crises in their relationship (Lieber 12). For example, President Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, had to pressure Israel to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula. The United States had to apply pressure for Israel to withdraw its troops from the region to avoid their capture. More so, America was not providing Israel with significant foreign aid. In 1952, the United States stated that $86 million was the significant amount of foreign aid it was willing to offer Israel. The quoted amount was included in a provision passed in the same year. During the crises, therefore, the United States did not provide Israel with additional foreign aid.

The levels of financial aid Israel received remained quite low between 1950s and mid-1960s. In 1967, the United States provided Israel with an annual aid amounting to $13 million. In 1968, after the Six Day War, the United States increased the aid to $76 million. By 1971, foreign aid had increased to $600 million (Lieber 13). The crises, therefore, affirm that Israel’s establishment did not aim for the country to be an instrument of America.

The Economic Dimensions of Israel vs. the United States Relationship

Since the formation of Israel, the country maintained a special relationship with France than with the United States. Israel and France identified the Egyptian President, Gamel Abdel Nasser, as a common enemy. France believed the Egyptian President played a vital role in advocating for Arab nationalism and support the Algerian rebels since 1954. Conversely, Israel regarded the Egyptian President as the most challenging among the Arab opponents (Lieber 13). As a result, France provided the arms and nuclear technology Israel utilized to with the 1967 war. Thus, Israel did not rely on weapons provide by the United States.

A subtle but profound shift in the American policy toward Israel had begun during President’s Eisenhower’s second term in office. The shift did not occur due to domestic American politics. Instead, it occurred due to strategic factors in the Middle East. Consequently, Israel became an asset rather than a burden to the United States. Democrat administrations led by Presidents Truman, Kennedy and Johnson secured the Jewish vote in key states including New York, Florida, California, New Jersey and Illinois through their Israel-friendly policies (Lieber 14). Thus, domestic politics fueled the 1962 arms sale decision and a change in policy towards Israel. More so, the Democrat presidents were keen to ensure that partisan electoral considerations outweighed hardheaded and longstanding calculations of America’s interests in the Middle East.

The Learning Network (1) notes that the policy shift began as a gradual recognition of changes in Israel after the 1958 crises in Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq during President Eisenhower’s administration. In 1958, the pro-Western government of Iraq had been overthrow endangering the Hashemite monarchy of King Hussein. More so, the political situation in Lebanon was unsteady. The unstable situation led President Eisenhower to dispatch the United States Marines to Beirut. They served for several months during which Israel showed that it was a solely staunch pro-Western power nation.

The Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, also wrote a letter to Israel’s Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. The letter confirmed Israel’s recognition and encouraged both countries to strengthen their international borders to avoid lawlessness due to the crises that had been ongoing in the Middle East. For example, Foster recognized and appreciated Israel’s efforts to use American and United Kingdom airspace and aircrafts to enhance international justice and order while supporting Jordan. The letter also affirmed that the United States believed Israel was in a position to deter aggressive attempts by indigenous forces (Lieber 15). Thus, Israel’s position to examine military implications in case of aggressive incidences encouraged the United States to improve and sustain the relationship. More so, the letter recognized Israel’s spiritual opportunities, strengths, and determination of purpose as measures of maintaining a stable international order.

Lieber (16) notes that development of the Ten Commandments occurred after 1958. Before Lebanon, Jordan, and Lebanon experienced crises, Israel could not sufficiently claim that its religious legacy would stimulate a policy favoring the United States. Thus, America had to recognize and appreciate the shaky but strategic dimension of pro-Western governments including Israel. Consequently, it adopted a more clear and cooperative policy towards Israel. Thus, the foreign policy rather than domestic politics fueled America’s decision to recognize and accept Israel.

The United States also decided to respect Israel as it supported its interests. For example, after Israel failed to support America’s foreign policy to expand it influence in the Soviet, it stopped providing the Jewish state with aid.  After the United States leaders, however, acknowledged that Israel was an asset that could be useful in addressing radical Arab movements, it began to help the state (Nagourney and Otterman 1). Thus, a closer strategic relationship between Israel and the United States commenced in 1958. America, however, took modest and tentative steps in developing the close relationship. Consequently, it expanded and deepened.

