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date: 22 March 2017

U.S.–Israel Relations

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. Please check back later for the full article.

Moral, political, and strategic factors have contributed to the emergence and durability of the U.S.-Israel alliance. The United States supported Israel’s creation in 1948, not only because of the lobbying efforts of American Jews, but also for humanitarian considerations stemming from the Holocaust. Beginning in the 1950s, Israel sought to portray itself as an ally of the United States in containing Communism and Soviet influence in the Middle East, on the grounds that America and Israel were fellow liberal democracies and shared a common Judeo-Christian cultural heritage. By the mid-1960s, Israel was considered a strategic proxy of American power in the Middle East in the Cold War, as the Soviet Union armed the radical anti-Western Arab states, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization championed “people’s wars of national liberation” in the Arab-Israeli context. Following the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, Israel repeatedly sought to demonstrate that it was allied with the United States by opposing political developments in the region that might threaten U.S. interests. After the end of the Cold War, the U.S.-Israel military-strategic partnership continued because of political support for Israel in the United States and the belief in Israel’s liberal democratic ideals, despite Israel’s continuing military occupation of the territories that Israel conquered in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the rise of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the Arab Spring of 2011, Israel’s expertise in counterterrorism and homeland security provided a further basis for U.S.-Israel military-strategic cooperation. Although American and Israeli interests are not identical, the foundations of the relationship are strong enough to overcome crises that would imperil a less robust alliance.