United States-Israeli Relations And Security In The Middle East, 2008-2015
The historical ties between the United States and Israel is a crucial factor in determining the United States Middle East policy. The policy thrust of successive American leaders in the Middle East has been to preserve the state of Israel and help it to maintain military and economic advantage over her neighbors. However, the relationship between the present American Administration and her Israel counterpart has been strained over disagreements on the best strategy to adopt in confronting the challenges facing Israel in the region. Therefore, this study explored the American-Israeli relations as it affects the overall security in the Middle East between 2008 and 2015 in the context of the following questions:
- Is the strained relationship between United States and Israeli Governments the cause of the instability in the Middle East?
- Is the Obama administration’s Middle East policy undermining the security of Israel? The data from this study was collected largely from secondary sources.
Qualitative/descriptive method of data analysis was used. The paper argued that the myriad of crisis that engulfed the Middle East from 2008-2015 can be attributed to the strained relationship between the United States and Israel. The study recommended that parliament in both countries should work closely to resolve areas of differences between the two countries in the overall interest of Israel in particular and Middle East in general.
Key words- United States, Israel, Security, Conflict, Middle East, War.
1.1 Background to the Study
Since Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948, The United States have been its closest friend and ally whom Israel depends on for political inspiration, financial aid, military assistance and diplomatic support. In the same vein, America has viewed Israel with a special appreciation for its democratic tradition, remarkable economic development and its determined struggle against its hostile neighbors. America’s support for the aspiration of the Jewish people dates back to the colonial period when John Adams in Levine (2015:17) said “I really wish the Jews in Judea an independent nation for, as I believe the most enlightened men of it have participated in the amelioration of the Philosophy of the age”. In the same vein in 1833, Emma Lazarus the poet wrote that “Palestine should be a home for the homeless, a goal for the wanderer, an asylum for the persecuted and a nation of the denationalized”. This poetic dream of 1833 was given a huge boost with the Balfour declaration of 1917 which stated that the British government would facilitate the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
The American Congressional Resolutions of 1922 and 1944 passed an endorsement of the Balfour declaration with the Legislatures in 33 states representing 85 percent of the population, with Governors of 35 states, 54 United States Senators and 250 Congressmen signing petitions to the President in that regard. All these led to the United Nations General Assembly setting up the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), to investigate the cause of the conflict in Palestine and proffer a solution for its resolution. This Special Committee after months of intense negotiation and lobbying from interested parties finally recommended partition in which both the Jews and Arabs will be given sovereignty in their separate state.
Ayoob (1981) observed that with UNSCOP recommendation Israel declared its Independence and the United States was the First nation to grant de-facto recognition to the new Jewish State – 11 minutes after the proclamation. This recognition is not without resentment from many countries especially the Arab world as Bruce (2008) observed that Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan mounted a joint attack against Israel the next day. This attack led to 13-months war which the new Jewish state survived with American support. This support was expressed by President Harry Truman on May 26th, 1952 when he declared “I have Faith in Israel before it was established; I have faith in it now. I believe it has a glorious future before it – not just another sovereign state but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization”.
This recognition and support for Israel has been a consistent theme in statements by American Presidents since Truman. In fact, it is like an unwritten law in the United States of America that every Presidential aspirant or candidate must pledge to ensure that America stands by Israel at all times. President Richard Nixon, in an address to the American-Israeli public affairs committee (AIPAC) on June 20th, 1970 asserted that “United States stands by its friends and that Israel is one of its friends”. His successor Gerald Ford, on assumption of office on August 9th, 1974, reaffirmed this support when he stated “Our commitment to the security and future of Israel is based upon basic morality as well as enlightened self-interest. Our role in supporting Israel honours our own heritage”. Similar commitments were made by President Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama. President Obama was more emphatic with his own commitment and support for Israel during the visit of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu on 18th May, 2009 when he stated as follows:
We (America) stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that is born of firmly held values that we as Americans share: a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to Tikkun Olam we are going to keep standing with our Israeli friends and allies.
