Republikud: Complementary Politics of the
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Conservative U.S and Israeli States
By: Nima Shirali
Trends in the political and economic relations between the U.S and Israeli states starkly suggest a complemental setting, which grants benefits for both sides. These benefits can be characterized through advantageous trade-offs, which are politically complementary, and assist in discerning the nature of the relations between these two states. By this it is meant that the presence, and the political stance, which each state has towards the other are indeed reciprocally useful. To illustrate, one can logically assert that Israel’s position in the Middle East is one of reliance on the U.S for economic, military, and ultimately, political support. This reliance emanates from having been geographically encircled by Arab states, with which Israel has experienced hostilities. Indicative possibilities, which may signify the continuation of past hostilities, serve to perpetuate this state of reliance.
It is noteworthy to mention, however, that U.S aid to Israel has strategic implications, with benefits for the U.S as well. For instance, it is clearly beneficial to maintain an alliance with a democracy, which is situated in a strategically-significant region. To corroborate, this is a region, where resentment towards the U.S is prevalent in the mental holds of the populations. Furthermore, with American intentions of launching a war with Iraq, such sentiments are likely to increase. Hence, an alliance with Israel would serve as a countering force to this anti-Americanism, and would create a balance of power.
Having this in mind, it is important to point out the implications, which such relations have on a potential reconciliation process between Israel and Palestine. It is also important to place emphasis on the nature of U.S-Israeli relations (and its implications for reconciliation), at the time when conservative governments are incumbent on both sides.
As mentioned, assistance to Israel is of consequential importance to U.S interests in the region, and is an important aspect of Washington’s Middle East policy. The strategic importance of this assistance is revealed, as Israel is the largest recipient of U.S foreign aid. For instance, Prime Minister Sharon’s government will receive $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid this year. Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington, reckons that the U.S has granted Israel $240 billion in aid since 1973. With the conduction of a simple comparison, one can discern the importance, which the U.S State attaches to the continuity of Israel.
This significant economic assistance emanates from Washington’s desire in helping to maintain a militarily prominent force in the region. As I alluded to earlier, this is implicated with actualizing U.S interests in the region. Such interests can be characterized through the concept of ‘degree of proximity’ to the Middle Eastern states, to which Israel is adjacent. It is clear that through an alliance with Israel, U.S intentions of attaining degree of proximity to oil-rich states such as Iraq would be realized. This attainment of geographic proximity (through comradeship with Israel), would clearly create a more favorable environment, in which the U.S can implement its Middle East policy.
In an attempt to dichotomize different stances towards Israel within the U.S, one can see that the Republican agenda places more emphasis (than the Democrat agenda) on providing economic and military aid to Israel. With the adoption of this stance, the Republicans emphasize the security and stability of Israel, with little attention given to reconciliation. In contrast, the Democrat agenda (while significantly assisting Israel), also places emphasis upon reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Clinton’s efforts to reach reconciliation between the two sides serve to exemplify this assertion.
To corroborate further, it is evident that the Bush administration has allocated little attention in reaching reconciliation, and instead has been concerned with arming its ally. Hence, one can see that economic and military assistance to Israel, without pressuring the leadership to make land concessions, shapes the Republican agenda towards Israel. Therefore, logic suggests that such a stance would be more favorable to the incumbent government in Israel, especially a conservative government. This emanates from the fact that the conservative elements in Israel, such as the Likud agenda, stress security, with little inclination to reconcile. The reluctance to engage in a reconciliation process originates from the hesitance to make land concessions, and a desire to preserve the status quo.
This congruity and convergence of the politically conservative American and Israeli mental holds have unquestionably had a negative affect on the need to reconcile. Obviously, the principal reason for such a negative affect would be the hesitation, which the conservative Israeli State has with regards to land concessions. This stance is complemented by U.S assistance, without considerable pressure to reconcile with the Palestinians.
It is abundantly clear that land concessions form the elemental aspect of reconciliation, and that no intentions in making land concessions is parallel to no intentions in reconciling. Yet, as I mentioned in my article in December last year, the collaboration between the U.S and Israeli states can create leeway for great potential in reconciling the Israelis and Palestinians. However, it seems as if conservative assertions aimed at attaining, and retaining a state of ‘peace and security’, have suppressed this potential.
Therefore, the relations between the U.S and Israeli states serve to effectuate each other’s policies. On the one hand, U.S assistance to Israel is essential to that country’s survival. On the other hand, this assistance perpetuates an alliance, which is gainful for the U.S. It has become starkly evident that the Republican agenda prioritizes military and economic aid to Israel, yet without significant persuasions to make land concessions; a condition precedent to reconciliation.
Unfortunately, the reality that the conservative Israeli administration is disinclined to make land concessions is an unconcealed fact, and would impede any reconciliation process. This impediment is exacerbated by the Republican agenda, as it advocates assistance to Israel, without an indication of pressure on the Israeli State to engage in a reconciliation process.
Nima Shirali is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Middle East Reconciliation Journal (MERJ), www.merecforum.org