The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment

By David W. Lesch | Go to book overview

21
The Invasion of Kuwait and
the Gulf War: Dilemmas Facing
the Israeli-Iraqi-U.S. Relationship

Yair Evron

The objective of this chapter is to describe and analyze Israeli policy during the Gulf crisis and war. Although much of the essay is devoted to Israeli policy toward Iraq, there will be a special discussion of the U.S.-Israeli relationship during that period and how it affected Israeli policy preferences.

Israel's geostrategic position and its conflict with the Arab world raise several policy issues. Yet since its establishment Israel has assigned the greatest importance to its relationship with the United States. Policymakers have differed at times about foreign policy orientations (for example, the importance attached during part of the 1950s to a French orientation), but there has been a constant consensus among them that the connection with the United States is critical. Although the two countries have differed sharply at times about certain policy issues, both sides have strived to avoid a major falling out.

Over the years two sets of variables have affected U.S. policy toward Israel. First, ideological, moral, and emotional attachments combined with the influence of the pro-Israeli lobby to create a basic moral commitment to the security and very existence of Israel. Second, Israel was perceived as a strong regional military power that could serve as an ally during periods of regional crisis. Although the first set of variables has been effective throughout the existence of Israel, the second emerged only in the 1960s, became more salient during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and reached its culmination during the early 1980s. Thus, both "soft factors" and "hard" realpolitik considerations contributed to the creation of a "special relationship" with Israel. 1 Clearly, the relative weight of these different factors has varied with time.

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