Foreign Policy

   Since independence, Israel has sought positive relations with most members of the international community. It has joined and participated in the work of international organizations (despite long-standing efforts by the Arabs and their supporters to isolate and ostracize Israel at the United Nations and in other international fora), and it has sought to establish and maintain friendly relations with as many states as possible. Within the framework of this broad effort, there has been a particular focus on relations with the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR; and subsequently, with Russia).
   Israel had a variable relationship with the USSR and the members of the Eastern bloc since before independence. Although the USSR supported the UN Partition Plan (see PALESTINE PARTITION PLAN) of 1947 and Israel's independence in 1948, relations deteriorated rapidly, and Moscow shifted to a pro-Arab position, including providing economic assistance and arms to such front-line Arab states as Egypt and Syria by the mid-1950s. Since 1967, when the USSR and the Eastern bloc states, except Romania, broke diplomatic relations with Israel, the questions of a Soviet role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the peace process, and the status of Jews in the Soviet Union were central themes in Israel-Soviet relations. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, a thaw developed, and relations between Israel and the Soviet camp improved in a number of spheres. Formal diplomatic relations between Israel and the USSR were restored in October 1991 in conjunction with the start of the Madrid Middle East Peace Conference under joint U.S. and Soviet sponsorship. Moscow permitted the migration of Soviet Jews to Israel, a process that ultimately swelled to more than 750,000 Jewish immigrants (see ALIYA) in the 1990s.
   The special but central and complex relationship between Israel and the United States has been more significant. The relationship revolves around a broadly conceived ideological factor. Moreover, it is based on substantial positive perception and sentiment evident in public opinion and official statements and manifested in political-diplomatic support and military and economic assistance. However, the U.S.-Israel relationship has not been enshrined in a legally binding commitment joining the two states in a formal alliance. Under-girding the relationship is a general agreement on broad policy goals. The two states maintain a remarkable degree of parallelism and congruence on such objectives as the need to prevent major war in the Middle East, to achieve a negotiated resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict that does not endanger Israeli security, and to strengthen Israel's economic and social well-being.
   Nevertheless, there have been instances of noncongruence of policy between Washington and Jerusalem on specific issues that have derived from various differences of perspective, for example, disputes with the Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir governments over West Bank settlement activity and differences between the Benjamin Netanyahu government and the William J. (Bill) Clinton administration over the depth and pace of Israeli redeployment in the West Bank. These differences aside, the United States is an indispensable ally that provides Israel with economic, technical, military, political, diplomatic, and moral support. It was seen as the ultimate protector against the USSR in the Cold War and, since the demise of the USSR, against militant Islamist terrorism and rogue regimes, and it is the primary (if not sole) guarantor of Israel's qualitative military advantage over its regional adversaries.
   Israel has seen Europe and the developing world (especially Africa and Latin America) as important components of its overall foreign policy. It has sought to maintain positive relations with Europe based on the commonality of the Judeo-Christian heritage and the memories of the Holocaust. The European Union is also an important trading partner for Israel given the long-standing refusal of its immediate neighbors to engage in normal commercial relations. Israel's approach to the developing world has focused on its ability to provide technical assistance in the development process. Despite substantial effort in those sectors, the growing centrality of the United States as the primary facilitator of assistance to Israel, as well as of mediation in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, has caused Israelis to focus increasingly on solidifying relations with the United States.

Historical Dictionary of Israel. .

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