However, the Obama administration, despite the above commitment, have since inception in 2008 not been best of friends with his Israeli counterpart led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over conflicting ideas as regards the best approach to ensure the security and development of Israel while at the same time ensuring that Israel’s neighbor’s rights and liberty are respected at all times, the Obama administration is unhappy over a host of Israel policies ranging from settlement expansion, Iran’s nuclear issue, and the quest for Palestinian state while Netanyahu’s government openly expresses contempt for Obama’s understanding of Israel’s problem and politics of the Middle East.
Goldberg (2014) observed that the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu’s government has moved towards a full blown crisis adding that the bond between the United States and Israel is now worse than it has ever been and stands to get significantly worse. Collinson (2015) argued that the disconnect between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about a lot more than personal chemistry to deep ideological divide and a sharply conflicting world view. David Makosky, a former adviser of Secretary of State, John Kerry on Middle East, in trying to explain the reason for the deteriorating relations stated that “each one is convinced that the other does not get the other side’s core interests. To Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J. street a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group in Washington, “it is a fundamental disagreement over policy and it reflects the underlying world views that are held, not only by two men, but by the two camps in each country. These issues include Israel’s refusal to halt settlement expansion in some of the disputed territories, disagreement over the best strategy in dealing with Iran’s quest for nuclear power. While the United States favors negotiation with Iran, Israeli government feels that Iran cannot be trusted to keep the agreement signed by the super powers plus Germany (P5 + 1)
The bonds between the United States of America and Israel have been described as “unbreakable” despite the glaring and worsening disagreement between the two states. The level of violent conflicts and crisis in the Middle East now is unprecedented like the civil war in Yemen, conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
Therefore, this study seeks to analyze the United States – Israeli relations and security in the Middle East,between the period, 2008-2015.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
When President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office early in 2009, there were plenty of reasons to expect that their relationship and by extension the United States – Israeli relationship would be difficult. According to Oren (2015) the President of the United States and Prime Minister of Israel has stark differences in personality, politics and world view. He argued that President Obama is celebral, cold, aloof and somewhat insular while Prime Minister Netanyahu, former officer in the sayeret matkal, the equivalent of the United States Delta Force can be described as brash, commando and thoroughly predatory. He argued further that more important than the differences of personality between the two leaders are those of substance and policy, one is center-right; the other is left or center left politically.
Both President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu see themselves as historic figures elected at fateful moments in the lives of their nations. Obama sees his mission as ending foreign land wars, putting the campaign against terrorism on a sustainable footing and honoring John F. Kennedy’s dictum that United States should “Never fear to negotiate with its enemies:”. Netanyahu on the other hand believes he is entrusted with the responsibility of securing the future of the Jewish people and the future of the Jewish state against existential threat from its neighbors in the Middle East.
Aaron Miller the head of the Wilson Center observed that immediately Benjamin Netanyahu assumed office in Israel, he began to expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank and stated that peace agreement with the Palestinians is impossible in the current environment while Obama pledged to ‘aggressively’ seek Middle East peace deal and nominated an envoy for that purpose. He noted further that Israeli administration under Netanyahu takes a hard line on ensuring that Iran, Israel’s enemy, does not obtain nuclear weapon while the United States administration favours negotiation with Iran.
In fact, the policy direction of the United States administration on the Middle East under Barack Obama was contained in a speech in Cairo, Egypt in June 2009 few months after assuming office as President of the United States. In the speech, which was about the United States relationship with the Muslim world, he called for the creation of an Independent Palestinian state and stated that the United States “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement expansion. The Israeli administration did not view kindly to Obama’s suggestion of using Israel’s 1967 boundaries as basis for starting peace talks. Israeli Prime Minister called the idea “indefensible and unacceptable”. Oren (2005) argues that President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have upset two long term principles of the relationship between the United States and Israel. One principle is that there will be “no daylight” (that disagreement between the two sides would remain private). The other is that there will be “no surprises” (No important proposal or speech would be made without the other party being informed). The present United States administration of President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister have not only violated these principles that govern their relationship but have allowed it to degenerate to an alarming level that the Prime Minister of Israel visited the United States and addressed Joint Session of the Congress without the approval of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. This was seen in the White House and around the world as a breach of protocol. Obama administration responded to this breach of protocol by stating that “if Netanyahu does not believe that a peace deal with the Iranians is the right thing to do for Israel then he needs to articulate an alternative approach that is plausible.
