Americans Know That Israel is Their Ally

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Dr. Judith Apter Klinghoffer taught history and International relations at Rowan University, Rutgers University, the Foreign Affairs College in Beijing as well as at Aarhus University in Denmark where she was a senior Fulbright professor. She is an affiliate professor at Haifa University. Her books include Israel and the Soviet Union, Vietnam, Jews and the Middle East: Unintended Consequences and International Citizens' Tribunals: Mobilizing Public Opinion to Advance Human Rights

In a recent interview New York Senator Chuck Schumer noted that there is a battle going on inside the Obama administration about Israel and added correctly that such a battle is not unusual.  The State Department tends to be Arabist, while the Defense Department and the military appreciate Israel’s strategic value.  The difference is that, educated by the most radical leftist (hence anti-Israeli) professors he could find, Barack Obama came to power believing that Israel, like the U.S., is a bully that needs to be humbled and the way to sell that need to the American public is by convincing it that Israel is a strategic burden even if that hurts U.S. interests in the process.  The result is a transformation of U.S. policy towards Israel radical enough to shock as savvy a foreign policy expert as Fareed Zakaria.

Barack Obama’s close friend and surreptitious adviser, Rashid Khalidi, explains

ZAKARIA:  Rashid, what do you think? Does -- does it strike you as a shift for the -- the United States to be suggesting that this stalled peace process hurts America's ability to pursue its interests?

KHALIDI:  What they're saying is that Israel is a drag on the United States.  It's not a strategic asset, and this is a discursive shift of some significance.

I don't think they're saying, you know, remove Settlement X from Hilltop Y and the Arab will sing Hosannas to, you know, American power.  What they are saying is that Israel is not the strategic asset it was touted as during the Cold War. . . .

ZAKARIA:  Do you see the shift is as dramatic as -- as you were just describing?  Because what Obama has said and what Petraeus' report says is not Israel is a strategic drag, it's that the lack of progress in the peace process is the problem, you know, that -- that we need this process to be energized.  Otherwise, it is pointed to by the -- by Jihadis, it is used as a recruiting tool.  That's a -- that's very different from saying Israel is a strategic drag.

KHALIDI: I think that discursively, if you sit down and parse what they're saying, at -- at base, at root, that is essentially the message. . . .

But is Khalidi right?  Is Israel a strategic drag?  Not if Defense Secretary Robert Gates is right.  Gates writes:

In coming years, the greatest threats to the United States are likely to emanate from states that cannot adequately govern themselves or secure their own territory.  The U.S. government must improve its ability to help its partners defend themselves or, if necessary, fight alongside U.S. troops.

Unlike its neighbors, Israel is a thriving democracy with a first rate military which has repeatedly proved its ability to defend itself under the most trying circumstances.  Alexander Haig aptly called Israel America’s "unsinkable battleship in the Middle East."  Much of the left’s distaste for Israel is directly related the Jewish country’s usefulness as an American strategic ally.  The Israeli military may not fight along side the American one as some NATO members do but it has done much, if not more, than many NATO members to enhance U.S. military ability in the post-Cold War era.

Benjamin Netanyahu said as much when he remarked that Israel shared everything with the United States, everything.  That may be the reason that fifty American admirals and generals responded to intimations that Israel is a strategic burden with an open letter to Congress and the President.  They wrote:

As American defense professionals, we view events in the Middle East through the prism of American security interests.

The United States and Israel established security cooperation during the Cold War, and today the two countries face the common threat of terrorism by those who fear freedom and liberty.  Historically close cooperation between the United States and Israel at all levels including the IDF, military research and development, shared intelligence and bilateral military training exercises enhances the security of both countries.  American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks..

Israel and the United States are drawn together by shared values and shared threats to our well-being.

The proliferation of weapons and nuclear technology across the Middle East and Asia, and the ballistic missile technology to deliver systems across wide areas require cooperation in intelligence, technology and security policy.  Terrorism, as well as the origins of financing, training and executing terrorist acts, need to be addressed multilaterally when possible.  The dissemination of hatred and support of terrorism by violent extremists in the name of Islam, whether state or non-state actors, must be addressed as a threat to global peace.

In the Middle East, a volatile region so vital to U.S. interests, it would be foolish to disengage -- or denigrate -- an ally such as Israel.

