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U.S.-Israeli Relations — David and Goliath?

How have U.S.-Israeli relations developed since the war against Osama bin Laden and the troubles in Palestine?

November 16, 2001

How have U.S.-Israeli relations developed since the war against Osama bin Laden and the troubles in Palestine?

Without U.S. support, some argue, the nation of Israel would never have made it beyond the state of infancy. Despite this apparent dependence, the country has always maintained a high degree of sovereignty — and was never too shy to voice dissent with the United States. Our new Read My Lips feature examines the present state of affairs of U.S.-Israeli relations. They are more tenuous than probably ever before as a result of increasing troubles in Palestine — and the war against Osama bin Laden.

What makes Israel so special?

“We are a people of words and of hope. We have not built empires, castles or palaces. All we have done is add word upon word.”
(Ezer Weizman, former Israeli President, January 1996)

In what ways are Israel and the United States in the same boat?

“The “Arab Street” is angry and anti-American, because it is full of young people who can’t get good jobs and aren’t allowed to express their discontent freely — unless they direct it at the United States or Israel.”
(Sebastian Mallaby, Washington Post editorial writer, October 2001)

What is Israel’s view on that?

“We are in the same boat — only I am not sure we are in the same sea.”
(Israeli official, October 2001)

In what way did the terrorist attacks tighten U.S.-Israeli relations?

“The American war is our war. An American victory would be our victory.”
(Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister, October 2001)

Do some people think that the relationship is a bit too cozy?

“The Israeli people are infected with Americanization. We must be wary of McDonald’s.”
(Ezer Weizman, then-Israeli President, May 1999)

Would Israel have been better prepared for a terrorist attack such as the ones in New York and Washington?

“This question of hijacking a civilian plane that could cause damage to civilian infrastructure is something that our security establishment is very aware of and has thought about for many years. In the United States, this isn’t even in their briefings.”
(David Rubin, former Israeli diplomat, September 2001)

Why is a sense of security so important for Israel?

“Israel feeling isolated during a crisis is a recipe for disaster. The way to avoid it is to hold its hand — and thereby stay its hand.”
(David Makovsky, senior fellow of the Washington-based Institute for Near East Policy, October 2001)

What then does the United States think of Israel occupying Palestinian held land?

“I would hope the Israelis would move their troops as quickly as possible.”
(U.S. President George W. Bush, October 2001)

What, Mr. Sharon, is your reply?

“From today forward, we will only rely on ourselves.”
(Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, October 2001)

What was another reaction of the political establishment?

“The things that came out of the United States — with all due respect — are not valid.”
(Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, Israeli Defense Minister, October 2001)

And how did the Israeli media react?

“A hammer on the head.”
(Israel’s largest daily Yedioth Ahronoth, describing the more assertive U.S. political stance towards Israel, October 2001)

Any more restrained views?

“I think Israel is not being asked to make concessions but to change the atmosphere. I think on so many occasions the United States has answered Israel’s requests. So if there is an American request, I see no reason not to answer it.”
(Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister, October 2001)

What is the dilemma for U.S. mediation efforts?

“We have got to find a way to move forward — and not just continue to have discussions as to what is terrorism, what is not terrorism, what is a targeted assassination, what is murder, what is provocation, what is retribution.”
(U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, October 2001)

How does the solution look like for Israel?

“There is no replacement for an agreement. Suppose we withdraw. What if the Palestinians invite the Syrian army to come in? What are we going to do? In the modern age, I don’t believe a wall can provide security.”
(Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister, October 2001)