Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
The US-Israeli ‘special relationship’ is an important facet of US Middle East policy. Without understanding this ‘unbreakable’ bond, US policy in the region makes little sense. Much of our understanding of why these two countries have such a relationship comes from more realist perspectives. Classically, the relationship is understood in terms of Cold War history, such as the Israeli role in defending Jordan during Black September (1970) or similar historical events that proved that Israel could serve a strategic function, or in terms of monetary and organizational strength in influencing US domestic politics, through the so-called Israel lobby. In this book, Kaplan adds a much-needed cultural nuance to this picture. The bond with Israel goes much deeper, she argues, and while the reasons for this bond have changed over time, the bond itself remains stable. It is all too easy to forget that in Israel’s founding days it was US progressives who fell for the state. Over the years also US conservatives started strongly supporting Israel, and finally the rise of evangelicals in the United States made Israel a country the whole political spectrum in the US came to support. This does not mean that counter-voices do not exist. On the contrary – the Israeli conduct in Lebanon (1982) and during the first intifada (1987–93) – brought forth many highly critical voices in the US. Overall, however, these strands of criticism have been drowned out by the increasing support in the wake of the global war on terror in which Israel is perceived as an example to follow. Recent debate within the Democratic party raises the question of whether the bipartisan support for Israel can last forever.