Today, the United States and Israel are the closest of friends and allies. The continued strength of the U.S.-Israel alliance is rooted in the shared values of the two nations.
During more than six decades of state-building, Israelis have looked to the United States for political inspiration, financial and military assistance and diplomatic support. Americans, in turn, have viewed Israel with a special appreciation for its successful effort to follow the Western democratic tradition, its remarkable economic development, and its determined struggle against its uncompromising enemies.
If one were forced to reduce the explanation for the unique relationship between the United States and Israel to one sentence, it was probably best expressed by Lyndon Johnson who, when asked by Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin why the U.S. supported Israel when there are 80 million Arabs and only three million Israelis, the President replied simply: “Because it is right.”
The recognition of shared values has been a consistent theme in statements by American Presidents ever since Harry Truman.
John F. Kennedy declared: “This nation, from the time of President Woodrow Wilson, has established and continued a tradition of friendship with Israel because we are committed to all free societies that seek a path to peace and honor individual right. In the prophetic spirit of Zionism all free men today look to a better world and in the experience of Zionism we know that it takes courage and perseverance and dedication to achieve it.”
Said Lyndon Johnson, “The United States and Israel share many common objectives…chief of which is the building of a better world in which every nation can develop its resources and develop them in freedom and peace.” The roots of Johnson’s feelings, like those of many other Americans came from the Bible. As he explained in a speech before the B’nai B’rith organization: “Most if not all of you have very deep ties with the land and with the people of Israel, as I do, for my Christian faith sprang from yours.” The President explained that “the Bible stories are woven into my childhood memories as the gallant struggle of modern Jews to be free of persecution is also woven into our souls.”
Richard Nixon asserted that the United States stands by its friends and that “Israel is one of its friends.” His successor, Gerald Ford, reaffirmed his “commitment to the security and future of Israel is based upon basic morality as well as enlightened self-interest. Our role in supporting Israel honors our own heritage.”
“The United States,” Jimmy Carter said, “has a warm and a unique relationship of friendship with Israel that is morally right. It is compatible with our deepest religious convictions, and it is right in terms of America’s own strategic interests. We are committed to Israel’s security, prosperity, and future as a land that has so much to offer the world.”
Ronald Reagan was the first President to state explicitly that Israel was a strategic asset to the United States, a belief he expressed even before he was elected: “Only by full appreciation of the critical role the State of Israel plays in our strategic calculus can we build the foundation for thwarting Moscow’s designs on territories and resources vital to our security and our national well-being.” But Reagan also understood this alliance sprang from shared values: “Since the rebirth of the State of Israel, there has been an ironclad bond between that democracy and this one.”
Shortly after taking office, George H.W. Bush said: “The friendship, the alliance between the United States and Israel is strong and solid, built upon a foundation of shared democratic values, of shared history and heritage, that sustains the life of our two countries. The emotional bond of our people transcends politics. Our strategic cooperation—and I renew today our determination that that go forward—is a source of mutual security. And the United States’ commitment to the security of Israel remains unshakeable. We may differ over some policies from time to time, individual policies, but never over the principle.”
Bill Clinton took the relationship to another level during his administration. “Our relationship would never vary from its allegiance to the shared values, the shared religious heritage, the shared democratic politics which have made the relationship between the United States and Israel a special—even on occasion a wonderful—relationship.”
After assuming the presidency, George W. Bush echoed the sentiments of nearly every President that came before him. “We will speak up for our principles and we weill stand up for our friends in the world,” Bush said. “And one of our most important friends in the world is the State of Israel.”
President Barack Obama stated that “we [America] stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share: a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam.” Furthermore, “We’re going to keep standing with our Israeli friends and allies,” he said.
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