The United States and the State of Israel

The United States and the State of Israel

The United States and the State of Israel

The United States and the State of Israel


Schoenbaum's book is a history of one of the most remarkable liaisons in international experience, a portrait of the special relationship between the last remaining superpower and the tiny Jewish state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, and a study of how that relationship grew and works. From Truman to Bush, the United States has assured Israel's existence, while providing billions in military and economic support. Over the same period, no U.S. president has ever submitted a formal treaty of alliance to the Senate, or even moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In fact, cross-purposes and mutual doubts have always coexisted with shared values, complementary interests, great expectations, and real achievements. Schoenbaum's book traces Israeli-American relations from their roots in both American and Jewish experience to the risks and opportunities of the current peace process. It also examines the relationship in the perspective of two world wars, the Cold War, the Gulf War, European colonialism and Middle Eastern nationalisms, global policy, and domestic politics in both countries. The result is the story of one of history's oddest international couples, hard-pressed to live together, but unable to live apart.


Certain books like certain people need no introduction. This is not one of them. Like many books, it began as a gleam in the eye of an editor, in this case a distinguished historian of U.S. foreign policy. He had just undertaken a series on significant bilateral relationships since World War ii, for example, the United States and the Soviet Union, the United States and Germany, the United States and Japan. For practical purposes, it was assumed that each relationship was a tree, that is, an object for study in itself. But the idea was also to locate and study the tree within the forest. He was now looking for someone to write a book about the United States and Israel.

Had he turned to the professional Middle East hands, or what might be called Israeli-Americanologists, with their predominance of political scientists, this might well be a different book. Instead, consistent with the reflexes and conventions of a politicized subject and a balkanized profession, he had canvassed the academic borough he called home.

In practice, this meant a shortlist of the American-Jewish colleagues who, like himself, happened, to write about U.S. foreign policy. After one or more had turned him down, a common friend and colleague referred him to me. An outsider by most of the prevailing professional conventions, I had taken up the subject for my own reasons, prepared a course, and even published a few articles. But perhaps my outstanding qualification was a deep interest in reading a book like the one he was asking me to write. I was accordingly flattered, daunted, and tantalized. Hesitating briefly, I then accepted the invitation.

Independent of the original series, the project soon took on a life of its own, but its origins as a narrative, chronological history of the bilateral experience of the United States with Israel can still be recognized. of course, as I soon discovered, documentation -- be it published, microfilmed, routinely declassified, or pried loose by means of the ever-more-prohibitive Freedom of Information Act -- had proliferated like the flowers in May since at least the early 1980s. Meanwhile, the literature on the relationship, both serious and otherwise, has grown like crabgrass. Earlier authors had also established benchmarks, among them Walter Laqueur's history of Zionism, Howard Sachar's history of Israel, Nadav Safran's Israel: Uneasy Ally, and Steven Spiegel's The Other Arab Israeli Conflict . . .

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