Surprisingly, Romney and Obama portray U.S.-Israeli relations as an all or nothing game. Even thought here is a full spectrum of stances towards Israel, Romney’s relations to Netanyahu appear extremely tight. Romney has said and shown through visits to Israel during his campaign his closeness to the nation and has also said that he would keep all options of diplomatic pressure on the table. This implies that he would support Israel in a military attack on Iran. Conversely, Obama refused to even meet with Netanyahu when he came to New York for the UN General Assembly and has failed to mediate Israeli-Palestinian discussions for over two years now.
To understand the importance of the Israeli alliance with the United States, it is important to first understand the history of this alliance. This alliance was born out of a common enemy during the Cold War: the U.S.S.R. Anti-communist Israel proved an important alliance in the United States’ containment policy.
Throughout the past few decades, Israel has served as a force to counter-act anti-American hostility in the Middle East. Of course, this alliance has not come without significant costs. First of all, economically, foreign aid to Israel costs the United States about $3 billion per year. Secondly, America’s support for Israel has been damaging to the U.S. at times when Israel has acted against the will of the United States. For example, in 1967, Israel spurred Middle Eastern hanger against the U.S. and Israel when it took the currently disputed Palestinian territories. At the moment, it seems prepared to threaten the Middle East with war with a military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
So, what does this mean for the future? Right now, improving relations with Israel could not be more critical. The Arab Springs have ended a generation of American puppet dictators in the Middle East and replaced them with populist Islamist group who support terrorist organizations. Undoubtedly, the United States should support democracy and democratic values like freedom of expression, petition, and assembly. After all, these are the same values that led to the creation of the U.S. However, the U.S. should value Western-friendliness and a commitment to counterterrorism over democracy or rather, in the case of the Middle Eastern Arab Spring cases, populism. Just as in the Cold War, Israel can contain this dangerous new ideology.
On Iran, too the United States needs to cooperate with Israel. This is not to say that the U.S. should be working with Israel. It simply means that the U.S. should organize discussions with Israel to ensure that there is no discrepancy between the two nations. This will make sure that the Iran issue will not end strong Israeli-American relations.
In normal times, the United States should take a neutral stance towards Israel in order to better mediate an agreement between Israel and Palestine. However, the situation in the Middle East is anything but normal and America’s response should be appropriate to the situation.