 Danny Reshef argues that the time has come to tell the full story, but to do so, Israel will have to lift the veil of secrecy surrounding Israeli aid to the U.S.:

When the U.S., for its own reasons, went to war against Muslim states, Israel possessed the most extensive knowledge base of the type of fighting involved as a consequence of her experience in Lebanon and in fighting Palestinian terror.  Since 2003, the American army in Iraq made extensive use of Israeli technology in using and fortifying vehicles.  Operational methods, defensive measures, identification and diffusion of mines, as well as training methods, were transferred from Israel to the American army and saved the lives of hundreds of American soldiers.

Israel has in its possession a wide array of correspondence from various American agencies gratefully acknowledging Israel’s contribution, and even estimating the number of lives it saved in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Israel helped to militarize and make more precise American drones technology, thereby improve the efficacy of its targeted assassinations.

Indeed, it was the use of Israeli methods which enabled the U.S. to increase significantly its use of drones in the past year because those methods increased the number of enemy casualties while at the same time decreasing civilian casualties.  Foreign sources estimate that up to 400 American military personnel went through Israeli training in real time intelligence gathering to identify and pin point military targets.

A recent Quinnipiac poll shows that Americans may not be aware of all the details of Israeli help to the U.S., but they, if not their current president, understand Israel’s strategic value and, hence disagree with Barack Obama’s policy towards it.  Most instructively, those who understand Israel’s value most support it most.  Israel has no better allies than American military families whose lives are on the line.  Asked in a recent poll “Do you think the President of the United States should be a strong supporter of Israel or not?” 66% of Americans answer “yes” and 19% “no.”  The affirmative number amongst military families is 75%.

Similar results can be found when asked whether “President Obama is a strong supporter of Israel or not?“  34% of Americans believe he is a strong supporter and 42% think he is not.  Amongst military families only 32% believe he is a strong supporter of Israel, while 49% understand he is not.

These realities are not, as critics like to insinuate, the result of a powerful Israeli lobby (which is, in any event, headed at the moment by a staunch Obama supporter).  Is the Israel lobby responsible for the fact that two-thirds of both houses of Congress sent President Obama a letter suggesting an end to his orchestrated attack on Israel?  It is these realities that forced the president's spokesman to deflect Senator Schumer’s criticisms of Obama’s treatment of Israel by stating that the U.S. has “an unwavering commitment to the security of Israel and the Israeli people."  The pertinent question is whether a commitment by an American administration that believes Israel to be a strategic burden is credible.  The simple answer is no.

The last time an American president so believed was in 1967.  Then, as now, Foggy Bottom argued that American-Israeli relations are a one way street and that Israel is a strategic burden.  The president was Lyndon Johnson, and the result was the Six Day War.  It was instigated by Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser in the belief that he was strong enough to beat Israel provided Washington did nothing to save the Jewish state.  He was wrong about Egypt’s military strength, but right in doubting American interference.

Israel stood alone, but her victory also helped save the American position in the Middle East at a time when the U.S. was mired in the jungles of Vietnam.  The role played then by Egypt is played today by Iran, with Nasser's stand-in today played by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  As Lebanese journalist Elias Bejjani has already concluded, this is the reason that Iran, not Israel, will start the war.  Now, unlike then, U.S. forces are stationed in the Middle East and the weapons involved are nuclear.  Need I write more?!

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Arnold Shcherban - 5/27/2010

Ms. Kilinghofer,
Do you have a speck of integrity left in your bones by feeding "US" with the such a phony argument in favor of your "Israel a great ally of the USA in Middle East" claim as the conclusion of the US-based Jewish institute?
Did anyone in the world expected that institute to come to different conclusion?

james joseph butler - 5/16/2010

Not to point out the obvious but it does bear repeating; before Israel was the unsinkable battleship of the Middle East, America didn't need one. For all the most obvious reasons, oil, money, a belief in the supernatural, Arabs and Americans got along quite well, until Israel appeared.

