Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance: An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim

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[Hat tip to Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs]

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Understanding the U.S.-Israel Alliance:
An Israeli Response to the Walt-Mearsheimer Claim

Dore Gold

  • Contrary to the assertions of Professors Stephen Walt of Harvard University and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, who claim that no compelling strategic argument can explain American support for Israel, which they argue has been promoted by “the unmatched power of the Israel lobby,” the two countries have, in fact, developed strong strategic ties over the years that have evolved into a unique alliance.
  • As early as December 27, 1962, President John F. Kennedy told Israeli Foreign Minister Golda Meir: “The United States has a special relationship with Israel in the Middle East really comparable only to what it has with Britain over a wide range of world affairs.” During the Cold War, the U.S. and Israel had a joint strategic interest in defeating the aggression of Soviet-backed rogue states in the Middle East. This began when Nasser’s Egypt intervened in the Arabian Peninsula in 1962, through Yemen, and in 1970 when Syria invaded Jordan.
  • In 1981, Israel destroyed the nuclear reactor of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, severely reducing Iraqi military strength. Ten years later, after a U.S.-led coalition had to liberate Kuwait following Iraq’s occupation of that oil-producing mini-state, Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney in October 1991 thanked Israel for its “bold and dramatic action” a decade earlier.
  • Presently, U.S.-Israeli defense ties have grown even tighter. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on March 15, 2007, USEUCOM commander General Bantz J. Craddock stated that Israel was America’s “closest ally” in the Middle East and that it “consistently and directly” supported U.S. interests. This professional evaluation of the U.S.-Israel relationship flies in the face of Walt and Mearsheimer’s assertion that Israel is a “strategic burden” that does not serve the American national interest.
  • Because many elements of this strategic relationship are kept secret – particularly in the intelligence field – it is difficult for academics and pundits to assess the true value of U.S.-Israel ties. Nonetheless, General George F. Keegan, a retired U.S. Air Force intelligence chief, disclosed in 1986 that he could not have obtained the same intelligence that he received from Israel if he had “five CIAs.” During his interview, at which time the Cold War was still raging, he added: “The ability of the U.S. Air Force in particular, and the Army in general, to defend whatever position it has in NATO owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any single source of intelligence.”

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