From a purely realpolitic perspective, why has the US always supported Israel?

Every US administration since the 40’s–Republican or Democrat–has supported Israel militarily, monetarily, and politically. Yet supporting Israel angers its Arab neighbors who supply us with that sweet, sweet crude–while Israel is oil-free. Without reaching for higher motives (or a worldwide Jewish conspiracy), is there a purely pragmatic explanation for this behavior?

Lots of reasons. A couple off the top of my head.

[li]The US Jewish Lobby.[/li][li]Israel is a natural ally in a region of not-allies.[/li][li]Israel is a liberal western-style democracy in a region not noted for them.[/li][/ul]

In God We Trust. Although the United States gives the freedom of religion, it is very religious. No president of the United States has or probably ever will believe in any GOD other than the one spoken of in the bible. It goes much deeper than that, and I’ll let someone else give you the details about the Mandate of Palestine and how it was rejected by the Palestinians. Money is not everything but it is important. And if we as a country will print our money with our religious beliefs, it must be paramount

Actually, U.S. support of Israel only began in earnest in the late 1960’s, and then only after the Soviet Union threw its weight behind Egypt and Syria. Until that point American foreign policy was decidedly lukewarm as far as Israel was concerned, and Israel’s main European allies/patron were France and, to a lesser degree, Britain.

Once the U.S.S.R started getting serious about the Middle East, Cold War logic took hold, and until 1989 or so that was the main motivator behind the Israeli/U.S. relationship. After that… as other people said: a fellow democracy, a loyal, reliable ally in the region (especially in light of current tensions between the U.S. and the Muslin world) and yes, internal U.S. politics. But you also have to remember that friendship has value, even in realpolitics. You stick by your friends because they’re your friends, because you’ve built a system of mutula trust that’s hard to create, hard to replicate and easy to destroy; and if you abandon you’re friends you’ll just be known as the nation who stabbed your friend in the back.

The U.S. has always been pro-polyester.

Ahem. But seriously, because they deserve support. Many other countries want them annihilated for no good reason, and that makes Israel the Good guys.

That a country ‘deserves’ support is not a decisive reason for any government to actually support it. The US government as well as other governments support or confront countries because there’s something in it for them: there might be strategic interests, or economic interests, or domestic pressure groups that need to be appeased. As a result, lots of countries in the world might deserve support they’re not getting. Other countries and regimes are supported that are certainly not deserving of it.

It’s been a two-way street. Israel has always been the country in the Middle-East that is most likely to support the United States.

President Truman granted diplomatic recognition immediately upon Israel’s founding in 1948, over the strong objections of most of his foreign-policy advisors (SecState George C. Marshall even threatened to resign). He thought it was morally right, given the Holocaust, and it was politically helpful in that hard-fought election year. Later administrations have more or less followed the same line for the reasons stated above. Successive presidents have come to the conclusion that supporting Israel is, all things considered, in our national interest and politically expedient, although there have certainly been times (the Suez Crisis, the bombing of the USS Liberty, Jonathan Pollard’s spying, both invasions of Lebanon, etc.) when the relationship has come under strain.

So your theory is that because the United States has lots of religious people, it supports a secular democracy instead of the dozen theocracies that surround it? That makes no sense.

As Alessan notes, post-war US policy towards Israel was decidedly ambivalent until the Soviets decided to get involved in the area.

Don’t forget that in the early fifties, the Soviet Union supported Israel over the surrounding Arab countries. The Soviets based this on two misapprehensions: that the Arabs would remain in the British and French sphere of influence and that Israelis of Russian or Eastern European origin would feel loyalty to their former countries.

I think that H Truman was asked this once, and he replied “Because I don’t have any Arab constituents.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, Egypt and Syria bought a lot of their arms from the USSR.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when hijacking airliners and kidnapping Americans became an olympic sport, the hijackers always claimed to be supporting the Palestinian cause.

Sounds good so far :-). But why not stick to supporting Saudi Arabia and Jordan and other non-USSR-backed-but-rich-in-oil countries? Why also back a country whose friendship might alienate those important allies?

Jordan was allied with Egypt and Syria until September 1970, when it unofficially went over to the pro-Western camp. From the mid-1970’s on, Jordan and Israel were de facto allies, although a state of war still existed between the countries until 1994.

While Saudi Arabia, OTOH, is too mercenary to really care about America’s other allies. Remember, they need to sell their oil as much as the U.S. needs to buy it.

Israel has never had a military coup (sp?).

Most other ME nations have. Often multiple times.


And a valuable intelligence asset to boot. Israeli intelligence services are second to none, and have often been the only semi-reliable information about conflict in the region. Israel has also often acted as middleman to US-backed operations, like the bizarre three cornered deal to supply Egypt with weapons in exchange for Egypt sending surplus East Bloc weapons to Afghanistan in the late 'Seventies, allowing Egypt to maintain status as ostensibly non-aligned nation while modernizing its military forces under Anwar Sadat. The strong pro-Israeli lobby and lingering guilt over initial US non-involvement in preventing the Holocaust are factors as well, but supporting Israel has been quite advantageous for the US over the years, albeit not without hiccups.


Well, the part about “good guys” is a matter of opinion, but even if you support Israel unconditionally, you have to acknowledge that the “no good reason” claim isn’t true. The arab anti-zionists have specific beefs with the Israelis, and whether you agree with them or not, it’s an awfully narrow view of the world to dismiss those beefs compelely.

Don’t want to stray further into GD territory here, but the OP raises an important question, and one to which I don’t think there is a singel answer.