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Ravi Mittal asked: What makes Israel a major strategic partner of the United States?

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  • S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Israel has enjoyed a ‘special relationship’ with the United States ever since it was founded in 1948. Among the factors that brought the two countries together included US’ sensitivity to Israel’s security concerns, surrounded as it was by states that were inimical to its creation and which have repeatedly launched wars (in 1948, 1967, and 1973) to roll it back, and which also happened to be allied with America’s principal Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union. The role of the Jewish diaspora in moulding American public as well legislative opinion, allowing Israel to be a recipient of generous US military and economic largesse, is another critical factor. Israel is also viewed as a fellow democracy and ‘friendly outpost’ in a troubled region of the world.

    American involvement in trying to find a solution to the Israel-Palestine issue - the ‘peace process’ - has also entailed close interaction with the Jewish state in recent times. This has especially been so since America’s ‘unflinching’ support to Israel’s security is widely seen as negatively affecting the resolution of the intractable issue. It has to be noted that despite the close ties only five American presidents have visited Israel (Nixon, Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama), and only two of them were Republican. However, American secretaries of state have clocked many miles in trying to broker a solution with the Palestinians or help end hostilities with its neighbours. Pertinent examples include Henry Kissinger’s ‘shuttle diplomacy’ in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, James Baker’s 21-day marathon (and ‘successful’) diplomatic effort ahead of the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and Condoleeza Rice’s 25 trips to the country.

    Interestingly, Israel is not a part of the NATO, though the US has five major non-NATO allies (MNNA) in the West Asian region. These include Jordan, Egypt, Kuwait, Bahrain and Morocco. The US also has a robust military relationship with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, while Turkey is a key NATO ally.