Why is Israel so important to the US?

How come the United States is always jumping in to their defense, and how come we care so much about this little middle eastern country?

Only ally in the mideast…strategically located.
Democratic state.
Powerful military.

Several reasons:

  1. Israel is the only democracy in the region. This makes it the US’s ideological ally there.

  2. During the Cold War, Israel’s enemies received a lot of aid from the Soviet Union. As such, US policy heavily tilted toward Israel.

  3. Jews and evangelical Christians (who beleve that Jewish return to Israel is a precondition for the second coming) vote in huge numbers.

  4. Enemies of Israel have committed terrorist acts both against the US (e.g., the Achille Lauro hijacking, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut) specifically, and in horrifying manner generally (e.g., the Munich massacre of 1972). This has increased US sympathy for Israel.

I’m sure more reasons can be dredged up as well…

Puuppet:

Very good question. This may get kicked over to the GD thread.

What has Israel done for the US? As for the only ally in the region, most people forget about Turkey. Not as staunch an ally as Israel, but at least everyone else in the region doesn’t hate their guts. And they are surely the most democratic of any Muslim nation in the mid east (even if they’re not Arab) by a LONG shot.

[Nitpick]
We’re not their allies because they have a powerful military. They have a powerful military because we are their allies.
[/nitpick]

An editorial in The Economist argued that Israel wasn’t the darling of America until the '67 war. (Ironically the same war in which Israel illegally launched an unprovoked attack against a U.S. naval ship in int’l. waters.) Their argument was that it was the “U.S. loves the plucky underdog” thing that really made them popular with the U.S. You can search the web site, www.economist.com .

I’m not sure I entirely agree, but it is a respected paper.

BTW, we in the US often jump to the defense of nations that are unjustly attacked. For instance, we went to war in 1991 when a Muslim country was invaded.

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cmkellar’s list is good but I would point out that the influence of the Jewish and evangelical Christian lobby and voting practices in the U.S. are way overstated. Most political scientists maintain that they have little or no effect on U.S. policy toward Israel. Also, the idea that the U.S. backs Israel because it is an ideological ally is a fallacy. The U.S. has plenty of allies all over the world that are not our ideological allies (Saudi Arabia in the Middle East for example). This is political rhetoric.
The major point that cmkellar makes is that Arab nationalism tends to have a socialist bend to it. The Ba’th party (Saddam’s party) in Iraq for instance is a socialist party. As a result, the Soviet Union and China fed lots of support to socialist/Arab nationalist groups in the Middle East. Historically, Israel has been a strong ally of the U.S. and an essential foothold in the Middle East against Eastern Communist powers. This relationship has grown and transformed over time and especially since the end of the Cold War. Now, Israel is more of an ally and foothold in the Middle East to counter the threat of Islamist nationalists, the more radical of whom are terrorists and such.

Maybe it’s just me but that equates to ‘ideologic ally’. Sure the US has allies who do not share our democratic ideology. Israel does and ideologic allies make better allies than allies of convenience.

Well, what the largest circulation US newspaper that isn’t in some manner controlled by ‘pro-Israeli’ interests ? Not the NYT, or the Wash Post, or the WSJ or the Boston Globe, maybe the LA Times ?
Also, there’s this kind of very occasional political comment that might bear further consideration: From here:

*Senator Fullbright, Chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee: 10/07/1973 on CBS’ “Face the Nation”. *
“I am aware how almost impossible it is in this country to carry out a foreign policy [in the Middle East] not approved by the Jews… terrific control the Jews have over the news media and the barrage the Jews have built up on congressmen … I am very much concerned over the fact that the Jewish influence here is completely dominating the scene and making it almost impossible to get congress to do anything they don’t approve of. The Israeli embassy is practically dictating to the congress through influential Jewish people in the country”

… said 30 years ago, only 25 years after Israel was created.
Finally, I suspect there’s a cultural difference between the US and Europe. As used to be the case on this (US) board, criticism of Israel brought, to begin with, suggestions of ‘anti-Semitism’ - fromm, in my case, december - and all the implicit smears. On the receiving end, it rather felt like being intellectually intimidated by a dead sheep (to borrow a phrase).

I don’t believe Europeans are ‘educated’ to see Israel as a special case nor ‘romanticise’ the Jewish struggle (well, no more than the Palestinian struggle) in quite the same way as the US media encourages it’s people to see the situation.

Unquestionably YMMV.

Oh, the old “Jews control the media” shtick.

Nice link there - certainly not controlled by pro-Israeli interests.

