Published by The Freeman Center
The Maccabean Online
Political Analysis and Commentary
U.S. Support For Israel Has Never Been \'Unwavering\'
By: Dr. Daniel Mandel, Morton A. Klein
The Jewish Press - Wednesday, April 5, 2006
The recently published 83-page so-called study "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" by the University of Chicagoís John Mearsheimer and Harvardís Stephen Walt makes a fundamental claim: that the U.S. has given "unwavering support" to Israel. This is demonstrably untrue.
History shows that while the U.S. record on Israel is better than that of any other country, it still is quite mixed. For example, the U.S. actually imposed an arms embargo during Israelís 1948-49 war of survival against six Arab nations. In the 1950ís, when the U.S. was refusing to supply Israel with fighter planes, France became the supplier to Israel of critically needed Mirage aircraft.
In 1956, Israel conquered the Sinai from the Egyptians following six years of constant attacks by terrorist bands (fedayeen) sponsored by Egypt. Nonetheless, the Eisenhower administration insisted on Israel withdrawing completely from Sinai without any peace treaty or recognition demanded from Egypt and threatened Israel with sanctions if it failed to comply.
In 1967, Egypt imposed a blockade on Israelís southern port at Eilat. Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban asked President Johnson to honor U.S. commitments made in 1957 to ensure free passage of Israeli shipping and break the blockade. Johnson refused. The U.S. supported UN Security Council ceasefire resolutions that prevented a still bigger defeat for the Arab belligerents in the Six-Day War, and when Israel was attacked by Egypt and Syria in 1973 the U.S. pressured Israel into ending the war prematurely when Israeli forces were on the road to Damascus and Cairo. This again prevented Israel from reaping a more decisive military victory.
During the Carter administration, the U.S. voted for UN Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to withdraw from Lebanon following an Israeli incursion in 1978 Ė despite the fact it had been the launching pad for major terrorist attacks on Israel Ė and condemning Israelís annexation of eastern Jerusalem. Annual U.S. aid to Israel rose from some $700 million to $3 billion after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, but only to make up for Israel relinquishing over $2 billion in annual revenue Israel was receiving from Sinai oil wells it had developed and ceded to Egypt.
The U.S. condemned Israelís 1981 air strike against Saddam Husseinís nuclear reactor at Osirak, even though a nuclear-armed Saddam would have posed a mortal threat to Israel. The Reagan administration not only sold AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia despite strong protest from Israel and pro-Israel groups in America, but also held up arms supplies for several months when Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin rejected the 1982 Reagan peace plan as "national suicide" for Israel.
Successive U.S. administrations have opposed Israeli settlement in the territories conquered in 1967, leading to tensions and crises in the relationship. In 1992, the first Bush administration withheld loan guarantees to Israel in protest of Israeli settlement policies. The first Bush administration also insisted on convening the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991, despite deep Israeli misgivings and opposition.
During the Oslo peace process (1993-2000), the Clinton administration often pressured Israel to make one-sided concessions of territory, arms, assets and release of imprisoned Palestinian terrorists while ignoring Palestinian failure to comply with its obligations to stop terrorism and end the incitement to hatred and murder that feeds it. Securing new agreements was preferred to holding Palestinians to past ones, as U.S. chief negotiator Dennis Ross subsequently admitted.
Far from giving Israel unconditional or unqualified support in the midst of a terrorist offensive against it, both the Clinton and Bush administrations regularly criticized as excessive, provocative and unhelpful legitimate Israeli counter-terrorism measures, including roadblocks, withholding revenues from the PA and targeting terrorists Ė all measures that have been utilized by the U.S. in the war on radical Islamic terrorism.
Both President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell criticized Israelís killing of Hamas terrorist leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, describing it as "deeply troubling" and calling for "maximum restraint."
The U.S. has criticized Israelís security fence and both Bush and Powell pressured Israel to curtail military incursions against terrorist strongholds, most notably during Israelís offensive in Jenin in 2002.
Despite U.S. understanding that the PA has been a haven and launching pad for terrorists, the Bush administration has continued to press Israel to resume negotiations and make concessions to the PA. Most significantly Ė and despite Israeli objections on 14 points Ė the U.S. joined the EU, UN and Russia in endorsing the 2003 road map peace plan, which seeks further Israeli concessions.
In fact, speaking to a pro-Israel audience at the AIPAC policy conference shortly after the road map was introduced, then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice publicly demanded that Israel accept it, fundamentally ignoring Israeli reservations on matters of vital interests.
Finally, despite U.S. law, both the Clinton and Bush administrations have used successive presidential waivers to defer relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In this context, the Clinton administration also refused to veto Security Council resolutions repudiating Israeli authority in Jerusalem.
Although U.S. support for Israel has been important, it certainly has not been "unwavering." The fundamental premise of Mearsheimer and Waltís error-ridden report Ė that American Jews and others have been successful in forcing total, unequivocal U.S. support for Israel Ė is thus simply untrue.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America and editor of "The Dangers of a Palestinian State" (2002).
Dr. Daniel Mandel is director of the ZOA Center for Middle East Policy and author of "H.V. Evatt and the Establishment of Israel: The Undercover Zionist" (2004).