Israel as an asset in the Middle East is predicated on the presence of Harry Truman's born again Old Testament. Take George Marshall's advice, delete Israel, and imagine what America's relationship with the Arab/Muslim world be like. Better yet, use Sayd Qutb or Osama bin Laden's words, not the selective outtakes from pro-Israeli writers, but the truth, the causus belli of Muslim animosity toward America, is America's unqualified, unthinking, support for apartheid.

omar ibrahim baker - 5/14/2010

If that is your counter argument about 20th and 21st century politics then you have really made my day !
People are not as stupid as you presume Elliott...so go on with it!
I sincerely hope that you will maintain this line of argument and logic in the future .

Judith Apter Klinghoffer - 5/13/2010


Elliott Aron Green - 5/12/2010

I amend my above comment:

... the general, contemptuous attitude of the Islamic religion towards THE LIFE AND PROPERTY OF non-Muslims.

. . . .
as repeatedly demonstrated over the centuries BUT THOUGHT TO BE WANING IN THE LAST 200 YEARS, ESPECIALLY SINCE THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE, BUT RETURNED WITH A VENGEANCE, especially after 9-11.

Elliott Aron Green - 5/12/2010

Omar claims that Islamic/Arab hostility to America is because of US support for Israel. As Art E has pointed out, that support is less than consistent and solid on the part of various administrations, and has been so since 1948. Now, Omar, if you are right, how do you explain the Arab/Muslim pirate attacks on American ships in the Mediterranean and nearby Atlantic waters at the very beginning of the Republic?? The old American history books used to call them the Barbary Pirates. But they were Arabs and other Muslims. Their piracy reflected the general Muslim attitude toward non-Muslims and their property. There was no state of Israel in 1800 when Barbary piracy was flourishing. Why did those pirates attack American shipping then, holding captives for ransom or enslaving them, etc??

Elliott Aron Green - 5/12/2010

I don't know whom Arnold is calling "monkey." I hope it is not Mr Connally who correctly stated the general, contemptuous attitude of the Islamic religion towards non-Muslims, as repeatedly demonstrated over the centuries, especially since 9-11.

A. M. Eckstein - 5/7/2010

I just provided specific examples, Arnold.
You and Omar believe the *same* crazy things, which I specifically listed, Omar because he's an ignorant Muslim fanatic, and you because you're some sort of tiers-mondiste leftist. You end up at the same place.

Arnold Shcherban - 5/7/2010

Since you could not take on my challenge (submitting a shred of evidence that I'm "in bed with Islamic fanatics"), as I predicted you wouldn't, you're what I always said and proved (with your own words) on numerous occasions: perpetual fake and ARTless liar covering the latter with quasi-pundit's toga.

A. M. Eckstein - 5/6/2010

Arnold, your statement that no one every criticizes Israel here is also blatantly false, your depiction of Zionist fanatics is insulting to your fellow bloggers, and your calling people who disagree with you "monkeys" doesn't convince anyone of anything except your own crudeness.

You're a worthy companion of Omar.

A. M. Eckstein - 5/6/2010

Arnold, it's clear you go along with Omar's baseless accusations of magically powerful Jews controlling U.S. foreign policy. It's in origin a Nazi trope.

Arnold Shcherban - 5/6/2010

That's exactly what I was talking about: making ABSOLUTELY BASELESS accusations (such as, e.g., me being "in bed with Islamic fanatics") in my address, just because I criticize some actions of Israeli governments and support given to them by rabid Zionists like you're, Art.
Be a man of your word, at least once in your life, by giving us a single PROOF (in my own words) that I ideologically or in any other way SUPPORT Islamic (or any other) fanatics in their hatred and terrorism against Jews and Israel (or anyone else) and I will be ashamed of myself!
Since you or anyone else cannot do to that (unless DISTORTING the meaning of some of my remarks in MAJOR way), who should be ashamed for
yourself, if not ARTless liar.

art eckstein - 5/5/2010

Omar's presenting a series of classic anti-semitic tropes, including specifically Jews as disloyal Americans and Jews secretly controlling the world, and you're in bed with him ideologically, Arnold.

These anti-semitic tropes from Omar have a quite specific origin. They result from the hideous marriage of Nazi anti-semitism and traditional Muslim contempt for Jews. Please read Jeffrey Herf, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (Yale Univ. Press, 2009). This study gives the first full account of the sewer of anti-semitism that Omar's hero Al-Husseini spewed forth on Nazi radio from Berlin for his friends Hitler and Himmler. The transcibed radio broadcasts of Husseini run to 3,000 pages of bile. Every aspect of Omar's ideology is found there. Omar's ideology is a product of that bile, and you agree with him and his Nazi-origin conspiracy theories of magic Jews secretly controlling U.S. foreign policy (and the world).

