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Israel and America: Their 'Special Relationship'

Veterans News Now

Now that the dust is starting to settle over the nomination of Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense,it is useful to reflect on the bitter dispute that accompanied it,and to consider what it did – and did not – mean. Not much has been heard from Hagel’s opponents,while his supporters have been trumpeting their victory. But silence does not imply submission,and there are more than a few indicators that claims of victory are at best premature,and at worst misleading,especially as they pertain to the alleged “special relationship” between Israel and the United States.

by Dr. Alan Sabrosky

Contributing Editor

The “Special Relationship” That Wasn’t

Whenever Israel’s supporters today speak of a “special relationship” with the US that is supposedly graven in stone, it is useful to remember that something very different existed when Israel came into existence in 1948 on the gutted carcass of Palestine. The US recognized Israel, but that was about it. Hollywood was (and remains) largely a Jewish preserve, but their level of influence elsewhere – in the government, the media and academia – was limited. Prominent American Jews felt no obligation to endorse Israel or Israeli leaders, no matter what happened. Dozens (including Albert Einstein) signed a letter published in the New York Times in 1948 protesting the arrival of Menachem Begin and condemning his actions. And the general American public was largely indifferent to what happened in the Middle East.

The US government echoed these sentiments. Most Israeli military assistance in the 1950s and well into the 1960s came from a scattering of other countries (e.g., the Israeli aircraft that attacked the USS Liberty in June 1967 were procured from France), but not from the US – and American economic aid to Israel during those years was extremely limited. It is noteworthy that in the Suez Crisis of 1956, President Eisenhower – who as General Eisenhower had led the Allied forces in the West that broke Nazi Germany, and was more intimately familiar with the actual situation of European Jews in WWII than any other US president before or since – had no qualms at all about ordering Israel (along with Britain and France) to cease operations against Egypt and to withdraw. Nor did President Kennedy (another WWII veteran, albeit a junior one) hesitate to make it absolutely clear to Israeli leaders that he would not support or condone Israel’s acquisition of a national nuclear force – a position that may well have cost him his life – but also a position consistent with his predecessors that the Israeli tail did not wag the American dog. And the Congress was essentially devoid of Israeli influence – indeed, an Israeli diplomat told me personally that at the time of the 1956 Suez Crisis, Israel had access to “only two minor Congressional offices” (his words).

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