America and Israel: Best Friends Forever? Kobi Gideon/GPO
Israel

America and Israel: Best Friends Forever?

Just how secure is the “special relationship” between these two countries, and will it survive a change in presidents?

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Israel and the United States did not start out as staunch allies. While the US was the first nation to formally recognize the Jewish state, it did so only after tense internal debate and even some protest resignations within the Truman Administration. The White House was far more concerned with wooing the new oil-rich Arab states away from the encroaching Soviet Union, and feared that too boldly supporting Israel would antagonize the rest of the Middle East, even if it did play well to voters at home.

In its early years, the State of Israel enjoyed very little economic support from the US. By 1956, Israel’s primarily source of foreign assistance was German war reparations. Nor did Washington make any provisions for Israel’s defense in those years. In fact, both presidents Truman and Eisenhower maintained an arms embargo on the Jewish state. It was France that served as Israel’s main arms supplier in those days, and this was due to both France and Britain feeling that their interests in the region were threatened by the ambitions of Egyptian President Gamal...

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