You ought to be ashamed, Arnold. You're an example of the far-left partnership with ignorant and intellectually primitive Islamic fanatics whose ideology derives partly from Hitler, partly from the Koran.

Arnold Shcherban - 5/5/2010

Hi, Monkey

Arnold Shcherban - 5/5/2010

If you ever let your internal Zionist guard down and be at least, mildly objective in your comments, then I would be in YOUR company, Art.
So far I'm in no one's company, but I support the truth and objectivity on issues in question, when I encounter those, regardless the company they come from (conservative, liberal, fascist, communist, etc.), Art.
I also, strongly dislike fanatics and dogma-striken folks, whatever form their fanaticism and dogmatism come in: religious, socio-political, nationalistic, etc.
The latter by the way is one of the major reasons I cannot stand vile chauvinistic, racist stance you and others in your camp invariably take on issues concerning Israeli foreign policies, US pro-Israeli Jewish lobby, while accusing the ones, including Jews, who merely squeaks against those above, in antisemitism and other deadly sins.
So, when you and your friends in arms somehow get an objectivity in your bones and demons of nationalism and double standards out, then I'll become one of your and your friends most loyal supporters.

John Connally - 5/4/2010

These apologist and Islamist "pundits" have never ever criticized Palestinian government and terrorists for anything,... but for the lack of aggressiveness and determination in dealing with (read - killing of) Westerners, in general, and Jews, in particular.
This alone clearly shows their lack of elementary objectivity and professional

A. M. Eckstein - 5/4/2010

Omar now equates Zionism with Nazism. The only people advocating genocide are the Iranians and Hamas (Ch. 8 of the Hamas Covenant, Omar.)

omar ibrahim baker - 5/4/2010

The call to "wipe out" Nazism from the surface of the earth NEVER meant to genocide the German people.
It meant exactly what it said: to "wipe out" the political doctrine, Nazism, and the state, not the nation, embracing it!
Self evident except with some....

art eckstein - 5/3/2010

A-jad's 2005 quote from Khomeini indicating that the Muslims would "wipe Israel away" was denied on specious grounds by Mr. Blankfort (see my entry above).

To that famous threat can now be added the following from two weeks ago (April 18, 2010): "The Zionist regime is on its way to collapse. The will of the regional nations is that after 60 odd yers, the root of this corrrupt microbe and the main reason for insecurity in the region be pulled out." This was said at the annual Army Day parade, as Iran's military displayed a wide array of long-range missiles.

A-jad is consistent, Mr. Blankfort.

art eckstein - 5/3/2010

Omar writes:

"The wiser course would be, of course, NOT to create them in the first place.
Does that escape American policy makers?
Of course NOT but evidently they seem to be powerless against an influential group that relegates US interests to second priority status….and that is the American problem."

This is simply slander and anti-semitism. Omar knows very well, because long ago we listed them, the long list of decisions both of Presidents and Congresses that went against Israeli interests. The implication that American Jews who support Israel are traitors, and that the U.S.Government is under their control, is simply vile.

Arnold S., you appear to be in good intellectual company with Omar here. Congratulations.

omar ibrahim baker - 5/3/2010

Klinghoffer's whole post rests on the premise that the USA needs Israel as a strategic ally.
She does not, though, say explicitly as an ally against whom!
The implication is against Arab and Moslem states in the Middle and possibly in the far East.
It could hardly be against a resurgent Russia or present China.
Certainly not against Venezuela or Cuba though Israel, assisted by AIPAC&Co, will do its utmost to sell itself against either or both .

