The U.S.- Israel "special relationship": has it always been an established fact?
Donald Trump's announcement on Wednesday has been met with reservations - an understatement! Only the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, hailed the decision as "historical". A year ago, he welcomed Trump's victory and vowed the make the alliance between Israel and the U.S. "greater than ever". The question is: was there always a "special relationship" between the two countries?
As it is, the "special relationship"only flourished in 1967, following the Six-Day War. In 1948, when Ben Gurion proclaimed the birth of the State of Israel, the U.S. showed little enthusiasm. President Harry Truman, for all his pro-Sionist sentiments, had actually pushed for a postponement. As for the State Department diplomats, they were squarely opposed to the move. For the next twenty years, Israel's powerful friend and ally was not the U.S. but France. In 1956, the fact Israel joined France and Great Britain in the - diplomatically - disastrous invasion of Egypt following Colonel Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal is therefore no coincidence. In 1967, Israel's army, Tsahal, was equipped with French technology. Then, in a spectacular change of heart, president Charles de Gaulle, accused Israel of being the aggressor in the Six-Day War, thus formally ending the Franco-Israeli "special relationship".
The U.S. soon filled the void. The informal alliance between Israel and the U.S. started then. Although tensions arose from time to time, the relationship strengthened. Today, the U.S. military aid amounts to a staggering $3 billion per year. In the last days of his presidency, Obama announced a $38 billion military assistance package over the next 10 years, arguably the largest such package in U.S. history. The U.S. support is also diplomatic. For decades, the U.S. has openly and unequivocally sided by Israel. The Obama administration's decision to abstain when the UN Security Council 2334 (it reaffirmed that Israel's establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, had no legal validity) was perceived as a betrayal. No wonder Trump's announcement is music in the ears of the government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The "special relationship" is indeed "greater than ever". Trump's latest unilateral move, however, might make it all the more difficult for Israel to forge discreet but closer ties with Saudi Arabia against Iran. Behind the highly symbolic gesture, the geopolitical realities are soon to loom large again. To be continued...