United States of America

   The relationship between the United States and Israel antedates the independence of Israel. President Woodrow Wilson endorsed the Balfour Declaration soon after its issuance in 1917, and the U.S. Congress did so in the 1920s. Despite these and other statements of support for a Jewish state or homeland in Palestine, no substantial gestures of U.S. support for Zionist aspirations took place until after World War II, when the status of Palestine became a matter of considerable international attention. The administration of President Harry Truman sought a significant increase in Jewish immigration (see ALIYA) to Palestine immediately after World War II as a means of providing a refuge for displaced persons and other survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. When Great Britain turned the British mandate for Palestine over to the United Nations in 1947, the United States supported the concept of partition and lobbied extensively to achieve that objective. After Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the United States was the first state to grant recognition, although it was de facto and not de jure.
   In the decades since Israel's independence, the two states developed a diplomatic-political relationship that focused on the need to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict as well as to maintain the survival and security of Israel. Nevertheless, while they agreed on the general concept, they often differed on the precise means of achieving the desired result. The bilateral relationship became especially close after the Six-Day War (1967), when a congruence of policy and interests prevailed on many of their salient concerns. In the wake of the Yom Kippur War (1973) and the shuttle diplomacy undertaken by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that followed, U.S. economic and military assistance to Israel reached very significant levels.
   In the 1980s, the relationship took on an added dimension, as President Ronald Reagan saw Israel as a strategic asset against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics incursion in the Middle East. An element of tension existed between the administration of George H. W. Bush and the coalition government headed by Yitzhak Shamir over such issues as Jewish settlements, the status of Jerusalem, and Palestinian representation in proposed peace negotiations, but there was a high degree of common interest between the two governments during the Persian Gulf War (1991) and in the postwar diplomacy that culminated with the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference. There was a very high degree of cooperation between the administration of William J. (Bill) Clinton and the Israel Labor Party-led coalitions headed by Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Strains in the bilateral relationship reemerged with the change in government in Israel from Labor to the Likud under Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996, especially over peace talks with the Palestinians. Even then, however, the disputes between Jerusalem and Washington were said to be more of tactics rather than overall strategy (i.e., over the specific steps toward achieving the shared goal of secure peace for Israel and its neighbors), and efforts were made to resolve the disputes in an atmosphere characterized by deep mutual respect and understanding. Despite tension between the Clinton and Netanyahu administrations over the pace of Middle East diplomacy, the United States and Israel on 30 October 1998 signed an important memorandum of understanding on strategic cooperation against long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction.
   The relationship between the Clinton administration and the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who was elected in 1999, was markedly more positive than had been the relationship with the Netanyahu-led government. With the concurrence of the Barak administration, the United States brokered additional talks with the Palestinians, resulting in the September 1999 agreement signed by Barak and Yasser Arafat at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, toward implementing outstanding elements of the Wye River Memorandum (1998) and fast-tracking negotiations about an Israeli-Palestinian permanent status agreement. Again in collaboration with Jerusalem, the United States convened substantive talks involving Barak and Syria's foreign minister Farouk al-Sharaa, first in Washington, DC, and then in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in late December 1999 and early January 2000. In March 2000, Clinton traveled to Geneva for a summit meeting with Syrian president Hafez al-Assad in an ultimately fruitless effort to finalize a deal with Israel affecting the Golan Heights. Similarly, Clinton expended considerable effort in attempting to mediate a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement in meetings with Barak and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader Arafat at Camp David, Maryland, in July 2000, and then in Taba, Egypt, between December 2000 and the special election for prime minister in Israel in early February 2001.
   Although occasionally affected by specific developments relating to Israel's handling of the Al-Aksa intifada, the U.S.-Israel relationship remained strong and was in fact strengthened by the tragic events of 11 September 2001. The administrations of George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon were clearly of one mind with regard to the U.S.-led campaign against Islamist terrorism; they also came to agree on the strategy of isolating Arafat as the price the Palestinian leader must pay for rejecting the Oslo process and resuming the use of terror as a tool of diplomacy. Despite this hard-line approach toward Arafat, Bush became the first U.S. president to formally speak about the vision of an independent West Bank-Gaza Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. support for an independent Palestinian state, which Bush initially spoke about in his statement of 24 June 2002 and which was made conditional on the implementation by the Palestinian Authority (PA) of fundamental reforms (including the election of "new leaders, leaders not compromised by terror"), was ultimately enshrined in the Quartet Roadmap. In return for Israel's support for the Roadmap, Bush in turn provided Sharon assurances (in the form of letters of understanding exchanged on 14 April 2004) concerning two issues of a permanent agreement of core concern to Israel: the Palestinian demand for the "right of return" of refugees to Israel and the status of existing Jewish settlements beyond the pre-1967 Green Line.
   On 27 November 2007, Bush hosted an international conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The declared goals of the Annapolis Conference were to signal international support for efforts by PLO chairman and PA president Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert to commence a process of direct negotiations leading to the realization of Israeli-Palestinian peace based on the two-state formula envisioned in Bush's June 2002 statement and in the Roadmap and to coordinate international support for efforts undertaken by Abbas and the Fatah-led PA to construct the institutions and culture for an independent and democratic Palestinian state. Bush made his visit to Israel since becoming president of the United States in January 2008.
   The United States and Israel are linked in a complex and multifac-eted "special relationship" that has focused on the continuing U.S. support for the survival, security, and well-being of Israel. The relationship revolves around a broadly conceived ideological factor and is based on substantial positive perception and sentiment evidenced in public opinion and other statements. It is also manifest in U.S. political-diplomatic support as well as substantial military and economic assistance to Israel. U.S. commitments to Israel's security and defense are not formally enshrined, but there is a general perception that the United States would prevent Israel's destruction. In a speech in Cleveland, Ohio, on 20 March 2006, President George W. Bush announced, "I made it clear, I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally, Israel." The United States is an indispensable, if not fully dependable, ally. It provides economic, technical, military, political, diplomatic, and moral support, and there are broad areas of agreement with Israel on many issues. Divergence on some issues derives from a difference of perspective and from the overall policy environments in which the two states operate.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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