Her proposition presumes that enmity against the USA will remain as is if not increase, at least, in Arab and Moslem states.
Which is correct enough as long as the USA supports an aggressive and expansionist Israel as has been the case since 1948?
So we have here the USA creating its own enemies in the region by supporting an aggressive and expansionist Israel and in turn needing Israel as an ally to combat those same enemies that supporting Israel created in the first place.
Sort of chicken and egg puzzle?
YES and NO!
YES in that that is what happened and is happening and NO in that the USA need not create those enemies for genuine American purposes or for safeguarding American interests.
As such the USA is pursuing a self defeating policy that makes the USA needlessly create its own enemies then needing allies to confront them.
The wiser course would be, of course, NOT to create them in the first place.
Does that escape American policy makers?
Of course NOT but evidently they seem to be powerless against an influential group that relegates US interests to second priority status….and that is the American problem

Arnold Shcherban - 5/3/2010

These Zionist "pundits" have never ever criticized Israeli government and Army for anything,... but for the lack of aggressiveness and determination in dealing with (read - killing of) Arabs, in general, and Palestinians, in particular.
This alone clearly shows their lack of elementary objectivity and professional

A. M. Eckstein - 5/3/2010

Ajad certainly threatened to wipe out Israel, at the World Without Zionism Conference at Teheran in Dec. 2005. The exact phrase wasn't "wipe off the map" because that is an English idiom-- used, however, by the official government translators in Teheran. And this is fundamentally accurate because the verb was active and means to "wipe out," or "wipe away", not piously hope it will vanish, and it has an object, in this case the "Zionist regime". Despite the attempts of Juan Cole and others to say that A-jad was only making a passive hope that Israel will vanish, not an active threat, here is the exact issue: the verb is active, transitive and has a direct object.

All official translations of Mr. Ahmadinejad's statement, including a description of it on his website, refer to wiping Israel away. Sohrab Mahdavi, one of Iran’s most prominent translators, says that “wipe off” or “wipe away” is more accurate than "vanish" because the Persian verb is active and transitive.

Get it?

Joseph Mutik - 5/3/2010

The historic truth is that Egypt launched the war:
- The Egyptian government ordered the closing of the straits of Tiran, the entrance to the gulf of Aqaba for the Israeli ships going to Eilat. Eilat was the only way for the Israeli commerce with Asia during a time when Egypt didn't allow Israeli ships to pass through the Suez canal (another act of war).
- In 1956 Israel, under American pressure, retreated from the Sinai peninsula under the condition that the Israeli/Egyptian border will be controlled by UN troops and Egypt doesn't introduce massive army into the Sinai peninsula. After closing the Tiran straits Egypt ordered the UN troops out and moved Egyptian troops into Sinai ready to attack Israel.
To all the Jew haters please check your facts before you type your hateful messages, HNN is after all a history site!

Gary Ostrower - 5/3/2010

Mr. Blankfort writes that "While Gamal Nasser, Egypt's president had been making verbal threats against Israel in an effort to calm his Arab critics..." it was Israel that launched the 1967 war. Well, Israel did launch the war (a preventative war that most historians view as justified), but Mr. Blankfort conveniently ignores the fact that Nasser made more than "verbal threats." He ordered the removal of UN peacekeeping troops from Sinai just weeks earlier. The removal of UNEF peacekeepers made war nearly inevitable.

Jeff Blankfort - 5/3/2010

Prof. Klinghoffer would have us believe that Egypt launched the 1967 war and that the US under Pres. Lyndon Johnson sat by and did nothing to defend Israel. That is a convenient reading of history that many supporters of Israel would like the world to believe, but it was Israel that launched the war against Egypt with a surprise attack in the early morning that wiped out its entire air force.

While Gamal Nasser, Egypt's president had been making verbal threats against Israel in an effort to calm his Arab critics, Ahmadinejad, while making a number of highly charged statements has NOT threatened to "wipe out Israel" as the press repeatedly tells us without citing the source since there isn't one to cite.

What Ahamdinejad said at one point, quoting the late Ayotollah Khomeni was that Israel or Zionism would one day disappear from the scene which while it may sound troubling to Israel and its supporters, was not a direct threat. In fact, all the threats to initiate a war between the two countries have come from Israeli government officials and high ranking military officers and they do this on at least a weekly basis.

In the meantime American officials are pressing Israel not to launch such an attack because of the catastrophic consequences it will have not only for US interests in the region and globally, but for the world's economy, as well.

This is something that does not seem to trouble the Israeli leadership but if it indeed decides to attack Iran's nuclear sites, as a result of the disasters that are likely to ensue, they may end up proving Khomeni's prediction to be correct.