U.S.-ISRAELI RELATIONS SINCE 1948
These are countries with populations ten or more times the size of Israel’s and with tumultuous and important twentieth century histories, yet most members of the informed public, and even many with a special interest in foreign affairs, are more likely to possess some degree of basic information about Israeli politics.
As for the United State, despite the title of Richard Rosecrance book of some two decades ago, America is not an ‘ordinary country.’ (1) This is evident not only in terms of its origins and the aspirations of its founders as an escape from European decadence, but this same sense of uniqueness is still reflected centuries later. It can be found in the lofty aspirations of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inaugural address, which called upon Americans to ‘pay any price’ and ‘bear any burden’, as well as in Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inaugural with its invocation of America as a ‘shining city on a hill.’ More recently, echoes of these ideals remain evident, for example in the foreign policy impulses of the Clinton administration to enlarge the sphere of democracies, to express concern for human rights in China and to seek the prosecution of those accused of war crimes in Bosnia. Indeed, some conservative and liberal critics of the Clinton administration also invoke American values, as when they demand a stronger criticism of China on human rights and take issue with the American president’s willingness to be received by his Chinese hosts at Tiananmen Square, the site of the June 1989 killing of democracy protesters. Moreover, these impulses take on greater significance because the United States today stands as the lone superpower and has military might, power projection capability, leadership capacity, economic strength and cultural influence of unprecedented scope.
Given the uniqueness on both sides, it would be surprising if the interaction between Israel and America did not take on a special character as well. With this consideration in mind, this essay briefly assesses the development of the special relationship between these two countries, then devotes attention to the domestic American dimension of the relationship, the United States’ role in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process, and the broader basis upon which this special relationship ultimately rests. In undertaking this assessment, I am seeking to address the more durable and long-term fundamentals of this bilateral interaction and not the flow of daily events nor the specific actions and policies of individuals such as Benjamin Netanyahu, Yasir Arafat, or individual American policymakers. This inquiry suggests that the overall relationship between the United States and Israel had been shaped by the interplay of many factors, but ultimately it has been longer term concerns that have been most important, including strategic considerations, the American national interest, and even religious values, to a greater extent than shorter term and more narrowly political concerns.
I. THE EARLY STAGES.
In contrast to myths commonly held among its neighbors (and by some of its adversaries elsewhere, including the United States), Israel was far from having been established as an outpost of Western imperialism or an instrument of America. Initially, the European powers remained largely indifferent or even hostile. The animus of Great Britain, in particular, as the retiring colonial power, has been extensively described. Moreover, both Conservative and Labour governments in London pursued such policies. In the years prior to the establishment of Israel, these included November 1938 British policy statement opposing partition of Palestine; the White Paper of May 1939, limiting Jewish immigration to a total of no more than 75,000 over the subsequent five years, after which it was to be prohibited altogether unless agreed by the Arabs; (2) the antagonistic disposition of the postwar Labour government from 1945 to 1948, and the particular antipathy of Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin and the Foreign Office, not only in continuing to oppose creation of a Jewish state, but in using force to prevent immigration by survivors of the holocaust and confining those captured in the attempt to detention camps in Cyprus and even Germany.
The Truman administration — in an often told tale — was deeply ambivalent, though ultimately American support was vital. On the one hand, as early as June 1945, President Truman adopted a proposal recommending that 100,000 European Jewish refugees be admitted immediately to Palestine. He communicated this to the British government, which remained quite unwilling to implement the proposal on the grounds that this would alienate opinion in the Arab world. (3) Ultimately, President Truman’s support for partition of Palestine and recognition of Israel came at the very last minute and against the advice and wishes of the Departments of State and Defense. At a bitterly contentious White House meeting on May 12, 1948, Truman’s advisor, Clark Clifford, argued strongly for immediate recognition of the Jewish state. However, Secretary of State George C. Marshall was strongly opposed and told Truman that if he ‘were to follow Mr. Clifford’s advice and if in the election I was to vote, I would vote against the President.’ (4) After some confusion and disarray between the White House and the American delegation to the United Nations, the United States did announce de facto recognition only minutes after the announcement of Israel’s existence on May 14, 1948. However, the administration did not at first lift an arms embargo, and an Israeli loan request was, as Steven L. Spiegel notes, delayed by the bureaucracy until January 1949. (1949)
Only very slowly did the special relationship between Israel and the United States evolve. Over a period of time, this has come to rest on deep-seated factors, including historical memory, Judeo-Christian values, the Holocaust, societal ties, strategic interests and the tenacity of Israel. But despite these underlying dimensions–many of which were warmly invoked during celebrations of Israel’s fiftieth anniversary–the development of the American-Israeli connection was far from a steady progression of close collaboration or patron-client relations. Indeed, at first the relationship was very much at arms length, and Washington was slow to provide military assistance or economic aid. Crises in the relationship took place in 1953 and especially in 1956-57 over Suez, when the administration of President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles applied great pressure on Israel to withdraw from the Sinai peninsula which its troops had captured from Egypt in the October 1956 war.
