American Foreign Policy toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Strategic Transformations

By Hamdi, Osama Anter | Insight Turkey, Spring 2018 | Go to article overview

American Foreign Policy toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict: Strategic Transformations


Hamdi, Osama Anter, Insight Turkey


Introduction

The U.S. has played an important role in settling the Arab-Israeli conflict. This role has been distinct and effective from the beginning of the conflict in the early 20th century until the establishment of Israel in 1948, and has continued to the present day. The U.S. has maximized its engagement in the recent period, especially after the events of September 11, during which America has exerted remarkable efforts to end the conflict, motivated by an understanding that this is the best way to achieve peace and stability in the Middle East.

Since the establishment of Israel, there has been a strategic shift in the U.S.'s role. This became crystal clear during the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, during which this conflict was not a top priority on the agenda of decision makers. Instead, the American administration increased its emphasis on eliminating terrorism, and adapting the region to U.S. will by routing out the powerful countries. This strategy paved the way for the so-called "new Middle East project," which was launched by the administration of President George W. Bush, and which focused on a wide area, including all the Arab countries in addition to Turkey, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, to promote political, economic and social reform. This project also supported the superiority of Israel as a strategic American tool, and as a deterrent to regional powers which sought to play major roles in the region and threaten American and Western interests. This strategy is epitomized in the case of Iraq in the 1980s, when Israel launched a military strike targeting Iraq's nuclear program, although it was still peaceful.

The positions of most of the former U.S. presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Clinton) were largely aligned with that strategy. While a commitment to Israel's security has remained a fundamental principle throughout the decades, the techniques adopted by the presidents have been different. President Nixon may be taken as an example of the U.S. presidents' support of Israel; he expressly recognized that since the partition of the Palestinian lands, the U.S. has guaranteed Israel's security. (1) Nixon also noted that the U.S. was deeply committed to the existence of Israel, and that the U.S. and Israel relation was well-established. He added that Israel's security was a moral obligation that has not been violated by any U.S. president in the past, and that all the next U.S. presidents would be committed to ensuring Israel's security. (2)

In short, America considers Israel a strategic base for U.S. interests, and the mutual interests of the two countries are the secret behind America's support for Israel. As a military, civilizational and security base for the U.S., Israel is much cheaper to maintain than the 10 aircraft carriers that the U.S. would have had to build and send to the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea to protect American interests. (3) Thus, the U.S. strategy cannot be separated from Israel's in any way, as the elements of strategic planning for both countries are interconnected to a large degree. The U.S. believes that the safety and security of Israel guarantees the stability of the region and the protection of U.S. interests there. (4) With that in mind, the question arises about the nature of the shifts in U.S. foreign policy towards the Arab-Israeli conflict. These shifts indicate the firmness of the U.S. position, despite the changes in administration, with respect to the Arab-Israeli conflict issues, particularly those related to refugees, Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, and the establishment of the Palestinian state.

Although there are many studies that deal with U.S. policies towards the Arab-Israeli conflict, the importance of this study is to shed light on the role of the American administrations toward the settlement of the conflict. In addition, it shows the change of this role and to what extent the U. …

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