HOWEVER an American may regard Israel - as strategic asset, as fulfillment of a dream, or as an international problem - it is hard to avoid recognizing the success of that country's foreign policy. What Israel has done is a textbook example of how a small nation can bend the will of a large one to its own national purposes. Take a persecuted, decimated people who seek a land of their own and the protection that will give that land security and the opportunity for development, even if the land be established on others' property.
Find a powerful nation, sympathetic with the plight of the persecuted and with a democratic system vulnerable to the well-organized pressure of a minority. Add to the scenario surrounding enemies who are divided and unable effectively to make their case to the great power.
Such, in brief, whether by circumstance or design, is a description of the basis of Israel's relationship with the United States. That relationship serves Israel in many ways.
The US democratic system has created a Congress particularly vulnerable to the minority that can give generously to political campaigns. Congressional sentiment favoring Israel builds on a population, both Jewish and non-Jewish, that is either ethnically tied to Israel or sees Israel as a strategic asset, or as fulfillment of democratic or biblical dreams. Congressional visits to Israel are meticulously managed to solidify this relationship.
Laws that permit tax-exempt contributions for charitable purposes have been freely used to provide to Israel funds for its development, including support, at least indirectly, for controversial Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The industrial base of the US and broad agreement that the security of Israel, given its location, its anti-communist stance, and democratic system, is vital to the US, provides access to the most advanced military technology, giving the Jewish state a clear superiority over its neighbors.
The position of the US as a permanent member of the United Nations provides an almost certain Security Council veto of any resolution unfavorable to Israel.
Israel has taken full advantage of the relationship to an extent unmatched by any other country. Its position with the US Congress and the sympathy of the present administration have permitted it to use US military equipment for actions in neighboring states; laws prohibiting such use of US-supplied equipment that apply to other countries have seldom been applied to Israel.
Israel proceeds with nuclear-weapons development without adhering to international safeguards and without any of the congressional pressures on non-proliferation experienced by other states friendly to the US.
US laws that condition economic and military aid on human rights practices are not applied to Israel's punitive actions in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel is assured by its US supporters that no US arms sales will be permitted to Israel's neighbors that might threaten Israel's security.
Israel has been able either to frustrate peace efforts it did not like (taking full advantage of Arab intransigence) or, as in the case of Camp David, to turn efforts to its advantage.
The relationship exists despite strong US interests in neighboring Arab states and survives the Pollard espionage case and questions regarding Israel's role in the Iran-contra affair.
Although the US strongly supported Israel's independence, the relationship was not as close in earlier years. Until the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Israel's military supplies were primarily European. As the Europeans became more concerned about their Arab relationships and US technological advantage grew, Israel turned more and more to the opportunity provided by Washington.
The Israeli foreign policy dependence on the US is not without its vulnerabilities. A serious setback for the US in the Arab world could bring a reexamination of the current ties. A closer Israeli relationship to the Soviet Union, spurred by the possibilities of Jewish emigration, might upset some in the US. For the moment, however, the success of Israel's foreign policy seems assured.
Some Americans resent the degree of influence that a single small nation in a strategic corner of the world has gained over US policy. Others will praise it as the proper response to a beleaguered, democratic, anti-communist ally. Whatever the opinion, it is clear that, through the skillful manipulation of the US democratic system, David has once more conquered Goliath.
David D. Newsom, director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, has just returned from a visit to the Middle East.