No additional significant foreign aid was forthcoming until the provision of $86 million in 1952. During the 1950s and early to mid-1960s, aid levels remained quite low. As late as 1967, the annual aid provided to Israel amounted to just $13 million. However, in the aftermath of the Six Day War aid began to increase sharply, with the United States providing $76 million in 1968 and $600 million in 1971. (6)
II. THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP
At first, for Israel, the special relationship was much more with France than the United States, and was driven largely by the sense of sharing a common enemy, Gamel Abdel Nasser. The French saw the Egyptian President as the key advocate of Arab nationalism and supporter of the Algerian rebels from 1954 onward. For its part, Israel regarded Nasser as the most formidable of its Arab adversaries. Hence France became an important source of arms and of nuclear technology. Ultimately, Israel would win the 1967 war with French more than American weapons.
Why, then, did the change take place?
Here I draw on the a fine piece of scholarship by Professor Abraham Ben-Zvi of Tel Aviv University, in his book, Decade of Transition: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the Origins of the American-Israeli Alliance. (7) Ben-Zvi demonstrates that a subtle but profound shift in American policy toward Israel began not, as is commonly held by historians and analysts, in 1962 with the Kennedy administration’s decision to sell Hawk anti-aircraft missiles to Israel, but four years earlier in the second Eisenhower administration. This change in policy occurred not primarily because of domestic American politics, but because of strategic factors in the Middle East and a recognition that Israel could be a strategic asset to the United States instead of a burden.
It has long been asserted that the 1962 arms sale decision and change in policy toward Israel was driven by domestic politics. This view holds that Democratic administrations, starting with Truman, and especially under Kennedy and Johnson, were determined to secure the Jewish vote in certain key states, among them, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Florida and California, and that these partisan electoral considerations outweighed more hard-headed and long-standing calculations of America’s strategic interests in the Middle East.
Instead, Ben-Zvi demonstrates that the policy shift actually began under the Eisenhower administration, as a gradual recognition of changes in the region and especially after the July 1958 crises in Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. During that time, the pro-Western government of Iraq was overthrown. The Hashemite monarchy of King Hussein in Jordan seemed endangered, and the political situation in Lebanon appeared to be so unstable that Eisenhower administration dispatched U.S. Marines to Beirut for a period of several months.
During this time of serious instability, and particularly in the case of Jordan, Israel showed itself to be the sole staunchly pro-Western power in the region. Ben-Zvi quotes a very explicit August 1958 letter from Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion attesting to this recognition:
‘The heart of the matter…is the urgent necessity to strengthen the bulwarks of international order and justice against the forces of lawlessness and destruction which currently are at work in the Middle East. We have been glad that Israel shares this purpose, as illustrated by your deeply appreciated acquiescence in the use of Israel’s airspace by United States and UK aircraft in their mission in support of Jordan….We believe that Israel should be in a position to deter an attempt at aggression by indigenous forces, and are prepared to examine the military implications of this problem with an open mind….The critical situation in the Middle East today gives Israel manifold opportunities to contribute, from its resources of spiritual strength and determination of purpose, to a stable international order. (8)
It is both sobering and revealing to reflect here that, despite Dulles’ uplifting reference to Israel’s ‘spiritual’ dimension, the Ten Commandments were not written in 1958. Prior to the crisis in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, Israel’s claim to a shared religious legacy had not been sufficient by itself to stimulate a more favorable American policy. Instead it was only after the administration began to recognize the strategic dimension and to appreciate how shaky other pro-Western governments in the region actually were, that it started to adopt a more explicitly cooperative policy toward Israel.