According to Robert Lieber (14), the Six Day War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the 1979 Egyptian-Israel Peace Treaty highlight some of the incidences that led the relationship to expand. Confirming the author’s claims involves comparing the amount of aid America offered Israel before and after the incidence. Between 1949 and 1973, the amount of foreign aid amounted to $3.2 billion. Later, it grew to $75 billion between 1974 and 1997 making Israel became the largest single recipient of foreign aid from the United States.

According to Wilner (1), Israel requested the United States to offer an additional $1.2 billion as foreign help. The request did not focus on the fact that Israel was a ‘major non-NATO ally.’ Consequently, Israel was in a position to receive obsolete military equipment from America. The State Department offered Israel up to 26% of its foreign military financial aid between 1998 and 1990 (History & Overview of U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel). Thus, United States strives to ensure Israel receives between $400 million and $475 million of military and economic financial aid programs. The amount of foreign aid to Israel from America has been increasing depending on the agreements between the two countries.

The United States recognizes that it is vital for Israel to honor agreements. The agreements ensure Israel receives foreign aid required to enhance economic, military, and missile defenses. For example, the United States offered Israel $671 million to generate jobs in 2009. The United Stated provided the high amount of foreign aid despite the Congress’ attempts to cut the budget.

In 2003, the Congress had attempted to implement budget cuts to reduce amount of foreign aid the United States could offer Israel (History & Overview of U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel). Thus, lobbyists and the Israel government were not impressed after implementation of a 0.65% budget cut across foreign aid organs. As a result, a number of provisions in the aid bill to cut foreign aid were included to favor Israel. For example, the Congress passed a provision hindering federal assistance to a future Palestinian state. The provision aimed to force the Palestinian state to replace its leadership. The Members of Congress stated that the provision demonstrated commitment towards peaceful coexistence with Israel while combating terrorism. Currently, Israel receives $3.15 billion per year as military aid (History & Overview of U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel). More so, Israel has been receiving $3.8 billion in security aid per year. President Obama’s administration offered the first security aid in 2016. The United States provides at least $500 million allocated to Israel’s missile defense. Recently, President Donald Trump claimed that he would add $75 million towards Israel’s missile defense programs. Israel relies on United States for military, security, economic, and defense financial aid; adding that the financial aid is bound to increase in the future as the Israel and the United States relationship is growing and expanding (History & Overview of U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel). Thus, the amount is likely to grow after implementing reviews and adjustments of the foreign aid in 2018.

The Domestic Dimension of the Israel vs. the United States Relationship

Since the end of the cold war and the collapse of Soviet Union, a sense of foreign threats and importance of foreign policies diminished across the United States. America has had to address profound external threats attacking vital national interests and citizens’ way of life for six decades (Lieber 15). The country, however, continues to be unavoidably engaged in foreign affairs. Domestic politics and budget cuts also dominate the American President’s agenda. The two factors overshadow concerns in foreign policy.

Since Israel and American established a relationship, the numbers of television networks covering news on foreign policy have been declining. Even in political campaigns, US-Israel relations has become a less common theme. The United States, however, has maintained a priority to address foreign policy in the Middle East (Lieber 15). America ensures security imperatives and threats against the nation’s people, resources, and infrastructures remain more evident in the Middle East.

For a government to be successful, it must gather support for its policies from both the public and the Congress. For example, domestic public and interest group sympathies were congruent with American interests in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East during Clinton’s administration (Lieber 4). Foreign policy and decision makers in Clinton’s administration provided a great deal of continuity with the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor to identify long-standing administration and American Middle East policies (Lieber 16). An authoritative quadrennial evaluation of the United States opinions on foreign policy by the public and elites has been providing an empirical confirmation of relative stability of domestic attitudes towards the Middle East (Lieber 4). Since 1974, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations is required to evaluate opinions of the public and elite on foreign policy every four years to identify vital Americans’ interests.

The council can also interview American and Israel leaders in attempts to determine how they respond to favor the relationship (Lieber 16). Consequently, the public opinion in the United States can  change depending on Israel’s responses during the interviews as it is considered a key allay in the Middle East. The Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, has been controversial. He has also been the subject of substantial criticism within America and Israel. The United States, however, has been showing a strong and continued support for Israel. For example, America believes it has the responsibility to see that its policy in Israel fits with its policy with the rest of the world. The US has also been assisting Israel build a strong, independent, and democratic nation large and free enough to make the citizens self-supporting and secure. Domestic politics, therefore, influence the Israel-America relationship.