Fulbright was a long time opponent of Israel - also a raving bigot - possibly somebody you might not want to rely on. But you might, as you apparently share his sentiments. He made his remarks at the outset of the 1973 war, as Israel was being invaded, and the question was raised as to whether the US could stop supplying Israel with arms.

Good work there, LC!!!

a nitpick for this one as well:

During the Cold war, the enemies of Israel (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon) got their collective butts kicked by a US supported Israeli military. Only then did the overtures of the Soviets became succesful. Only when hostilities towards Israel were negotiated did the US allow support towards these countries again. It wasnt so much as supporting Israel, but supporting no hostilities which benefited israel in particular but also the entire region in general.

My WAG:

The US currently supports Israel like a man holding a vicious dog. He fed the dog when it was young and trained it to fight other dogs being trained by the mans enemies. But now the enemy is gone and all that are left are the dogs. If the man lets this dog go, the safety of the other dogs are in serious question.

J. William Fulbright was the most repulsive, segregationist, racist bigot in the U.S. Senate. You might want to seek out better “allies” than him.

There are numerous reasons that the U.S. has generally backed Israel, and very few have much to do with evangelical Christians (they weren’t a potent or organized force in U.S. politics until the late 1970s). Nor do they have much to do with powerful Jews who (allegedly) control the media.

More than anything else, Americans supported the creation of Israel because of the horrors of the Holocaust. That’s partly because of guilt (the U.S. was far from eager to take in Jews fleeing Hitler before the war) and partly because, after seeing what happened at Dachau and Auschwitz, it seemed difficult to argue that Jews didn’t need a safe haven of their own. It was pretty obvious that Jews were uniquely hated (no other ethnic group has so many people, all over the world, who want them dead), and that a Jewish homeland would give them a chance to survive.

Now, you can argue (and many have) that it wasn’t the Arabs of Palestine who committed the Holocaust, and that they didn’t deserve to lose their homes to Jews just because of Germany’s crimes. But the fact remains, Americans generally generally supported the creation of Israel because it seemed necessary in the wake of the Holocaust.

I knew someone would do that.

No doubt they have a powerful military because they have us, but they have done a superb job of taking advantage of that fact and used it effectively, by buying into a philosophy, adopting policies, raising standards, developing weapons, drafts, and techniques that are very reflective of their culture, and demonstrates that they have their hand in the matter as well.

They demonstrate the power of a state that is fully committed and motivated AND has significant U.S. backing. It’s a powerful combo.

Didn’t want to overlook their hand in the matter.

The US had an arms embargo against Israel until 1962. Arms sales to Arab countries continued normally during this time. Direct military aid to Israel didn’t begin until 1968. So we have Israel winning it’s independence 1948, and winning in 1956 when the US wouldn’t sell it arms, and then won in 1967 without US military aid. The only war that Israel needed and used US military aid in was 1973, which was also the point at which military aid to Israel became solid, concrete and really significant. It also marked the point when the US overtook France as Israel’s main supplier.

Utterly inaccurate. The US did not feed nor train the dog when it was young.

X~Slayer:

That’s simply not true. Syria, for one, was using Soviet weapons before Israel got any American ones.

Chaim Mattis Keller

It was not only Fullbright, but also Nixon who mistrusted the “jews” influence on US policy according to recent releases. Sheesh, with enemies like that, I might even have to become pro-israeli.

Are you refuting the substance of my statement or is this the old ‘drive-by smear’ shtick ?

He was before my time, Izzy. More than happy to accept your characterisation of him if you were to provide a cite of reasonable authority. I quote him in his capacity as an experienced Capitol Hill wheeler-dealer (Chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and as ‘an old-timer’ whose political career unfolded before an* allegedly* pro-Israeli lobby gathered speed.

Aside from that, will you be commenting on the OP’s question ?

Under the rule of this nut case (Ariel Sharon), Israel is persuing a very dangerous policy. In effect, they (the Israelis) are allowing the colonization of the west bank lands to go forward, and the settlers are fanatical about their occupation. To my mind, this has antagonized the Palestinians more than any other factor. Add in a few other dangerous trends:
-the replacement of rational Palestinian leaders by fanatics (the day will come when arafat will be remembered as a “moderate”)
-the gradual drying up of the area…Irael’s farms need more and more water, will make for big disputes about the limited water resources of the Jaorfan valley
-the failure of the Israeli labor Party to field candidates foroffice
Add it all up, and I don’t see anything getting any better. This latest bombing (15 people killed) seems to be evidence that the worst is yet to come.