In another study, the late Kenneth Organski reached conclusions consistent with those of Ben-Zvi concerning the basis for American policy toward Israel as ultimately resting more on foreign policy reasons than on domestic politics. In Organski’s analysis:
U.S. policy decisions with respect to Israel have, in the main, been made by presidents and presidential foreign policy elites both by themselves and for reasons entirely their own. When the U.S. did not see Israel supporting U.S. interests in stemming the expansion of Soviet influence, it did not help Israel….When U.S. leaders…decided that Israel could be an asset in the U.S. struggle with radical Arabs who were perceived as Soviet clients, they helped Israel. (9)
While the shift toward a closer United States-Israeli strategic relationship had it origins as far back as 1958, the United States initially took only modest and tentative steps. The relationship expanded slowly and then deepened after the Six Day War of 1967 and especially after the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979. As evidence of this, a recent study has shown that while American foreign aid to Israel amounted to $3.2 billion in the years from 1949 to 1973, it grew to a total of $75 billion for the period from 1974 to 1997. Indeed, by the late 1970s, Israel had become the largest single recipient of American foreign aid. (10)
III. THE DOMESTIC DIMENSION
With the end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the sense of foreign threat and thus of the importance of foreign policy has sharply diminished in American public life. After almost six decades of profound external threats to America’s most vital national interests and way of life (fascism, World War Two, the Cold War), the country no longer confronts such a profound and unambiguous challenge. (11) The United States remains inescapably engaged in foreign affairs, but the priority of the subject has diminished. Domestic politics and budget constraints tend to dominate the presidential agenda and to overshadow foreign policy concerns. This has been evident in the decline in network television coverage of foreign news, as well as in a substantial drop in the importance of foreign policy in presidential and congressional election campaigns.
The Middle East, however, does remain a partial exception to the lessened priority for foreign policy. Security imperatives and threats to American interests do remain more evident in the region than elsewhere. Moreover, when domestic and foreign priorities correspond, the result can be strong public and congressional support for administration policy. This is evident in the Middle East and Persian Gulf, where domestic public and interest group sympathies have been broadly congruent with American national interests. In addition, the Clinton administration’s key foreign policy decisionmakers provide a great deal of continuity, with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Advisor Samuel Berger and their staffs both experienced and were also closely identified with long-standing administration and American Middle East policies.
Moreover, despite the end of the Cold War, an authoritative quadrennial study of American public and elite opinion on foreign policy provides empirical confirmation of the relative stability of domestic attitudes toward the Middle East. The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations has conducted these studies every four years since 1974. Their 1995 survey found that among the public at large, 64% identify an American ‘vital interest’ with Israel, not far behind Great Britain (69%) and Germany (66%). For their part, ‘Leaders’ interviewed for the study responded even more favorably. Over the four year period between 1991 and 1995, there was little change in American public opinion toward Israel, with that country continuing to be considered a key ally in the Middle East. Indeed, among elites during the same period, there was actually an identifiable increase (to 86% from 78%) in the vital interest response. (12)
Despite the controversial prime ministership of Benjamin Netanyahu, which has been the subject not only of substantial criticism within the United States but within Israel as well, recent polling data continues to show strong continued American public support for Israel. For example, an April 1998 poll conducted by the New York Times indicates that more than five times as many Americans hold a favorable opinion of Israel (57%) than of the PLO (11%). (13)
Domestic politics do matter, and the role of organized pro-Israel and Jewish groups has had some impact. For example, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has increased its stature and effectiveness in conveying its views to Congress and the administration during the past two decades. However, the above data show that support for close American-Israeli relations extends far beyond the American Jewish community, and pro-Israel Christian-right groups have increased in importance during the same period as well. More broadly, a very loose analogy may be found in U.S. policy toward NATO enlargement. On that issue, the Clinton administration’s attention to strategic and political factors was reinforced by domestic political support for the admission of Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Contrary to the arguments of many opponents of NATO enlargement, the ethnic constituencies that favor these policies did not drive the decision, nor was the Polish vote in Cleveland or Chicago the causal factor. But, once the decision was made, this dimension reinforced the original decision and increased weight to it. (14)
Overall, the American-Israeli relationship is shaped by a combination of factors: historic, moral, ethnic, strategic, political and institutional. It is also driven by a recognition that the American role in the Middle East peace process requires a close United States-relationship, not ‘even-handedness’, even though such a policy might at first glance appear to embody a certain logic.
