The common belief is that Israel and the Jewish lobby in America control a number of important financial, political and foreign policy processes and outcomes in the USA. This is because of an inexplicably close relationship between the US and Israel in a multitude of arenas, as well as in strategic security policy, particularly in the Middle East. So strong is this relationship that it is perceived as determining US policy and actions towards individual states in the Middle and Near East. Over the decades, this relationship has been blamed for the genesis and causality for many seemingly “unfair” policies applied towards the Arabs, and a significant collective trauma surrounds the Arab perception that Israel’s success is really the unmaking of the Arabs and particularly at the cost of thousands of lives and the very existence of Palestine. Be this as it may, three aspects of this relationship shed light on the complex yet elementary bilateral relations between the two countries and on who is leading and to what extent.
Economy: Over the last 2-3 decades, Israel has evolved as an oasis of commercial success and prosperity for those that are considered full citizens. The capsule miracle that is Israel started with a diaspora of Jews that took refuge from a multitude of homelands all over the globe. They bought with them, their home cultures, crafts, habits and skills, strengthens that the new Israel wove together with commercial savvy, maximizing on diaspora networks to draw resources, business and opportunities to its growing economy.
One example of the Israeli economic miracle is the diamond cutting and processing industry. Faced with traditional competition from established diamond centers like Antwerp, and emerging centers such as Mumbai and Chennai in India, Israeli commercial networks drew on their technical expertise and historical jewelry-making expertise to steadfastly convert solid skills to creating a huge global market that has technically overtaken Antwerp as a diamond hub in terms of volume of trade. In part, this market niche was created because Jewish traders have remained active in main diamond producing countries such as DR Congo, Namibia, South Africa and others, feeding resource supply directly to Israel. Secondly, a vast number of Antwerp companies were partially or wholly owned by Jewish interests that established parallel sub-offices in Israel, over time shifting the volume of cutting and processing business to their Israel affiliate. This left in place a selling market in Antwerp but bumped up and expanded the lucrative cutting and processing sectors in Israel significantly. It also provided an easy way to provide a politically legitimate business cover to Israeli products that might otherwise have met with resistance from the largest markets and buyers. This combination of pragmatic yet traditional market creation and expansion has characterized the format for Israeli business, supported to a large extent by US-based businesses and jewish American businesses.
Military-Industrial Complex: The most significant collaboration between the US and Israel has occurred in the area of military, security and intelligence capacity building and the creation of an Israeli military industrial complex. In the 1960′s and 1970′s, Israel benefitted from CIA and Pentagon assistance to train, equip and deploy its small but highly effective security forces; what they became is due to this very tight and comprehensive cooperation. Apart from political support, security and intelligence capacity building was the single most significant contribution that the US made to Israel. It resulted in the building up of Israeli research and production capacity in military hardware and intelligence or spy software – Israel today has some of the most sophisticated production of intelligence and military spyware in the world. This industry was heavily supported by the US and after it came online linked to private sector security companies in the US, they commenced supplying a number of informal clients globally – those that the US did not want to have directly linked to its own pristine foreign policy positions. This informal sector cooperation has grown as countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia, and definitely Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia have purchased and invested in Israeli manufactured equipment and technology with maintenance and follow-up contracts through US or European affiliates. There are derivative industries, particularly in the R&D sector on chemical and biological spheres that are also thriving but difficult to trace and research from where I sit because of the information blackout.
Foreign and Security Policy: Israel and the US are linked inextricably in the assessment, formulation and execution of foreign and security policy. Over decades this collaboration has deepened and sometimes appears to be unbalanced in favor of one or the other. The truth is that Israel has always been shielded and protected by a major external power. Right after its creation, it was the UK until WWII, after which Israel worked hard to establish a deeper relationship with the US. Their objective was initially to gain patronage from the US and their protection against aggressive pro-Palestinian agendas and a hostile neighborhood. Over the next 5-6 decades, Israel has thrived under US protection and has needed the protection and the intelligence cooperation to protect itself. Even its economy which was fed financial support from US-based Jews was essential in sustaining their build-up in the start-up phase.The Israeli weapons industry and their nuclear capacity has totally been developed in full approbation by the US and US technical support. Security and defense of Israel is a joint project between the US and Israel but one little “tweak” by the US would scuttle Israeli security beyond belief and while the Israeli army has built its image as a brutal, aggressive, violent yet efficient fighting force, without US patronage and support, that capacity would start to crack in a matter of a year or less.
Conclusions and Way Forward:
This is due in large part to the character of “dependent independence” of the US-Israeli relationship – that creates the appearance of an independent Israel but behind every policy announcement and statement, you can read the tug of the US back to a US-supported stance. If Israel dared to make a move militarily or foreign policy wise that was not pre-approved by the US, they would be an immediate reaction and correction of path by Washington. Israel’s grandstanding on the international arena is precisely the cover they need to create to cover their umbilical dependency on the US. So if tomorrow Israel bombs Irani nuclear facilities, of course this is approved by Washington. There is very little doubt about this power of the US and as far as I can tell, Israel is a lethal “forward deployed missile” of the US, but make no mistake about who or where “operational and policy orders” to Israel to implement originate: in Washington.
Yet the US has had a harder time recently, to reign in Israel on Lebanon and now, in Syria as Israeli demands more land and more concessions that the US can deliver. It will become tougher for the US to control Israel’s wish list of growth and expansion in the region. There is a very simple reason for growing pressure on Israeli leadership to endure these territorial, political and additional economic concessions. It is the fact that Israel is a racist country and within Israel, jews of different ethnic origins are treated very differently between caucasian, Hasidic and african citizens. In Israel, where you come from determines what services and privileges you have access to and how you are treated in terms of career opportunities and career progress. It is ironic that Israel has enforced an informal ghettoization of its population segregated along ethnic medians, that will eventually result in a larger and larger disenfranchised population and increasing sociopolitical tensions inside the country.
No doubt that Israel is a county that has achieved a lot in a short time and this is something to be admired, also in terms of building and maintaining a privileged relationship with the US. However, for many reasons, it is the US that leads the US-Israeli relationship without exception, and the growing tensions within Israel will provide the US with the required levers, checks and balances to continue to control Israel, while simultaneously, pressure within Israel will continue to grow and factionalize Israel along ethnic and religious-modernity fault lines. If Israel takes an action today, it was definitely consulted with Washington yesterday!