A truly bizarre feature of United States foreign policy is the steadfast and lavish economic, diplomatic and military support that Washington gives to Israel — despite Israel’s aggressive behavior, defiance of international law and global condemnation.
What explains this extravagant patronage which has continued for more than half a century?
Suggested explanations include:
- Political influence of the Israel Lobby
- Profits accruing to giant weapons-manufacturing corporations
- Pressure from the Christian Right
- Racism towards Arabs
- Guilt about the long history of Western antisemitism leading to the Holocaust.
These may be contributing factors to unrelenting U.S. support for Israel, but they are probably not the main cause.
Abundant evidence suggests that the main cause for U.S. support is the valuable aid that Israel provides to United States imperialism. Indeed, Israel must be considered the principal agent of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East. Perhaps its most important benefit to American imperialism is the constraints that Israel’s military power places upon Arab nationalism.
Arab nationalism threatens the privileged U.S. relationship to Middle Eastern oil described by the State Department as “a stupendous source of strategic power and one of the greatest material prizes in world history.” In addition to its enormous economic value, Middle Eastern oil facilitates the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This invaluable financial arrangement allows the U.S. to invest voluminously abroad and to sustain huge trade deficits.
Israel’s military victories in 1967 and 1973 were crushing blows to Arab nationalism. Since then, Israel’s military power has prevented the emergence of radical nationalist movements in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine and other places. Israel regularly uses its formidable Air Force to attack Middle Eastern countries whose strength is growing.
Control of Arab nationalism is not the only advantage that Israel bestows upon United States imperialism. It also gives battlefield testing to United States weapons, assists U.S. intelligence gathering and covert operations, funnels American weapons to regimes unpopular in the United States, cooperates with the U.S. military-industrial complex to develop new weapons and furnishes trained ideologically committed troops for imperialist military adventures.
Washington endows Israel with $3.8 billion in aid plus $8 billion in loan guarantees annually. However, it would cost the U.S. at least $125 annually to undertake all the imperial services that Israel provides.
The value of Israel as an ally of U.S. imperialism only became apparent to American political leaders after Israel’s resounding victory in the Six Day War of 1967. In the year after that war, U.S. aid to Israel increased by 450%. In the year after Israel’s 1973 triumph, military aid to Israel increased by 800%. Well over 99% of American economic aid to Israel has occurred after 1967 when the latter’s military capacity became obvious.
Imperialism accounts for the durability and opulence of American support for Israel. Guaranteed U.S. support enables Israel’s brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. That oppression is unlikely to end if unconditional U.S. support continues. There is clearly a strong link between liberating the Palestinians and dismantling U.S. imperialism. Dismantling U.S. imperialism is certainly a tall order, but history suggests that almost every worthwhile transformation has been a tall order.