For the United States, a stable Middle East constitutes a vital national interest. In this situation, virtually every step in the Arab-Israel peace process from military disengagement agreements after the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, through Camp David and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979, the Madrid Conference of 1991, the signing of the Oslo Agreements, the Jordanian Peace Treaty and even the abortive Israeli-Syrian negotiations, has involved a key American role as catalyst, intermediary or guarantor, The task for the United States is thus a delicate one. On the one hand, it must not become so involved that Israel’s Arab adversaries seek to negotiate with Washington instead of Jerusalem. Indeed, on those occasions when Washington did take on a much more overt and interventionist role, the initiatives were unsuccessful (as in the case of the December 1969 Rogers Plan, the 1977 Carter administration initiative to co-sponsor multilateral talks in Geneva with the Soviet Union, the September 1982 Reagan Plan, and the October 1989 Five Points of Secretary of State James Baker.) On the other hand, the United States cannot distance itself from the process because in its absence the parties are unlikely to be able to bridge their differences.
The American role stems from several factors: unique American military and economic power, foreign aid to Israel and Egypt, the unwillingness or inability of other powers or international bodies to act, and–less widely appreciated but most important of all — the special relationship between the United States and Israel. The Arab actors understand that no other country has the intimate link to and credibility with Israel. Of great importance here is the implied role of the United States as ultimate guarantor of Israel’s security. Though the Israelis have fought bravely and well, and in response to the bitter lessons of history have been unwilling to entrust their defense and survival to others, and though with the single exception of Patriot missile batteries during the 1991 Gulf War, American military personnel have never been committed to Israel’s defense, the Arab perception has been that the United States will never allow the military defeat of Israel. This recognition, along with a perception that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, has been of profound importance in motivating Israel’s Arab adversaries to negotiate peace. And it is yet another reason why periodic calls for American ‘even-handedness’ (some well-meaning, others not) are so counterproductive and potentially destabilizing.
Egypt, the PLO and even Syria did not come to negotiate with Israel because they have become convinced of the wisdom of Theodore Herzl, but because their efforts to destroy Israel or to deny its place in the region have led them to a destructive and costly dead end.
Not surprisingly, the United States has become the only viable intermediary in the Arab-Israeli conflict. For Israel, the United States — since at least 1967 — has been the one actor consistently sympathetic (and far less vulnerable to Arab pressure.) Countries such as Britain, France, Italy and Japan, and international or regional institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union, have on occasion been supportive but (with some notable exceptions — as in the case of the Federal Republic of Germany) have shown themselves all too ready to succumb to one or another external consideration: the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, the lure of markets for arms exports, terrorism, or even (especially in the case of France and Russia) the desire to demonstrate their political distance from the United States.
For Israel, the special relationship with the United States thus has been of fundamental importance. During the height of the Cold War, this worked to counterbalance what could otherwise have been dangerously strong intervention from the Soviet Union. Thus, for example, during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973 the United States played a vital role in military resupply after a week of heavy fighting and serious losses had depleted Israel’s reserves of weapons and ammunition. Moreover, on October 24, 1973, when the Soviets, in effect, threatened to deploy several airborne divisions to aid the surrounded Egyptian Third Army on the East side of the Suez Canal, the administration of President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger reacted vigorously. They did so not only in messages to Soviet leaders, but in declaring a heightened state of military readiness (DefCon III), alerting the 82nd Airborne Division for possible movement and ordering the aircraft carrier Franklin Delano Roosevelt to join another American carrier, the Independence, in the eastern Mediterranean. (15) By October 26th, the crisis had ended, with the Soviets backing off from their threat and preparations, including dispersing amphibious ships that had been converging toward the Egyptian port of Alexandria.
The intimate ties the United States has with Israel provide a key security guarantee, but they have not come without a tradeoff in terms of constraints on Israel’s freedom of maneuver. In June 1967, at a time when the security connection was less intimate and the United States was heavily involved in Vietnam, Israel took the unilateral decision to pre-empt militarily after the Johnson administration and the governments of Prime Minister Harold Wilson in Britain and President Charles De Gaulle in France were unable to agree on measures to lift the Egyptian blockade on the Gulf of Aqaba. On this occasion, the Israelis found themselves dangerously exposed to a major military threat, but also able ultimately to act on their own against Egypt and Syria after President Nasser had achieved the ouster of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) and deployed large numbers of troops and tanks in the Sinai. (16)
Six years later, however, and more closely connected to the United States, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir found itself constrained not to preempt in the hours preceding the Egyptian-Syrian attack on October 6, 1973. Instead, in order to leave no ambiguity on who had started the war, and because of concerns not to jeopardize support from the United States, the israelis were forced to absorb the costly initial attack before responding.
