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Israel Is Center of US Middle East Policy

A New York Times headline today sums of US Middle Eastern policy for the last 50 years, “Chaos in Middle East Grows as the U.S. Focuses on Israel.”  US policy toward Arab states has always been subordinate to our policy toward Israel.  This started when early in its life the United Nations accepted the partition of Palestine, thus allowing the creation of the state of Israel.  One of the first countries to recognize the new state was the US.  (For a slightly different view of how this happened, see “The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel.”)  In any case, the State Department, led by General George Marshall, strongly opposed President Truman’s immediate recognition of Israel, motivated in part by Truman’s desire for Jewish votes in the upcoming election.

The US relationship with Israel has evolved over the years, becoming closer and closer, as the US sided with Israel in the various wars that the Arabs waged because of what they saw as the Jewish usurpation of Arab land.  The Arab states joined in various degrees of enthusiasm with the resistance of their Palestinian brethren, placing the US more and more at odds with the overwhelming majority of the states and populace of the Middle East.  But for Israel, there may never have been on OPEC and an oil crisis in the US.  The twin towers of the World Trade Center might still be standing in New York.  The US might not have fought two wars in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.  The US might be many billions of dollars richer for not having supplied Israel with massive aid over the years, about $135 billion by one estimate, and $118 billion by another estimate.

Israel is truly the tail that wags the dog of US foreign policy.  There are many reasons for this, but I do not think that many of them are driven by the national interest of the United States; they are driven by the national interest of Israel, represented by the high number of Jewish politicians in America, the huge influence of Jewish money in national elections (e.g. Sheldon Adelson), and the religious beliefs of a number of conservative, evangelical Christians that Israel is essential to the endtime or rapture.  Clearly there is also the charitable motive of helping an oppressed minority that suffered terribly in World War II.  But it’s not clear to me why the Arabs had to pay for Hitler’s atrocities, except that it was more convenient for whites of European ancestry.  Part of the original UN settlement also must have been that Britain was exhausted by World War II and did not want to get involved in another war in the Middle East over its Palestine mandate.  It just wanted to get out of Palestine, and giving it to Israel was the easiest alternative at the time.  It was also in accord with Britain’s 1917 Balfour Declaration.  But these “easy” decisions have a way of coming back to haunt us.

At the current time, I am not sure that I agree with the New York Times article whose title I quoted above.  Israel and Palestine are still the core of the troubles in the Middle East; so, I don’t think Kerry should ignore them.  But the article is right that the fires in the Middle East are now in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Jordan, Iran, Afghanistan, maybe Turkey and other countries.  However, the ember that stays hot and ignites these other conflicts is the Israel-Palestinian conflict and there will be no long-term solution to Arab-spring arc of crisis until there is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.  

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