Many scholars have written extensively on the solidity and unbreakability of the bond between the United States and Israel. Ayoob, (1981), Tamarin (1973), Vanghan (2008). These relations they argue is mutually benefitting to both countries, hence the description of Israel “as America’s aircraft carrier in the Middle East” .This view is supported by the level of foreign aid from the United States to Israel. According to the US Information Agency Report 2014, the United States has provided nearly $3 billion in grants annually to Israel with Israel being the largest annual recipient of American aid from 1976 to 2014. The report also states that in the fiscal year 2014 the United States provided $3.9 billion in foreign Military aid to Israel and about $8 billion on loan guarantees (www.usia.gov/usis).
In addition to Financial and Military aid, the United States also provides political support to Israel having used its United Nations Security Council Veto Power 42 times with respect to Resolutions relating to Israel out of a total of 83 times in which its veto power has ever been used. Between 1991 and 2011, 15 Veto votes were used to protect Israel out of 24 in total (Oren, 2015).
These very insightful statistics notwithstanding scholars like Brooks (2015), Dowty (2014) and Kalil (2012) doubt the sincerity of Obama administration’s support and commitment to Isreal. Their doubt is based on the open disagreement between President Barrack Obama and Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu over issues like Israeli settlement expansion, Iran’s quest for Nuclear weapon and Isreal’s reluctance to support two State solution. They argue that with the present level of mistrust between the United State under President Barrack Obama and Israel under Prime Minister Benjamine Netanyahu, the United States may be reluctant to support Isreal in event of any major conflict with their Arab neigbours. These scholars ignore the historical fact that most past American Presidents have had areas of serious disagreements with their Israeli counterparts but these disagreements have not in any way undermined the military and economic relations between the two countries. For instance, President Lyndon Johnson of the United States and her Israeli counterpart Levi Eshkol had a serious disagreement in 1967 over Israel’s raid into Jordan, and in 1977 President Jimmy Carter disagreed with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin over his refusal to accept Carter’s intiative that Israel should withdraw from captured Palestinian territories.While in 1981, President Ronald Reagan threatened to cut off weapons supplies to Israel because of Israel’s advancement into Beirut Lebanon. These important facts have been over looked by scholars. It is this void or Lacuna that this study seeks to fill.
Therefore, the implications of the strained American-Israeli relationship to the overall security in the Middle East are what this study seeks to study. Arising from this, we pose the following research questions:
- Is the strained relationship between the United States government and Israeli government the cause of instability in the Middle East between 2008 – 2015?
- Is the Obama administration’s Middle East Policy undermining the security of Israel?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of this study is to find the nexus between United States-Israeli relations and security in the Middle East, between 2008 – 2015. The specific objectives are:
- To determine if the strained relationship between the United States and Israel is the cause of the instability in the Middle East between 2008 – 2015
- To ascertain whether Obama administrations Middle East Policy is undermining the security of Israel.
1.4 Significance of the Study
This study has both theoretical and practical significance. The theoretical importance of the study cannot be overemphasized given the historical tie between the United States government and Israeli government. The United States Middle East policy has always been to ensure the overall stability of that volatile region. The concern of many is that the strained relationship between the United States government and Israeli government will make it difficult if not impossible to have the right strategy and policy to contain the worsening crisis in that region. These concerns underscore the importance of engaging in this study. The idea generated in this study will help to deepen the knowledge of many on the complex relationship between the United States and Israel. It will also help to stimulate further research on the subject matter of the United States-Israel relationship and security in the Middle East.
At the practical level, this study will help both the United States and Israeli government to understand that the upsurge in violence and instability in the Middle East in the recent time is as a result of the inability of the two countries to agree on the right approach towards solving the seemingly intractable conflict in the region. The recommendations from this study will help policy makers in the Middle East to come out with a framework that will ensure the survival, security and development of the state of Israel and the liberty, peace and stability of its neighbors in the region.
Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations
6.1 Summary and Conclusion
In the course of this study, it became imperative to formulate some objectives which will serve as a guide in the research and assist in providing answers to the questions that necessitated the research or study.
To this end, the following objectives were stated:
- To determine if the strained relationship between the United States and Isreal is the cause of the Instability in the Middle East between 2008-2015.
- To ascertain whether Obama Administration’s Middle East policy is undermining the security of Isreal.
While the following research questions was stated to guide the study:
- Is the strained relationship between United State Government and Israeli Government the cause of instability in the Middle East between 2008 – 2015?
- Is the Obama administration’s Middle East policy undermining the security of Israel?
The hypotheses which was formulated and tested were:
- The strained relationship between the United States and Israel is the cause of the instability in the Mddle East.
- The Obama administration’s Middle East is undermining the security of Israel.
In an attempt to achieve the objectives of the study we analysed some empirical indicators such as:
- Poor Diplomatic Relations and Human Tragedly in the Middle East.
- Isreali Settlement Expansion and Attacks by Terror Organisations
- Stalled Peace Process and Tension between Isrealis and Palestinians.
- The United States Military aid and Isreal’s Wars in the Middle East.
In terms of poor diplomatic relations between Isreal and the United States,we noted that this have resulted in near absence of clear United States policy on Middle East leading to wars chaos, anarchy, sectarian violence, rise of extremism and refugee crisis in the middle East. And in terms of settlement expansion, we observed that continued settlement expansion by Isreal have fuelled attacks by terror organisations on Isreal leading to wars between Isreal and the Arab countries or between Isreal and militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Also on the stalled peace process we noted that lack of progress in the effort to bring lasting peace between Isrealis and Palestinians have led to constant tension among Isrealis and Palestinians which most cases leds to violence, while on the United States Millitary aid we observed that President Barack Obama’s administration have continued the American policy of military aid to Isreal which have resulted in Isreal’s military superiority to other States in the Middle East and manifested in the victories it has recorded in the over 14 wars it has fought since Independence.
Therefore, after analysing the empirical indicators we arrived at the following conclusions:
- Strained relations between the United States and Isreal have made it difficult for the United States to have a clear and coherent policy in the Middle East
- There is relationship between the strained American Isreali relations and high level of Instability in the Middle East.
- The recalcitrant behaviour of Isreali leadership has been inimical to the peace process.
- The fundamentals of the United States-Isreal relations are still strong despite differences between the two States on some issues.
From the above therefore, we have been able to prove and confirm the objectives that the study set out to achieve and can conclude that strained relationship between Presidnt Barack Obama administration and that of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu have contributed to the instability in the Middle East. We also came to the conclusion that despite the glaring differences between American and Isreali leaders, the United States have continued to support Isreal both militarily and economically.
Having examined and analysed the contending issues in the United States- Isreali relations and how it has impacted in the overall security in the Middle East, we proffer the following recommendations
- The United States Senate and Isreali Knesset should constitute a bi-partisan committee made up of members from each country to deliberate and come out with viable solutions to some of the thorny issues that have strained their relations, this way the focus will be more on the issues rather than on the personality of both President Obama and Prime Minister Natanyahu.
- There is need to restart negotiation on Middle East Peace Process. Through talking and discussion both parties can find common ground on some of the difficult issues. The present stalement gives room for enmity and suspicion among the contending forces.
- The United States must collaborate with key Arab countries like Saudi Arabia. Iran, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey to resolve the Crisis in Syria, Yemen, Irag and Libya
- The Super Powers; The United States, China, Russia, Britain and France should moblise men and resources and partner moderate Arab States to fight and defeat ISIS that is teaching the Middle East apart.
- In terms of military and economic aid to Isreal the United States must tie such aid to the condition that Isreal must freeze settlement expansion in all parts of the disputed territories and equally make some difficult concession that will lead to peace agreement between Isrealis and Palestinians.
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