Relations with Israel have proved to be a crucial factor in the policy of the United States government in the Middle East. Links have developed from an initial U.S. policy of support for the creation of a Jewish state to an economic and military partnership. In 1917, the Balfour Declaration by Britain set the ground for the creation of the state of Israel. This was the first significant declaration by a major nation in favour of a Jewish "national home" in what was known as Palestine. Despite being sympathetic to the condition of Jews in Europe, in 1919 President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) stated that the United States would "acquiesce" to the Balfour Declaration but would not officially support Zionism. The policy of acquiescence continued until after World War II.
On May 14 , 1948, the United States, under President Harry Truman (1884-1972), became the first UN country to de facto recognize the State of Israel after it unilaterally declared itself independent. After World War II, the United States gave more support to Israel as it helped Jewish refugees settle in America following the atrocities of the war. In October 1956 Israel, France, and Britain attacked Egypt, triggering the Suez crisis. The United States, with support from the Soviet Union at the U.N. intervened on behalf of Egypt to force a withdrawal. Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1915-1970) expressed willingness to establish closer ties with the United States. Eager to boost its influence in the region, and prevent Nasser from siding with the Soviet Bloc, the U.S. policy remained neutral as it did not wish to appear too close to Israel.
During Lyndon Johnson's (1908-1973) presidency, U.S. policy shifted to a whole-hearted support for Israel. In 1967, Israel emerged from the Six-Day War against Egypt, Jordan and Syria in control of the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem, Syria's Golan Heights and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Prior to the Six-Day War U.S. administrations had been careful to avoid demonstration of favoritism. On June 19, 1970, Secretary of State William P. Rogers (1913-2001) proposed the Rogers Plan, which included a 90-day ceasefire and a military standstill zone on each side of the Suez Canal, to end the ongoing War of Attrition. Egypt accepted the Rogers Plan, but Israel did not. The plan also failed due to lack of support from President Richard Nixon (1913-1994), who followed the advice of National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger (b.1923) not to pursue it.
In October 1973, Egypt and Syria, with additional Arab support, attacked Israel in a bid to reclaim lands lost in the Six-Day War, thus starting the Yom Kippur War (1973). Israel initially suffered major losses until Nixon ordered a strategic airlift operation to deliver weapons and supplies to Israel. After the war, Kissinger pressured Israel to withdraw from Arab lands. This contributed to the first stages of a lasting Israeli-Egyptian peace. U.S. support of Israel led to the 1973 OPEC embargo against America, which was lifted in March 1974.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter (b.1924) mediated talks between Egypt's President Anwar Sadat (1918-1981) and Israel's Prime Minister Menachem Begin (1913-1992) leading to the Camp David Accords, the prerequisite to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. In 1982, Israel became openly involved in the Lebanese Civil War, attacking Syrian and Palestine Liberation Organization (P.L.O.) forces. The United States mediated an agreement with the P.L.O. to withdraw which led to American troop deployment in Lebanon. Since 1991, the United States has been mediator between Israel and its Arab neighbors, leading to the Madrid Conference (1991), Oslo Process/Accords (1993), the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian Peace Treaty in 1994 and the 2003 Roadmap for Peace, presented to Palestinian and Israeli leaders by the U.N., E.U., U.S. and Russia.
In 2006, Israel attacked Lebanon in retaliation for the Hezbollah kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. The United States backed the Israeli campaign during a conference of foreign ministers from the United States, Europe and the Middle East held in Rome on July 26,. This fell short of European and Arab leaders' expectations. The main expression of U.S. Congressional support for Israel has been foreign aid, with Israel being the largest recipient of U.S. aid from 1976 to 2004. Some in the United States have questioned its commitment to Israel, which they believe hampers the improvement of ties with various Arab and Muslim governments. For others, however, Israel is viewed as a strategic ally.