The Electronic Intifada Nazareth 12 September 2012
It is possibly the greatest of American political myths, repeated ad nauseam by presidential candidates in their election campaigns. President Barack Obama has claimed that the United States enjoys a special bond with Israel unlike its relations with any other country. He has called the friendship “unshakeable,” “enduring” and “unique,” “anchored by our common interests and deeply-held values.”
His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, has gone further, arguing that there is not “an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel.” A recent Romney election ad, highlighting his summer visit to Israel, extolled the “deep and cherished relationship.”
But, while such pronouncements form the basis of an apparent Washington consensus, the reality is that the cherished friendship is no more than a fairy tale. It has been propagated by politicians to mask the suspicion — and plentiful examples of duplicity and betrayal — that have marked the relationship since Israel’s founding.
Politicians may prefer to express undying love for Israel, and hand over billions of dollars annually in aid, but the US security establishment has — at least, in private — always regarded Israel as an unfaithful partner.
The distrust has been particularly hard to hide in relation to Iran. Israel has been putting relentless pressure on Washington, apparently in the hope of maneuvering it into supporting or joining an attack on Tehran to stop what Israel claims is an Iranian effort to build a nuclear bomb concealed beneath its civilian energy program.
While coverage has focused on the personal animosity between Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the truth is that US officials generally are deeply at odds with Israel on this issue.
The conflict burst into the open recently with reports that the Pentagon had scaled back next month’s joint military exercise, Austere Challenge, with the Israeli military that had been billed as the largest and most significant in the two countries’ history (“US scales back military exercise with Israel, affecting potential Iran strike,” Time, 31 August 2012).
The goal of the exercise was to test the readiness of Israel’s missile-defense shield in case of Iranian reprisals — possibly the biggest fear holding Israel back from launching a go-it-alone attack. The Pentagon’s main leverage on Israel is its X-band radar, stationed in Israel but operated exclusively by a US crew, that would provide Israel with early warning of Iranian missiles.
A senior Israeli military official told Time magazine what message the Pentagon’s rethink had conveyed: “Basically what the Americans are saying is, ‘We don’t trust you.’”
But discord between the two “unshakeable allies” is not limited to Iran. Antipathy has been the norm for decades. Over the summer, current and former CIA officials admitted that the US security establishment has always regarded Israel as its number one counter-intelligence threat in the Middle East.
Broken promises on spying
The most infamous spy working on Israel’s behalf was Jonathan Pollard, a naval intelligence officer who passed thousands of classified documents to Israel in the 1980s. Israel’s repeated requests for his release have been a running sore with the Pentagon, not least because defense officials regard promises that Israel would never again operate spies on US soil as insincere.
At least two more spies have been identified in the past few years. In 2008 a former US army engineer, Ben-Ami Kadish, admitted that he had allowed Israeli agents to photograph secret documents about US fighter jets and nuclear weapons in the 1980s. And in 2006 Lawrence Franklin, a US defense official, was convicted of passing classified documents to Israel concerning Iran.
In fact, such betrayals were assumed by Washington from the start of the relationship. In Israel’s early years, a US base in Cyprus monitored Israeli activities; today, Israeli communications are intercepted by a team of Hebrew linguists stationed at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Documents released in the past few weeks by the Israeli air force archives also reveal that Israel eventually identified mysterious high-altitude planes that overflew its territory throughout the 1950s as American U2 espionage planes (“US espionage planes violated Israeli airspace in the 1950s, IAF archives reveal,” Haaretz, 30 August 2012).
In a sign of continuing US caution, Israel has not been included in the coterie of countries with which Washington shares sensitive intelligence. The members of the “Five Eyes” group, consisting of the US, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, have promised not to spy on each other — a condition Israel would have regularly flouted were it a member.
Indeed, Israel has even stolen the identities of nationals from these countries to assist in Mossad operations. Most notoriously, Israel forged passports to smuggle Israeli agents into Dubai in 2010 to assassinate leading Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
Israel is far from a trusted ally in the US “war on terror.” A former intelligence official told the Associated Press in July that Israel ranked lower than Libya in a list of countries helping to fight terrorism compiled by the Bush administration after the 11 September 2001 attacks.
So why all the talk of a special bond if the relationship is characterized by such deep mistrust?
Bomb aimed at America?
Part of the answer lies in the formidably intimidating tactics of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington. Thomas Friedman, the New York Times columnist, spoke for a growing number of observers last year when he wrote that the US Congress was effectively “bought and paid for” by Israel’s lobbyists.
That power was all too evident this month when the Democratic National Convention adopted an amended policy designating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, in opposition to both international law and the vocal wishes of delegates.
But there is another, less spoken-of reason. Francis Perrin, the head of the French Atomic Agency in the 1950s and 1960s, when France was helping Israel develop a nuclear weapon against the wishes of the US, once observed that the Israeli bomb was really “aimed against the Americans.”
Not because Israel wanted to attack the US, but because it realized that — once it possessed the only nuclear arsenal in the Middle East — the US would rarely risk standing in its way, however much its policies ran counter to US interests.
For that reason, if no other, Israel is determined to stop any rival, including Iran, from getting a nuclear weapon that would end its monopoly.
Jonathan Cook won the 2011 Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net. A version of this article first appeared in The National, Abu Dhabi.
- Barack Obama
- Benjamin Netanyahu
- US aid to Israel
- Mitt Romney
- Jonathan Pollard
- New York Times
- Israel Lobby
- Thomas Friedman
Relationship between US and Israel
Permalink Andreas Schlueter replied on
If one ponders over the fact that Israel seems to be able pushing the US arround in a way no other country is able to do a suspicion comes up: does Israel have intelligence insight into what really happened on Nine Eleven? That would possibly be a potential for blackmail of gigantic dimensions. Mind this: http://wipokuli.wordpress.com/...
Since the British had
Permalink sendbadmisry replied on
Since the British had finished its occupation to Palestine May 1948 and replaced by Zionists.The Zionism regime has used as functional threat to Arab World from US and Europeans to Keep controlling and stealing the area resources, so the relationship between US and said Regime is over the fairytale.
US DOES'NT LOVE ISRAEL
Permalink Speedy replied on
US/ Israel axis of evil? Its a strange hold that Israel has over the US. By nature there is going to be a parting of ways as an uncomfortable, unnatural relationship cannot last for ever. In the meanwhile the US taxpayer is bleeding. Right now however the difference between the two is the difference between Coke and Pepsi- almost the same thing in a different label.( This is issued for purposes of debate and research. Any critisism is related to the topic only)
US DOESN´T LOVE ISRAEL
Permalink Andreas Schlueter replied on
The US Power Elite (predominantly WASP) doesn´t love anybody! They only know instruments. They helped bringing the Nazis to power in order of breaking the Sovjet Union and bringing their British competitors to their knees. After those have served their purpose US got rid of them. Israel is their instrument since long - and its Lobby has been so much integrated into the machinations of the Power Elite that it´s not so easy to get rid of them (the more since MOSSAD knows too much, but one day...
See also: http://wipokuli.wordpress.com/...
Permalink Eric replied on
More to the point, the Democratic National Convention rejected an amendment designating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. But the party bosses ruled that it had passed, and the convention later (presumably) passed the platform as a whole. It was a bald display of how democratic the supposed Democratic machine really is (not).