US friendship with Israel ‘unwavering’ 60 years on

May 12th, 2008 - 11:34 am ICT by admin  

By Mike McCarthy
Washington, May 12 (DPA) Only last month, US federal authorities charged an American man for spying on behalf of Israel, passing on nuclear and other closely guarded secrets, in a case connected to the more infamous Jonathan Pollard case of the 1980s. The US Justice Department accused Ben-Ami Kadish of providing the Israeli government with nuclear documents and classified materials related to US weapons, while acknowledging the connection to Pollard, a former naval analyst arrested in 1985 who is serving a life sentence in the US.

Although there was some tension, neither case produced a rupture in the US-Israeli relations, beyond comments from the State Department following Kadish’s arrest that Israeli espionage on the US was “not the kind of behaviour we would expect from friends and allies”.

As Israel prepares to celebrate 60 years of existence May 14, the country has had no better friend than the US. Despite differences that have sprung up over the decades, the US has stood with Israel in the struggle for the Jewish state’s survival - even if it has come at a cost to US prestige in the Arab world.

“America’s commitment to Israel is unwavering,” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said April 29 before the American Jewish Committee. She and President George W. Bush prepare to head to Israel later this month to participate in anniversary commemorations.

The Truman administration was divided in 1948 about whether to recognise Israel in the days leading up to the Israeli Declaration of Independence, read out by Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s May 14, 1948. Truman, courting the Jewish vote, brushed aside the concerns, marking the beginning of the influence domestic politics would play in shaping US policy toward the Middle East.

Eleven minutes after Ben-Gurion’s announcement, the US became the first country to recognise Israel.

John F. Kennedy was the first US president to approve military aid to Israel, a decision that would be boosted during the Lyndon Johnson years. Today, the US provides $3 billion in military and economic aid to Israel - albeit with a good chunk of it coming back to the US in the form of weapons sales.

As US support for Israel grew over the decades, so did resentment toward the US within the Arab world. US Americans became the target of radical, pro-Palestinian groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, while US policies in the Middle East fuelled the terrorist ambitions of extremist organisations like Al Qaeda.

The US in the 1970s began playing an increasing role in trying to bring peace between the Israelis and Arabs, most notably the 1978 Camp David Accords signed by Israel and the Egypt under the guidance of president Jimmy Carter.

But finding a long-term resolution to the conflict has been illusive. The 1991 Madrid conference laid the groundwork for the 1993 Oslo Accords under Bill Clinton. The Palestinians agreed to recognise Israel in return for an Israeli commitment to end the occupation of Palestinian territories.

Clinton carried the effort into the end of his presidency, but the 2000 Camp David negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the late Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat collapsed and a new wave of violence erupted.

President George W. Bush came into office sceptical of the peace process while reaffirming the strong US commitment to Israel.

After terrorists struck the US Sep 11, 2001, and Bush launched the US campaign for a global war on terrorism, he found it difficult to urge the Israelis to back off its military campaign against Palestinian extremists like Hamas.

Bush stood behind Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism, but at the same time tried to reinvigorate the peace process by endorsing the international roadmap peace plan and becoming the first US president to call for the creation a Palestinian state.

Bush sided with Israel and dismissed Arafat as a partner for peace, waiting until his death in 2004 to embrace a new Palestinian leadership in President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Bush administration has vowed to push forward on peace while pledging that the friendship between the two countries will keep Washington on Israel’s side.

“For sixty years now, American administrations - Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative - have differed over many, many things, but one thing unites our government,” Rice said in her address. “We are committed to freedom, the well-being, and the security of our democratic ally, Israel.”

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