America also relies on domestic politics to determine the role of organized pro-Israel and Jewish groups 9. For example, America examined how the groups influenced its relationship with Israel. More so, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) increased its stature and effectiveness to convey views of the relationship to the Congress and presidential administration in 1998 (Lieber 15). Thus, domestic politics have been influencing the levels of support ensuring the American-Israel relation extends beyond the American Jewish community. The support also ensures the relation extends beyond the pro-Israel Christian groups. Consequently, presidential administrations can focus on strategic political factors reinforced to enhance domestic political support in America and Israel. Lieber (5) observes that Clinton’s administration reinforced domestic political support for The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland. The support prompted the three nations be admitted in NATO enlargement. Thus, the America-Israel relationship embodies a logic shaped by moral, historic, ethnic, and strategic political and institutional factors is crucial as America also plays a role in Middle East peace processes.

Lieber (16) asserts that the United States has been a viable intermediary in the Arab-Israel conflict since 1967. The domestic dimension of the American and Israel relationship stems from diverse factors. For example, it stems from the unique American military and economic strengths. It also stems from America’s ability to provide Israel with foreign aid. More importantly, the relationship grows due to the special and important role America plays in providing Israel with security. Historically, Israel has bravely fought to regain its defense. America, however, has been ensuring Israel does not lose its military strengths by ensuring Arab adversaries did not infiltrate Israel’s military defenses. America encouraged Israel and the Arab nations to negotiate peace to preserve and stabilize Israel’s defense. Thus, America has been consistently sympathetic and supportive towards Israel to demonstrate that it is keen to provide political and social security guarantees.

Sustaining the Israel-American Relationship

According to Zanotti (16), societies and politics in Israel have evolved for decades. Initially, secular Ashkenazi Jews dominated Israel during the 19th and 20th centuries. Leaders from the immigrant communities strived to build Israel as a nation dedicated to Western generosity and communitarian values. As a result, Israel had to develop governing coalitions between 1948 and 1977 through social democratic movements. Consequently, it faced challenges in attempts to remain as a Jewish and democratic state. The Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu, has remained politically informed while maintaining complex relations with other governing nations including Palestine. He, therefore, has ensured Israel acquired state support for its traditional cultural heritage and choices.

The International media, however, has been raising concerns that Israel can be isolated and delegitimized. Israel leaders addressed the concerns by asserting that the country strives to improve relations with various nations including the United States through widespread consensus of its political spectrum favoring countering developments. Thus, Israel has been keen to sustain relations with the United States as it has played diverse vital roles. For example, America played a role during the Israel-Egyptian Peace Treaty of 1979. America also attended the Madrid Conference of 1991 to witness the signing of the Oslo Agreements. American’s national interest during the Jordanian Peace Treaty, Arab-Israel peace process and Israel-Syrian negotiations also ensured it played the delicate role of taking an overt and interventionist responsibility (Zanotti 16). Thus, America has been ensuring cultural, political, and cultural values in Israel are preserved. More so, it has been helping Israel bridge differences with other global nations.

Israel continues to align with right-of-center parties on national security issues. The parties promise Netanyahu that they will support Israel’s lifestyle choices and cultural heritage including the Haredi educational system. The government to defray Israel’s high cost of living, however, does not utilize resources. The conflict has led Arab Israelis to remain largely estranged from Jewish citizens (Zanotti 16). As a result, America has been keen to protect advanced industrial markets and economy in Israel. For example, America continues to provide Israel with financial loans, contributions, and capital investments to steer economic growth. Thus, America embraces the role of sustaining relations with Israel to attain bilateral and overall closeness.

Bilateral Relations between Israel and America

America believes technology and aviation sectors as well as communication and medical electronics are the engines of Israel’s economy. Since 2012, however, Israel has been experiencing moderate economic growth (Zanotti 18). More so, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu differed on various issues influencing the process of aligning policies between America and Israel. The two leaders differed on Iran’s nuclear program. The bilateral cooperation between Israel and America, however, has increased in issues such as energy, defense, and trade.

