Evolving US-Israel Ties: Washington Wasn’t Always Israel’s Strongest Backer
The United States has long been Israel’s strongest military and diplomatic ally. It was the first country to offer de facto recognition to the new Israeli government when the Jewish state declared independence in 1948. But it wasn’t always that way.
For the first 20 years after independence, France remained Israel’s primary foreign ally, supplying weapons and building the nuclear plant from which it developed atomic weapons. For many years, US aid to Israel was limited to loans to buy food.
What Changed? Making Israel Stronger
Ahead of the six-day violence in 1967, France imposed an arms embargo on the region and refused to deliver fighter jets Israel had paid for. Following the war, Paris chose to side with Arab countries. The then-US President Lyndon Johnson was sympathetic to Israel’s position.
Following Israel’s stunning victory and occupation of Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Johnson opened the door to decades of weapons sales that helped build the Israeli military into the strongest force in the Middle East.
All The Discussions And Agreements
In terms of an Israel-Palestine peace deal, President Bill Clinton arguably came closest when he oversaw a series of discussions that culminated in the 1993 Oslo peace accords establishing the Palestinian Authority with limited governance over parts of the occupied territories.
But the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister who signed the deal, opened the way to the rise to power of Benjamin Netanyahu, who openly opposed a Palestinian state. Clinton had one last shot at a deal at the 2000 Camp David summit. But those talks failed.
US-Israel Ties Under Barack Obama
President Barack Obama oversaw the biggest-ever military package to Israel, worth $38 billion over 10 years, but was still regarded as an unreliable backer, particularly by Netanyahu. The Prime Minister openly opposed the US deal with Tehran to contain its nuclear programme.
In his last month in office, Obama chose to fire a parting shot when Washington, in an unusual move, declined to veto a UN Security Council resolution criticising Israeli settlement construction. In response, Netanyahu said he was looking forward to the arrival of Trump.
US-Israel Ties Under Donald Trump
By the end of his time in the White House, former US President Donald Trump was deeply unpopular in several parts of the world. Israel was an exception, however, after he relocated the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, recognising the city as the capital of Israel.
The Trump administration negotiated deals in an effort to normalise ties between Israel and Arab countries. It also came up with its own Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal which allowed Israel to annex about 30% of the West Bank. Trump also withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.