US-Israel relations won't be shaken no matter who wins Tuesday
US-Israel ties are arguably stronger and deeper now than at any time since Israel’s founding in 1948. The relationship tends to rest on shared principles rather than the personalities at the top.
It’s no secret that there’s been little love lost between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who began their terms within months of each other – and now both face reelection.Skip to next paragraph
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But despite that cool personal relationship, US-Israel ties are arguably stronger and deeper now than at any time since Israel’s founding in 1948. While some presidents have made a big impact on peace talks or key security issues – George H.W. Bush’s handling of the 1991 Gulf war, for example – the relationship tends to rest on shared principles rather than the personalities at the top.
“What you see in the media is the tip of the iceberg, what’s at the top, and you see some coolness,” says an Israeli official who declined to be named due to the sensitive election period. “You think it reflects on the rest of the relationship and it doesn’t.”
Perhaps one of the strongest and most objective measures is trade. In the past decade, US-Israel trade has nearly doubled. US exports to Israel rose from $7 billion in 2002 to $13.9 billion last year, while US imports from Israel during the same window rose from $12.4 billion to $23 billion, according to the US Census Bureau.
The emergence of that “fourth pillar” builds on a trio of more well-established bonds – spiritual, democratic, and military, says Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US and author of “Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1773 to the Present.”
These shared bonds date back to well before Israel’s founding – Puritans once lobbied the Dutch government to “transport Izraell’s sons and daughters ... to the Land promised their forefathers.”
And they have been strengthened by the tremendous upheaval in the Middle East over the past two years, Ambassador Oren argues.
The upheaval “has underscored the fact that there is only one country in the region that is stable, that has never known a second of non-democratic rule, is militarily robust, and unequivocally pro-American,” he says in an interview by phone. “There’s no other country remotely in the region like that.”
But one of Israel’s foremost experts on US-Israel ties has argued that the “special relationship” has taken a distinct turn under Mr. Obama and finds itself at a “critical crossroads.”
"The beginning of the Obama era signals that nothing lasts forever," wrote political scientist Abraham Ben-Zvi in his 2011 book, “From Truman to Obama: The Rise and Early Decline of American-Israeli Relations.”