Saturday May 18, 2024

The US and Israel

By Dr Murad Ali
June 03, 2021

Once again, the Israeli-Palestinian issue is in the spotlight. Israel's insatiable lust for the lands of the poor Palestinians knows no bounds and the recent violence there also originated from the Zionist state’s policy of occupying more and more lands to forcefully evict Palestinians from their ancestral homes.

The Israeli government has been doing this despite the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which was adopted on December 23, 2016. It deals with the Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories that are occupied by Israel following the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The resolution was passed in a historic14–0 vote by members of the UN Security Council a few weeks before the end of the Obama administration.

The said resolution also clearly stated that “the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”. It is on record that no Israelis were living in these areas after they were captured by Israel following the Six Day War of June 1967. Today, there are about half a million residents in over 130 settlements only in the West Bank.

A ceasefire was announced following 11 days of violence resulting in the massacre of over 232 Palestinians, including over 100 women and children. On the Israeli side, 12 people have been killed including two children. The vast difference in the number of fatalities on both sides clearly illustrates that both parties are asymmetrical and unequal in power. It has been a perennial tale of the oppressor and the oppressed: a sling or a rocket cannot match modern sophisticated laser-guided missiles.

Historically, Western colonial powers such as the UK and France are the main culprits responsible for this decades-old unresolved matter, when, following the end of the British Mandate the land of Palestine was handed over to Jews looking to form Israel. Later, particularly following the 1967 War, the US took the primary responsibility of supporting the Zionist state financially, militarily and politically at international forums. Hence, the US is equally responsible for Israel’s rogue attitude and disrespect towards international norms and laws and for the gross human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinians.

It must be recalled that when David Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948; the Truman administration recognized the state within 11 minutes. While the US started providing economic aid to Israel, relations were troubled in the early 1950s. Both Truman and his successor Eisenhower were cognizant of the fact that getting too close to Israel could spoil America’s relations with the Arab world. Hence, the US also voiced opposition to the Israeli campaign against Egypt in 1956, launched in coordination with France and Britain and known as the Suez Crisis. It was under US pressure that Israel later withdrew from the Sinai.

While the relationship was steadily developing and the US gave considerable economic and military aid to Israel during the 1950 and early 60s, the 1967 War was a turning point for the US, which emerged as Israel’s main backer. During the war, Israel occupied the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. In his autobiography ‘The White House Years’, Henry Kissinger states that “the new territory seized was three times the size of Israel itself”.

Marked as ‘unique’, ‘special’ and ‘unprecedented’ in history, US-Israel ties are truly exceptional in many ways as the US has stood by Israel through thick and thin. American economic, security and political/diplomatic support to Israel is unmatched for this tiny country. Israel’s total area is 21,937 square kilometers which is the 152nd largest country in the world with a size slightly larger than New Jersey. Its total population is less than nine million and it is on the 98th position in the world in terms of population. Compared with the overall geographical size and population of neighbouring Arab countries including Egypt (106 million), Jordan (10 million), Syria (20 million) and Lebanon (five million), Israel is no doubt a small country, but it has unprecedented US material and non-material support.

Over the last seven decades, the US has allocated Israel more than $200 billion in economic and military assistance. This includes over $63 billion economic and more than $141 billion military aid [as per USAID ‘US Overseas Loans and Grants’ (Greenbook)]. Remember, the total population of Israel is less than nine million and its GDP per capita is $40,145 (2019 data). Because of its GDP per capita, Israel is among 40-50 affluent nations.

While American economic assistance to Israel has significantly decreased in recent years, the case of military aid is altogether different. Under their 2007 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), a total of $30 billion Foreign Military Financing (FMF) was provided to Israel over the course of the decade.

Another agreement was signed on September 14, 2016, covering FY2019- FY2028. During this period, a total of $38 billion ($3.8 billion annually) is to be provided to Israel. This followed the previous $30 billion MoU signed in 2007, which expired at the end of FY2018. To put it in proper context, Israel’s entire defence budget is about $20 billion, so US military aid is approximately a fifth of what Tel Aviv spends on its own security and defence.

In addition to unprecedented economic and military succour, the US has always supported Israel diplomatically and politically at the international forums. For instance, according to the Washington report on Middle East Affairs, between 1972 and 2011, the US cast its veto in the UN Security Council a total of 39 times to protect Israel from draft resolutions that condemned, deplored, denounced, demanded, affirmed, endorsed, called on and urged Israel to obey the world body.

Israel has, on numerous occasions, pursued its own policies in violation of UN resolutions and has shown disregard for international laws of human rights and the US has come to its rescue at the UN. One such precedent is the continuous expansion of illegal settlements and construction of a 700-kilometre-long fence/wall on Palestinian land in the occupied territories.

According to a report by Amnesty International, this highly controversial iron fence has cut off the local Palestinian population from their citrus groves and olive orchards, which has impoverished the once prosperous farming community. In 2003, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) voted 90 to 8 on seeking the opinion ofthe International Court of Justice (ICJ) regarding the legitimacy of the fence.

In its detailed judgment in 2004, the ICJ gave a ruling against the fence by a majority of 14 to 1, terming it a wall instead of a fence (ironically, the dissenting judge was from the US). Israel rejected the ICJ’s ruling while the US also defended Israel and condemned the judgment. Another resolution was passed in the UNGA by a vote of 150 to 6 while 10 states abstained from voting to demand that Israel comply with the ICJ’s ruling. However, nothing stopped Israel from executing the construction work and it continues to violate UN resolutions and international laws, firmly backed by the US in its illegal actions.


The writer holds a PhD from Massey University, New Zealand. He teaches at the University of Malakand.