Zanotti (18) observes that the US is Israel’s biggest trade partner. The United States International Trade Commission published data affirming America and Israel implemented provisions protecting sensitive agricultural sectors by signing the Free Trade Agreement in 1985 (Zanotti 18). The trade agreement removed trade barriers between the two countries. It also protects sensitive sub-sectors with non-tariff barriers such as quotas. Consequently, Israel is able to expand exports to the United States. More so, the trading partners have been launching programs aimed at stimulating industrial and scientific research in Israel authorized and funds appropriated by Congress. Ultimately, the Israel and American relationship has been a commitment to support security and cooperation perceptions enhancing social, cultural, economic, and political values sustaining the strong bilateral ties.

Implications of the Relationship

The unique American and Israel relationship has been a product of complex causal factors incorporating historical, religious, social, and cultural memories, values, and ties respectively. Domestic politics, however, have been playing a significant role of determining the choices made by leaders of the United States and Israel. Personal choices made by leaders in Israel and American have also affected the relationship. For example, President Clinton developed an exceptional rapport with Israel’s Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. President Bush, however, maintained an antagonizing relationship with the same Prime Minister. More so, President Clinton did not maintain a cordial relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu (Lieber 18). The leaders, however, acknowledged that their personal associations should not interfere with the Israel-American relationship that has been steady for centuries. As a result, they collaborate in formulating and implementing American policies towards Israel.

Since 1949, Israel has received more than $106 billion in foreign aid from the United States. The foreign aid provided in form of loan guarantees, spread over a period of five years,   commenced in 1992. Consequently, a refugee settlement aid commenced in 1973 and cooperative development programs in 1981. America has also funded joint military projects including the Arrow Missile. President Obama signed the largest security foreign aid Israel has received since its formation in 2016. The 10-year Memorandum of Understanding seeks stipulates that Israel should receive $3.3 billion and $500 million as security and missile defense aid respectively from 2016 to 2026. The agreement, however, requires Israel to fulfill the promise of returning foreign aid provided above the agreed amount. Israel signed a letter promising Congress that it would refund foreign aid above $3.8 billion in 2017 and 2018 (Shimoni 1). The ten-year agreement and the letter indicate a commitment between Israel and the United States to maintain their close ties.

In conclusion, America through the presidents and Members of Congress has demonstrated its commitment to enhance Israel’s security. The two countries strive to strengthen their ties and to mitigate dangerous and uncertain developments. America recognizes that Israel has a robust economy complemented by a vibrant democracy. As a result, it seeks to enhance Israel’s dedication to the rule of law for the government to focus on ethnic, religious and demographic ideologies. Consequently, Israel can rely on the inclusive ideologies to enhance national security and address socioeconomic concerns. Successively, United States can approach challenges in the Middle East affecting Israel without the two nations clashing over policy that mainly focuses on nuclear weapons capability.


Works cited

Berger, Paul. Pro-Israel Campaign Caught between Backlash and Success. Haaretz.com, 2012. /jewish/pro-israel-campaign-caught-between-backlash-and-success-1.417402. Accessed 31 May 2017.

Jewish Virtual Library. “History & Overview of U.S. Foreign Aid to Israel.” Jewish Virtual Library, American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2017, www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/history-and-overview-of-u-s-foreign-aid-to-israel. Accessed 31 May 2017.

Lieber, Robert. U.S-Israel Relations since 1948. Middle East Review of International Affairs, vol. 2, no. 3, 1998, pp. 11-20. rubincenter.org/meria/1998/09/lieber.pdf. Accessed 31 May 2017.

Nagourney, Adam and Sharon Otterman. American Jews Divided over Strain in U.S-Israel Relations. Nytimes.com, 2016. nytimes.com/2016/12/29/us/american-jews-john-kerry-israel.html. Accessed 31 May 2017.

Shimoni, Rebecca. US Congress Passes Israel Strategic Partnership Bill. Timesofisrael.com, 2014. timesofisrael.com/us-congress-passes-israel-strategic-partnership-bill/. Accessed 31 May 2017.

The Learning Network. May 14, 1948: Israel Declares Independence. Nytimes.com, 2012. nytimes.com/2012/05/14/may-14-1948-israel-declares-independence/comment-page-1/?_r=0. Accessed 31 May 2017.

Wilner, Michael. Congress Enshrines Israel in a New Class of Ally. Jpost.com, 2014. jpost.com/International/US-House-of-Representatives-passes-bill-declaring-Israel-major-strategic-partner-383616. Accessed 31 May 2017.

Zanotti, Jim. Israel: Background and U.S. Relations. Congressional Research Service. fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL33476.pdf. Accessed 31 May 2017.