This pattern of constraints upon Israel’s freedom of maneuver was also evident in two subsequent conflicts. In the case of the 1982 war in Lebanon, Israel first obtained a ‘green light’ from Secretary of Defense Alexander Haig before launching its invasion against the forces of Yasir Arafat and the PLO which had come to assert control over Southern Lebanon. (17) Avner Yaniv and I have previously hypothesized that the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was compelled not merely by the ambitions of its then Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, but by a strategic logic. As a result, the Israeli government maneuvered vis-a-vis both the Israeli public and the United States, and we argued that the convergence of domestic uproar in Israel along with pressure from the American government caused the Israeli military to besiege Beirut rather than attack directly into it in hot pursuit of the PLO. (18)
In turn, the Gulf War of January-February 1991, placed the Israeli government in a difficult position, after Tel Aviv and Haifa became the target of Iraqi Scud missile attacks. Decades of its strategic doctrine called for Israel to determine its own course of action and to take firm military measures by means of air or ground attacks against Iraq. Yet because of concern to insure the anti-Saddam coalition against defection by any of its Arab participants, the Bush administration brought intense pressure to bear in dissuading Israel from acting militarily.
On the other hand, there was a degree of reciprocity in the relationship: accompanying the pressures to discourage Israel from acting on its own, the Americans gave increased emphasis to efforts at destroying SCUD missiles by means of air and (along with British Special Forces) covert commando attacks inside Iraq. (19) The United States deployed Patriot missile batteries with American crews in Tel Aviv and Haifa, the first time that Israel had ever relied on forces of another country to come to its defense. (20) Ironically, the impact of the Patriot batteries was ultimately more psychological and political than military: although the results remain disputed, later assessments (and even some initial evaluations during the war) indicated that the Patriots were relatively ineffective against the Scuds. (21)
If the relationship with the United States has thus become one of great intimacy and entanglement, the limits on the capacity of other states to act effectively to influence events in the region and serve as catalysts in the peace process continue to provide a strong contrast. This is evident in the recent experience of French and British leaders in visiting the region. In 1997, for example, French President Jacques Chirac found himself and his entourage in a televised shoving match with Israeli security men assigned to protect him during a visit to the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s diplomatically counterproductive spring 1998 visit to israel serves as another recent illustration. Cook’s frustration with the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led him into a confrontation with the Israeli government. In doing so, he antagonized even the Labor opposition within Israel and many Israelis otherwise quite critical of Netanyahu. As a result, his intervention proved counterproductive, and he was quite unlikely to be seen as an acceptable intermediary between Israel and its Palestinian and Arab neighbors.
In sum, the United States-Israeli special relationship is the product of a complex mixture of causal factors and incorporates historical memory, religious values, societal ties, considerations of regional stability and American national interest. Domestic politics within the United States have been a significant contributory factor, and the choices of individual leaders in Washington or Jerusalem can and do impact significantly. Personal relationships do matter, as evident, for example, in the exceptional rapport that developed between President Clinton and the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, or the lack of confidence and barely suppressed antagonism between President George Bush and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir or President Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
But, at least over the course of the past half-century, it is these longer term causes that ultimately have come to matter most in shaping the relationship and the course of American policy toward Israel.
1. Richard Rosecrance (ed.), America as an Ordinary Country (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1976.)
2. For the text of the White Paper of May 17, 1939, see Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Arab-Israeli Reader: A Document History of the Middle East Conflict (New York: Facts on File Publications, 4th edition, 1985), pp. 64-75.
3. Steven L. Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America’s Middle East Policy, From Truman to Reagan (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985, pp. 21-22.
4. Foreign Relations of the United States Diplomatic Papers (Washington DC, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1948), pp. 974-975, quoted in Spiegel, p. 37.
5. Spiegel, op. cit., p. 38.
6. By the late 1970s, Israel had become the largest American foreign aid recipient, and by 1985 the amount of assistance had reached $3 billion per year. See, e.g., New York Times, April 18,
7. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998 forthcoming. NB: This discussion of Ben Zvi’s work and its implications is drawn from Robert J. Lieber, ‘Geopolitics, Local Politics and America’s Role in the Middle East Peace Process, ‘ paper prepared for the XVIlth World Congress International Political Science Association, Seoul, Korea 17-21 August 1997.
