Is the U.S. a friend or enemy of Israel?

This question always elicits different opinions.  Obviously, in part, the answers depend on one's definition of "friend" or of "enemy."

The most famous articulation of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Israel was made by Henry Kissinger in 1975 when talking to an Iraqi diplomat.  To wit:

We don't need Israel for influence in the Arab world. On the contrary, Israel does us more harm than good in the Arab world[.] ... We can't negotiate about the existence of Israel but we can reduce its size to historical proportions[.]

Before the '67 War, U.S. policy was mostly hostile in that the U.S. imposed an embargo on arms to Israel for 20 years, from '47 to '67; was passive during the War of Independence, expecting Israel to be defeated in short order; and ordered Israel out of Sinai after Israel conquered it in the Sinai Campaign.

This policy was ameliorated in the aftermath of the '67 War as reflected in Res. 242 of the UNSC, which established the principle that Israel was entitled to secure and recognized borders before withdrawing from the conquered territories.  By that resolution, the U.S. recognized that an agreement on borders had to be negotiated and that of necessity, Israel would be retaining some of the land.  Of course, a friend should have taken the position that Israel was entitled to keep all the land it had acquired in the defensive war.  But the U.S. was committed to being friends with the Arabs, particularly Saudi Arabia, and this commitment excluded it.  That has always been U.S. policy, right up until today.

The Arabs totally objected to this resolution and set out their rejection at the Khartoum Conference in 1968, which reiterated the three "nos": no negotiations, no recognition, and no peace.  President Nixon, who subsequently hired Kissinger, assumed office shortly thereafter and tried to move the U.S. position closer to that of the Arabs.  He presented the Rogers Plan, which required full withdrawal.  This plan never got traction but always reflected the opinion of the Arabists in the State Department.

Kissinger's statement, above quoted, begged the issue and merely referred to the reduction of Israel's size to "historic proportions."

When Israel negotiated the Oslo Accords without the knowledge of the U.S., the reference point was Res. 242, and nothing was said about the creation of a state, settlement construction, or Jerusalem except that it would be a final status issue.

Shortly thereafter, the U.S. quietly negotiated an agreement with Israel limiting Israeli construction in Judea and Samaria to infilling for natural growth.  I am sure Israel didn't ask for such an agreement.

During the intifada II, Sen. Mitchell was sent to study the Arab violence.  On April 30, 2001, he submitted the Mitchell Report, which rewarded the violence by demanding that settlement construction cease.

As part of the lead-up to the Iraq War, President Bush openly announced his support for a Palestinian state in 2002 and entertained the Saudi Plan which the Saudis presented in 2002.  He agreed to set up the Roadmap for negotiations and agreed to include a reference in it to the Saudi Plan and the Mitchell Report.  The U.S. obviously hadn't given up on the Rogers Plan and the demand for full withdrawal.  PM Sharon was given no choice in the matter.  The Roadmap was launched one week after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

President Bush recanted a bit in his letter to Sharon in '04 in which he referred to Res. 242 but not the Saudi Plan, which was then called the Arab Initiative, as the basis for negotiations.

Upon taking office, President Obama disavowed Res. 242, the longstanding agreement permitting infilling, and disavowed the Bush letter as binding.  He openly has embraced the Saudi Plan and has called for negotiations based on the '67 armistice lines with swaps.  In doing so, he has pulled the rug out from under Israel -- or, in today's parlance, has thrown Israel under the bus.

Of course, the U.S. would be a real enemy were it to declare Israel has no right to exist.  The fact that the U.S. is committed to Israel's existence, or so we are told, and has extensive military cooperation with Israel, suggests that she is a friend.  But, given this history, requiring Israel to return to the '67 lines, even with swaps, suggests that she is really an enemy.

You decide.

Ted Belman is a retired lawyer and the editor of Israpundit.  He made aliya from Toronto and is now living in Jerusalem.

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