8. Dulles letter of August 1, 1958, quoted by Ben-Zvi, unpublished manuscript, Chapter 3, p. 76.
9. Kenneth Organski, The $36 Billion Bargain: Strategy and Politics in U.S. Assistance to Israel (NY: Columbia University Press, 1990), p. 27.
10. Mitchell G. Bard and Daniel Pipes, ‘How Special is the U.S.-Israel Special Relationship,’ Middle East Quarterly, Vol. IV, No. 2 (June 1967), p. 43.
11. For elaboration on the diminished security threat and its wider implications, see Lieber, ‘Eagle Without a Cause: Making Foreign Policy Without the Soviet Threat,’ in Eagle Adrift: American Foreign Policy at the End of the Century (NY: Longman, 1997), pp. 3-25.
12. John F. Riley (ed.), American Public Opinion and U.S. Foreign Policy, (Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 1995), pp. 20 and 26.
13. Data from New York, April 26, 1998.
14. For an authoritative account of American decision making on NATO enlargement, see James M. Goldgeier, ‘NATO Expansion: The Anatomy of a Decision,’ The Washington Quarterly (Winter 1998): 85-100.
15. For a detailed account, see Henry A. Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1982), pp. 581-601. See also Raymond L. Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations From Nixon to Reagan (Washington, DC: Brookings, 1985), pp. 376-380. Garthoff describes Brezhnev as making a veiled threat of possible unilateral Soviet action if the United States was unwilling to join in sending Soviet and American troops to impose not only a ceasefire but a comprehensive peace. He also notes that seven Soviet airborne divisions had been placed on alert by October 11-12. (Ibid., p. 377.)
16. For analysis of Israel’s preemption in June 1967, and the broader implications concerning the limitations of the United nations and of the international system more broadly in dealing with security threats, see Robert J. Lieber, No Common Power: Understanding International Relations (New York: Harper Collins, third edition, 1995), pp. 249-252.
17. See Zeev Schiff, ‘Green Light, Lebanon,’ Foreign Policy No. 50 (Spring 1983): 73-85; Schiff and Ehud Yaari, Israel’s Lebanon War (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984).
18. Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: Politics, Strategy and the Israeli Experience in Lebanon (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), especially p. vii. Also Avner Yaniv and Robert Lieber, ‘Personal Whim or Strategic Imperative? The Israeli Invasion of Lebanon,’ International Security, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Fall 1983): 117-142.
19. See, e.g., Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor, The General’s War: The Inside Story of the Gulf Conflict (Boston: Little, Brown, 1995), pp. 236-247.
20. Lawrence Freedman and Efraim Karsh, The Gulf Conflict, 1990-1991: Diplomacy and War in the New World Order (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 334-339.
21. Israeli military analysts identified the problem even before the war had ended. See Rick Atkinson, Crusade: The Untold Story of the Persian Gulf War (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993), pp. 277-281. A subsequent, more rigorous analysis is sharply critical of the Patriot missile: ‘…our first wartime experience with tactical ballistic missile defense resulted in what may have been an almost total failure to intercept quite primitive attacking missiles….’ Theodore A. Postel, ‘Lessons of the Gulf War Experience with patriot,’ International Security Vol. 16, No. 3 (Winter 1991/92) 119-171, at 124.
Robert J. Lieber is Professor of Government at Georgetown University. His most recent book is an edited volume, Eagle Adrift: American Foreign Policy at the End of the Century (New York: Longman, 1997). This article will be a chapter in Robert O. Freedman, Israel at 50 (University Press of Florida, 1999).
Any analysis of the United States-Israeli relationship should begin with recognition of the absolute uniqueness of both parties. For its part, Israel (as its founding father, David Ben-Gurion is said to have remarked) was meant to be just an ordinary Jewish country! Fifty years after its creation, the modern state of Israel has become well established in world affairs–a phenomenon that might not otherwise seem remarkable, except that this has taken place after a hiatus of nearly 2000 years. Moreover, Israel had acquired an importance far beyond its size. What other country of five million people figures so large in the eyes of its friends and foes? Of how many other countries can most well informed observers name even two leading political figures? The point is made more tellingly if we ask ourselves quickly to name the Prime Ministers of Japan, or Italy or Spain, or are challenged to identify the second most important political figure in Germany.